Academic Credits

Academic Credits

For this week’s blog on Lifelong Learning, our Founder, Ron Slee, tackles one of those pesky, behind-the-scenes aspects of education: Academic Credits. Please note that this blog post will be published in English, Spanish, and French.

As an IACET accredited provider, Learning Without Scars has certain very specific rules to follow. For instance, to earn an official CEU we have to have ten hours of learning. This gets a touch more complicated when we look at the US Department of Education requirement of fifteen to sixteen hours for a single CEU.  However, they bury the lede in that statement.  This is all modeled on traditional, in-person learning. So many hours of face-to-face instruction, and so many hours of homework. 1 hour of facetime, 2 hours of homework.  That has been the “rule of thumb.” This cannot be “mandated” by the federal government here in the United States, it is only a guideline. However, in order for students to be able to obtain Federal loans or grants, the school MUST follow these rules. Since the United States federal government is secondary to state laws and policies, the number of course “hours” for Academic Credit can vary from state-to-state. Even further, the states give institutions of learning their own latitude when it comes to determining those course “hours.” That means each school can establish their own criteria for Academic Credits.

That is where it gets complicated for all of us here. Our classes offer six and a half hours of “face-to-face,” but asynchronous, learning. Albeit, it is not in a traditional classroom, it is on the internet. That means that there are six and a half hours of specific learning per class. We have been told that we must add a “homework” component to make it easier for the “Academic Credit” schools to add our classes to their curriculums. In line with that we are creating homework assignments for each of our classes following the “rule of thumb” of two hours of homework for each hour of face-to-face learning. In other words, for each class, we are adding thirteen hours of homework.

I have had a problem with this with several schools in that I have always asked questions about how the schools track that the students did the homework? The answer I consistently get is “we don’t.” That doesn’t account for the fact that an individual instructor may very well be tracking the homework. Or, an individual instructor might be following research-based practices and realizing that homework is not an effective tool for understanding. That research has been guiding a movement to phase out homework. I anticipate that this will also shake up the course hours model that is so widely varied here in the U.S.

I, as an educator, have always been more concerned that the student leaves my classes with a solid understanding of the subject matter. I use quizzes, snap exams, oral debates in other words everything I can to give the student the opportunity to show me that they “get it.” Caroline is of the same mind which led us to perhaps a different approach on the homework we assign. We provide the homework hours as “Close Reading and Annotation” assignments. If you follow research-based practices, reading is solid method for increasing knowledge and understanding. For each element of the assigned reading, we provide a “Check for Understanding.” This we do with a Quiz for each homework assignment. Obviously, we score the Quiz and provide that feedback to the student. We have established a level of 60% or higher as proof that our “Check for Understanding” goal has been met. This is another step we take to make us different from the traditional education model in use across the world and establish our internet-based learning as a viable model to be used everywhere by everyone.  

Through each of our Subject Specific Classes we have a similar structure and methodology. From the enrollment of the student from our website, or from the registration process at a school, the student receives from us the notice that they have been registered in one of our classes. They receive an email with a short slide show with audio explaining how the learning experience works. They will then receive an email allowing them to establish a password to our Learning Management Software system. From there they will see the full Learning Without Scars homepage. Once they have signed in, they will receive another email explaining what that home page is showing them and how it works. They can then proceed to their class.

Each class is a series of videos. Each video can be started and stopped multiple times and the student will always be brought back to their last position. We have short videos all of which end with a Quiz. That quiz is to test comprehension of the subject matter – it is a “Check for Understanding.” There is a quiz at the conclusion of each segment of the class. At the completion of each class, we have a twenty question, multiple choice, Final Assessment that the student has to pass if they want to obtain their certificate. The passing grade is 80%. The student can take the Final Assessment. Then we ask the student to give us their opinions on the class they just took. Finally, they then can get their certificate.

