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.

A Pathway to Learning

A Pathway to Learning

Learning Without Scars Classes

Since we started a business to provide classroom training for parts and service operations and product support sales and marketing, we have been constantly creating and redesigning what I have always called “Learning Paths.” A pathway to learning is what we try to provide to all employees to help them realize their potential.

With the classroom training we established the first pathway to learning with management and supervision. For this, we designed two-day classes consisting of eight specific subjects. We then developed the three-year program that had twenty-four subjects covered and taught. We offered this and conducted these classes worldwide for major construction equipment manufacturers. We did the same thing for dealership associations. In the mid 1990s we created a series of videos for dealer associations, that continue to be used in certification programs for parts managers and service managers. Clearly the methods, systems, processes and requirements in the past twenty-five years have changed. The modern pathway to learning is reflected in the creation of our skill assessments and in the evolution of our subject specific classes. Much has changed.

As I mentioned yesterday we offered Planned Learning Programs, which we referred to as PLPs. These were the three-year programs built for leaders in the Parts and Service and Product Support Sales groups. During the twenty-five years these were offered we have had over ten thousand people attend the PLPs – Executives, Managers, Supervisors and Foremen from all around the world.

Next, we created Planned Specific Programs, or PSPs in our shorthand here. These programs were designed for the people doing the work. The people that I call “Heroes.” They take the orders, pick the parts, pull the wrenches, inspect the machines, manage the assets, and drive the trucks. These are the people who serve your customers. These are the people that keep your customers coming back.

With this most recent change to our website we are introducing the next evolution of our Learning Paths. This has been designed to allow the individual employee to create their own individualized Learning Paths. As you will have read over the past ten days, if you follow our blog, we start everything with a job function skills assessment. We then match the results of that assessment to the four levels of skills: Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert. When the individual employee selects our classes tabs, and the department in which they are interested they are asked for their skill level. Then, they will be presented the classes that our years of teaching and thousands of students, have indicated that should be covered to provide the employee the ability to improve their Skill Level.

As you can imagine this has taken some time to develop and put together. It provides each employee the opportunity to personalize their own learning, to select the classes they believe will address the “gaps” in their skills and knowledge. Of course, the Dealership and the Leadership can also be involved in selecting the classes that should be taken. That will never change.

Now we are adding additional tools that will allow us to have “Virtual” meetings with students to discuss the classes and, in effect, simulate the Real Classroom after they have completed one of our Subject Specific Classes. This is what educators are doing now across Grade School, Middle School and High School across the country. This is also now being used at Junior Colleges and Universities.

Education and Learning has changed a lot over the past twenty-five years. The changes coming in the next five years will be even more dramatic. No business, whether in manufacturing, distribution, wholesale or retail or business associations can rest on their laurels. There has been too much change.

The equipment has changed, exotic materials, telematics, computerization. The systems have changed now using electronic catalogues and shopping carts, finance and payment methods have changed with “Square” and Touchless Credit Cards. The arrival of Artificial Intelligence and Drones for Job Management and Control. The world has changed.

The younger generation is much better prepared for these changes than the older generations. Their time is here and coming. We either adapt our systems, methods and everything else as of now or face trouble. We, at Learning Without Scars, have chosen to adapt and it has been extremely exciting and energizing. Is this also an opportunity for each and every business across the world? I believe it is.

The choice is yours.

The time is now.

For more information on finding your own pathway to learning, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

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

Skill and Knowledge Levels

Skill and Knowledge Levels

We have been using assessments in all of our training and learning products for over thirty-five years. The primary purpose of our assessments was to help us to adapt and adjust our teaching in order that our students learn. We first had a “Pretest” to measure what the students know when they start our class. Then we had a “Final Assessment” to determine what the difference was in knowledge before and after. This allows us to change how we teach.

We also used these assessments to challenge our approach to teaching. If the same question was received with the same wrong answer, obviously how we were teaching it was the issue not the learning potential of the student.