Now we are adding the Homework piece. We are selecting books that are pertinent to the class and providing the students with this list of books. Once this has been completed then we will add another check point prior to the receipt of the certificate. The student must have achieved 80% on the final assessment as well has receiving 60% on each of the “Check for Understanding” quizzes for each homework assignment.

We are truly providing a “school” experience with our internet based Subject Specific Classes.

Each LWS Class consists of 6 ½ hours of classroom and 13 hours of homework.

Two of our classes then earn an academic credit consisting of 13 hours of face-to-face learning and 26 hours of homework providing 39 hours of education to the student. That works for most schools but there will be others that have different requirements. We will adapt to the conditions and situations we come across so that our Classes will qualify everywhere. We already have Accreditation Internationally so that will allow us to continue with our work to offer all of our classes in English, French and Spanish. We will expand that language offering as required.

We continue to push forward. We have audio tracks to match our class reading assignments. We have closed captioning for all of our film clips. We have the multiple language platform underway. We are adding now the homework element. We have come a long way. That is true. However, we still have a long way to go and many more learning elements to add to our portfolio. Next is “Half” classes. We will address that more in the coming months. 

The Time is Now.

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

Creditos Academicos

Creditos Academicos

Como Proveedor Aprobado, acreditado por IACET, tenemos ciertas reglas muy específicas a seguir. Por ejemplo, para obtener un CEU oficial tenemos que tener diez horas de aprendizaje. Esto se vuelve un poco más complicado cuando observamos el requisito del Departamento de Educación de EE. UU. de quince a dieciséis horas para una sola CEU. Sin embargo, entierran el plomo en esa declaración. Todo esto se basa en el aprendizaje tradicional en persona. Tantas horas de instrucción presencial y tantas horas de trabajo en clase. 1 hora de facetime, 2 horas de tarea. Esa es la “regla general”. Esto no puede ser “obligado” por el gobierno federal, es una guía. Sin embargo, para poder obtener préstamos o subvenciones, la escuela DEBE seguir estas reglas. Eso significa que cada escuela puede establecer sus propios criterios para los Créditos Académicos.

Ahí es donde se complica para nosotros en Learning Without Scars. Nuestras clases ofrecen seis horas y media de aprendizaje “presencial”. Aunque no es en un salón de clases tradicional, es en Internet. Eso significa que hay seis horas y media de aprendizaje específico por clase. Nos han dicho que debemos agregar un componente de “tarea” para que sea más fácil para las escuelas de “Crédito Académico” agregar nuestras clases a sus planes de estudio. De acuerdo con eso, estamos creando asignaciones de tarea para cada una de nuestras clases siguiendo la “regla general” de dos horas de tarea por cada hora de aprendizaje presencial. En otras palabras, para cada clase, estamos agregando trece horas de tarea.

He tenido un problema con esto con varias escuelas en las que siempre he hecho la pregunta “Está bien, asignas dos horas de tarea a cada hora de aprendizaje presencial de clase”. ¿Cómo rastreas que los estudiantes hicieron la tarea? La respuesta que obtengo constantemente es “no lo hacemos”.

Yo, como educador, siempre me he preocupado más de que el alumno salga de mis clases con un conocimiento sólido de la materia. Uso cuestionarios, exámenes instantáneos, debates orales, en otras palabras, todo lo que puedo para darle al estudiante la oportunidad de demostrarme que “lo entiende”. Caroline es de la misma opinión que nos llevó a quizás un enfoque diferente en la tarea que asignamos. Proporcionamos las horas de tarea como asignaciones de “Lectura detallada y anotación”. Para cada elemento de la tarea, le asignamos una “Verificación de comprensión”. Esto lo hacemos con un Quiz para cada tarea asignada. Obviamente, calificamos el cuestionario y proporcionamos esa retroalimentación al estudiante. Hemos establecido un nivel del 60 % o superior como prueba de que se ha cumplido nuestro objetivo de “Comprobación de la comprensión”. Este es otro paso que damos para diferenciarnos del modelo de educación tradicional que se usa en todo el mundo y establecer nuestro aprendizaje basado en Internet como un modelo viable para que todos lo usen en todas partes.