Let’s turn to our Job Function Assessments at Learning Without Scars (LWS). By now I hope you have looked at our job function comprehensive skill assessments. We believe we have broken new ground with these assessments for the Industries we serve. There are no other common job function assessments out there. With that position of leadership, we have been cautious on how we have approached this. We have had over 3,500 of our class assessments completed in the past two years. This has allowed us to established a hierarchy based on actual employee skills and their results on the assessments.

Upon completion of a specific Job Function Skills Assessment the student will receive their score (0-100). This score will rank their skills based on the results we have seen from the thousands of assessments taken. We have established these skill categories based on our experiences with our class assessments and the skill levels of the people taking these classes. For Learning Without Scars these skill categories are Basic (0-30), Intermediate (31-50), Advanced (51-70) and Expert (71-100). This category level will identify the specific class progressions to allow them to improve their skill level. These category levels have allowed us to design individualized class structures for the student to follow to improve their individual skill level. More on this next week.

We want each individual to be able to achieve their potential. Potential is a wonderful word. It is one that I was introduced to by an Elder in our Church when I was a little boy. He spent a lot of time mentoring a young boy. He passed several messages to me to consider.

  • Always assume the other person is twice as smart as you are and work twice as hard to prove that they are not.
  • Be Happy in your Work or Work and be Happy. You have no choice you have to Work.

If someone tells you that you have a lot of potential and you are sixteen years old that is a very good thing. If someone tells you that you have a lot of potential and you are sixty-six what have you been doing for the last fifty years.

The time is now.

For more information on our assessments and classes, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

How to Use Assessments

How to Use Assessments

Yesterday we addressed the Foundation of Learning. Today I want to talk about how we envisioned businesses using our Job Function Skills Assessment. Let’s quickly review what we say on the Landing Page for Assessments.

We point out four areas in which to use our Skill Assessments

  1. Recruiting: The assessments can be used in recruiting employees. In conjunction with background checks and interviews, the assessment gives you much more information on the applicants before they are hired. Hiring the “right” someone is extremely difficult to do. The assessment provides the Company hiring the individual an objective view of the skills of the prospective employee.

 

  1. Performance Reviews: The assessments should also be used in the annual performance review with each employee. Other than the reviews I give myself I have never received a formal performance review as an employee. 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.

 

  1. Wages and Salaries: The assessments can even be used as an objective foundation related to the establishment of the wages and salaries paid to the employees. We have had several thousand people take our assessments since the beginning of 2017 and we have a high degree of confidence that our skill levels are in line with the actual performance of the employees. This provides a foundation for the proper wage and salary scales and progressions through the scales to be objectively managed.

 

  1. Employee Development: The assessments have been developed to be used to create individualized employee development programs for each employee in the parts and service business teams. A career path for each employee in the Parts, Service, Selling or Marketing groups allows talented people to be motivated to achieve their potential. With the Skill Levels from the assessments and the Learning Paths tied to them this becomes a real possibility within these teams of people.

 

Attracting, Hiring, Developing and Retaining talented, motivated employees is the MOST critical of all aspects of your business. With the right people you will prevail. Without them you will FAIL.

 

The choice is yours.

 

The time is now.

The Foundation of Learning

The Foundation of Learning

Too often in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, work and family and friends, we have our head down and we are trying to get through the day without being killed. Everything is such a rush. For most of 2020, a year which we hope to get through, we have been stuck. Too much to worry about, we don’t know what is going on, we are getting bombarded by conflicting messages on all the media, social media fan the fire further with well-meaning (for the most part) people sharing their opinions. We no longer feel as if we are in control of our lives, if ever we were.

The school age people are in flux as well. Virtual learning has become commonplace without having education re-imagined and redesigned. Most teaching is in front of a computer screen talking as if the teacher were in the classroom with the students. The students are sitting in front of their computer screen, which many students had never had before, over inconsistent networks bored to tears. We are social animals we need to interact with people in real time live.

Some learning platforms were ahead of their time. The Khan Academy, founded in 2008 has 100 million registered users. Sal Khan, the founder, states that virtual learning cannot replace classroom learning. In the “virtual class the students are missing out on the social and emotional benefits from in person classes.”