A través de cada una de nuestras Clases Específicas de Materia tenemos una estructura y construcción similar. Desde la inscripción del estudiante desde nuestro sitio web, o desde el proceso de registro en una escuela, el estudiante recibe de nosotros el aviso de que ha sido registrado en una de nuestras clases. Reciben un correo electrónico con una breve presentación de diapositivas con audio que explica cómo funciona la experiencia de aprendizaje. Luego recibirán un correo electrónico que les permitirá establecer una contraseña para nuestro sistema de software de gestión de aprendizaje. Desde allí, verán la página de inicio completa de Learning Without Scars. Una vez que hayan iniciado sesión, recibirán otro correo electrónico explicando qué les muestra esa página de inicio y cómo funciona. A continuación, pueden proceder a su clase.

Cada clase es una serie de videos. Cada video se puede iniciar y detener varias veces y el estudiante siempre regresará a su última posición. Tenemos videos cortos que terminan con un cuestionario. Ese cuestionario es para evaluar la comprensión del tema: es una “verificación de comprensión”. Hay un cuestionario al final de cada segmento de la clase. Al finalizar cada clase, tenemos una evaluación final de veinte preguntas de opción múltiple que el estudiante debe aprobar si desea obtener su certificado. La calificación aprobatoria es del 80%. El alumno puede realizar la Evaluación Final. Luego le pedimos al estudiante que nos dé su opinión sobre la clase que acaba de tomar. Finalmente, pueden obtener su certificado.

Ahora estamos agregando la pieza de tarea. Estamos seleccionando libros que son relevantes para la clase y brindando a los estudiantes esta lista de libros. Una vez que esto se haya completado, agregaremos otro punto de control antes de recibir el certificado. El estudiante debe haber obtenido un 80 % en la evaluación final y haber recibido un 60 % en cada una de las pruebas de “Verificación de comprensión” para cada tarea asignada.

Realmente estamos brindando una experiencia de “escuela” con nuestras clases específicas de materias basadas en Internet.

Cada clase de LWS consta de 6 ½ horas de clase y 13 horas de tarea.

Luego, dos de nuestras clases obtienen un crédito académico que consta de 13 horas de aprendizaje presencial y 26 horas de trabajo en el hogar que brindan 39 horas de educación.para el estudiante. Eso funciona para la mayoría de las escuelas, pero habrá otras que tengan requisitos diferentes. Nos adaptaremos a las condiciones y situaciones que nos encontremos para que nuestras Clases califiquen en todas partes. Ya contamos con Acreditación Internacional por lo que nos permitirá continuar con nuestro trabajo de ofrecer todas nuestras clases en inglés, francés y español. Ampliaremos esa oferta de idiomas según sea necesario.

Seguimos empujando hacia adelante. Tenemos pistas de audio para que coincidan con las tareas de lectura de nuestra clase. Tenemos subtítulos para todos nuestros clips de película. Tenemos la plataforma multilingüe en marcha. Ahora estamos agregando el elemento de tarea. Hemos recorrido un largo camino. Eso es verdad. Sin embargo, todavía tenemos un largo camino por recorrer y muchos más elementos de aprendizaje para agregar a nuestra cartera. Lo siguiente es “medias” clases. Abordaremos eso más en los próximos meses.

El tiempo es ahora.

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

Crédits académiques

Crédits académiques

Dans le billet de blogue de cette semaine sur l’apprentissage continu, Ron Slee nous guide à travers le processus d’obtention de crédits académiques.

En tant que fournisseur agréé, accrédité par IACET, nous avons certaines règles très précises à suivre. Par exemple, pour gagner un CEU officiel, nous devons avoir dix heures d’apprentissage. Cela devient un peu plus compliqué lorsque nous examinons l’exigence du Département américain de l’éducation de quinze à seize heures pour une seule CEU. Cependant, ils enterrent le plomb dans cette déclaration. Tout cela est calqué sur l’apprentissage traditionnel en personne. Tant d’heures d’enseignement en face à face et tant d’heures de travail en classe. 1h de facetime, 2h de devoirs. C’est la “règle générale”. Cela ne peut pas être « mandaté » par le gouvernement fédéral, il s’agit d’une ligne directrice. Cependant, afin de pouvoir obtenir des prêts ou des bourses, l’école DOIT suivre ces règles. Cela signifie que chaque école peut établir ses propres critères pour les crédits académiques.

C’est là que ça se complique pour nous à Learning Without Scars. Nos cours offrent six heures et demie d’apprentissage “en face à face”. Bien que ce ne soit pas dans une salle de classe traditionnelle, c’est sur Internet. Cela signifie qu’il y a six heures et demie d’apprentissage spécifique par classe. On nous a dit que nous devions ajouter une composante «devoirs» pour faciliter l’ajout de nos classes à leurs programmes par les écoles «à crédit académique». Conformément à cela, nous créons des devoirs pour chacune de nos classes en suivant la «règle empirique» de deux heures de devoirs pour chaque heure d’apprentissage en face à face. Autrement dit, pour chaque cours, nous ajoutons treize heures de devoirs.

J’ai eu un problème avec cela avec plusieurs écoles en ce sens que j’ai toujours posé la question “OK, vous attribuez deux heures de devoirs à chaque heure d’apprentissage en classe en face à face” comment suivez-vous que les élèves ont fait les devoirs ? La réponse que j’obtiens constamment est “nous ne le faisons pas”.

En tant qu’éducateur, j’ai toujours été plus soucieux que l’élève quitte mes cours avec une solide compréhension de la matière. J’utilise des quiz, des examens instantanés, des débats oraux, bref tout ce que je peux pour donner à l’élève l’occasion de me montrer qu’il « comprend ». Caroline est du même avis, ce qui nous a peut-être amenés à une approche différente des devoirs que nous donnons. Nous fournissons les heures de devoirs sous forme de devoirs de “lecture approfondie et d’annotation”. Pour chaque élément du devoir, nous attribuons une « Vérification de la compréhension ». C’est ce que nous faisons avec un quiz pour chaque devoir. Évidemment, nous notons le quiz et fournissons cette rétroaction à l’étudiant. Nous avons établi un niveau de 60 % ou plus comme preuve que notre objectif “Vérifier la compréhension” a été atteint. C’est une autre étape que nous franchissons pour nous différencier du modèle d’éducation traditionnel utilisé dans le monde et établir notre apprentissage basé sur Internet comme un modèle viable pouvant être utilisé partout par tous.

À travers chacune de nos classes spécifiques à un sujet, nous avons une structure et une construction similaires. Dès l’inscription de l’élève depuis notre site internet, ou dès le processus d’inscription dans une école, l’élève reçoit de notre part l’avis qu’il a été inscrit dans l’une de nos classes. Ils reçoivent un e-mail avec un court diaporama audio expliquant le fonctionnement de l’expérience d’apprentissage. Ils recevront alors un e-mail leur permettant d’établir un mot de passe pour notre système de logiciel de gestion de l’apprentissage. De là, ils verront la page d’accueil complète de Learning Without Scars. Une fois qu’ils se sont connectés, ils recevront un autre e-mail expliquant ce que cette page d’accueil leur montre et comment cela fonctionne. Ils peuvent ensuite rejoindre leur classe.