But the Khan Academy provides significant guidance on their learning platform in how to learn.

  • Students practice at their own pace, first filling in gaps in their understanding and then accelerating their learning.
  • Teachers can identify gaps in their students’ understanding, tailor instruction, and meet the needs of every student.

I believe that is the very foundation of learning.

Teachers and students able to identify “gaps” in the students understanding of a specific subject and then tailoring the instruction to meet the needs of each individual student.

At Learning Without Scars the foundation of our employee development platform is what we call “Job Function Skills Assessments.” We call these our Comprehensive Skills Assessments.

We offer a range of assessments for the Parts business, the Service Business and the Selling and Marketing aspects of the Parts and Service businesses.

You select your Department by scrolling down on that landing page. Then, all that is required is that you select your current job function and you will land on a brief write-up telling you what the assessment is about.

Each assessment, other than our technician assessments, consists of 90 multiple choice questions. These questions have been selected from the internet based subject specific classes that we offer. The student is given a time limit of an hour to complete the assessment. The time restriction is another indicator of the knowledge and level of skills that the student has on their specific job function. Upon completion of the assessment the “student” is given a score.

From that score, and the thousands of skills assessments already completed by our clients, we are able to identify the “Gaps” in the “students’” knowledge and create a specific “Learning Path” for each “student.” (more on that in the days to come)

Our Learning Platform follows the same logic as is employed by the Khan Academy. We determine the gaps in the individual employee’s skills and then create a customized learning path for each of them.

This is how we have established “Our Foundation of Learning.”

We have 32 of these job function assessments and the results we have seen to date are extremely exciting.

Next blog we will talk about the specific ways that a business can use our Skill Assessments. The choice you make on “Individual Employee Skills Development” is of critical importance to your business, your customers and most importantly to your employees.

The time is now.

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.

Focusing on the Job – the PSP Program

Focusing on the Job – the PSP program.

Continuing to define and describe what we do at Learning Without Scars takes us to our position of providing a pathway for employee development at their individual job functions.

Most Industry and Wholesaler Learning Programs are focused on parts product training and department management. At the AED where for twenty-five years we conducted all of the Parts and Service training the focus was on management. We operated classroom programs lasting two days. The Executives and Managers who attended these classes learned the ins and outs of Parts Management or Service Management and we took them through a three-year development structure starting with “What it Looks Like When it is Right” and moving to “Performance Excellence” and finishing with “Reaching Market Potential.” They were all good programs and we did this training from 1994 through 2015.

However, as was pointed out to me by a very successful executive in our Industry, “you need to create job function training not management training.”

That resonated with me and as a result we have created specific job function training programs. That is what we call Planned Specific Programs – PSP’s. Our PSP’s are aimed at the specific job functions within the Parts and Service businesses. Instore Selling, which covers the telephone and counter job functions, Parts Office and Warehousing, Inventory Management for the Parts business. Foremen/Lead-hand, Service Writer, Inspector, and Service Office for the Service business. And more.

The film you are about to see will give you an explanation of the PSP Program. I hope you enjoy it.

The Time is Now.

Breaking Down Territory Management

Breaking Down Territory Management

In our training programs, we work hard to de-mystify the details of selling.  Today, I am sharing a small piece from our Territory Management Learning On Demand program.

The time is now.

Simple Steps to Big Results

In our Industry, what is it that we DO?  What is the action that is involved in creating employee and customer satisfaction?  There are simple steps we can take to gain big results.

Employee satisfaction requires knowing what to do – if an employee can measure their own job performance, there is a sense of a job well done.  It may seem obvious, but it is worth mentioning: we all have to know what our job entails.  We need to know what it is that we DO!

This spills over into creating customer satisfaction, because the simple steps each of our heroes will take every day will be what sets us apart to our customers.  We become their partners in business, instead of a vendor or supplier.

There are simple steps to take, to gain those big results.

The time is now.