Chaque classe est une série de vidéos. Chaque vidéo peut être démarrée et arrêtée plusieurs fois et l’étudiant sera toujours ramené à sa dernière position. Nous avons de courtes vidéos qui se terminent toutes par un quiz. Ce quiz sert à tester la compréhension du sujet-c’est un “vérifier la compréhension”. Il y a un quiz à la fin de chaque segment de la classe. À la fin de chaque cours, nous avons une évaluation finale de vingt questions à choix multiples que l’étudiant doit réussir s’il souhaite obtenir son certificat. La note de passage est de 80 %. L’étudiant peut passer l’évaluation finale. Ensuite, nous demandons à l’élève de nous donner son avis sur le cours qu’il vient de suivre. Enfin, ils peuvent ensuite obtenir leur certificat.

Maintenant, nous ajoutons la pièce Devoirs. Nous sélectionnons des livres pertinents pour la classe et fournissons aux élèves cette liste de livres. Une fois cela terminé, nous ajouterons un autre point de contrôle avant la réception du certificat. L’étudiant doit avoir obtenu 80 % à l’évaluation finale et avoir reçu 60 % à chacun des quiz “Vérifier la compréhension” pour chaque devoir.

Nous offrons vraiment une expérience « scolaire » avec nos cours spécifiques à une matière basés sur Internet.

Chaque classe LWS comprend 6 heures et demie de cours et 13 heures de devoirs.

Deux de nos classes gagnent ensuite un crédit académique composé de 13 heures d’apprentissage en face à face et de 26 heures de travail à domicile offrant 39 heures d’enseignementà l’étudiant. Cela fonctionne pour la plupart des écoles, mais il y en aura d’autres qui auront des exigences différentes. Nous nous adapterons aux conditions et situations que nous rencontrerons pour que nos Classes se qualifient partout. Nous avons déjà une accréditation internationale, ce qui nous permettra de continuer notre travail pour offrir tous nos cours en anglais, français et espagnol. Nous élargirons cette offre linguistique au besoin.

Nous continuons à avancer. Nous avons des pistes audio pour correspondre à nos devoirs de lecture en classe. Nous avons des sous-titres codés pour tous nos extraits de films. Nous avons la plate-forme multilingue en cours. Nous ajoutons maintenant l’élément devoirs. Nous sommes venus de loin. C’est vrai. Cependant, nous avons encore un long chemin à parcourir et de nombreux autres éléments d’apprentissage à ajouter à notre portefeuille. Viennent ensuite les cours “Demi”. Nous en parlerons davantage dans les mois à venir.

C’est maintenant.

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

Five Things

Five Things

For this week’s Lifelong Learning blog, Founder Ron Slee talks to us about performance reviews and leading teams – both in a classroom and in a business setting. He describes for us five things that prompt thoughtful conversations.

Five Things

Many of you know that I am almost fanatical about providing great performance reviews with each and every employee I touch. Regularly. Not annually rather as the opportunity arises. But frequently to say the least. Then this came up as I was running through my time allocated to social media and my email and texts. That allotted time is my recognition of distractions that Nir Eyal pointed out to me that changed how I work. That recognition came from his excellent book “Indistractable.

A post by Harvard Business School on LinkedIn brought to mind a few things I used to do, as a matter of common practice, when I was leading teams at dealerships or software companies.

I called them my “Five Things.” They went like this:

  • Please list the “Five Things” that are the most significant items in each of the categories. 
    • Five Things to Improve Operations
    • That are a pain for you to do
    • To Make Your Job Better for you personally

It was an interesting exercise. Everyone on the team had a week to make their lists and we tried to ensure they didn’t work together on their lists. Then we got together as a team, at a break or after work and put them on a flip chart. We compared the lists. It was remarkable how there werem any items that were on all of the lists. As you can imagine my question was rather simple. If they make operations better AND they are a pain for you to do AND they will make your own job better THEN why haven’t we done them. Think about that for a moment.

I also regularly asked each member of the team three simple questions.

  • My “Check Up from the Neck Up.”
    • What do I do that you like, and you want me to continue doing?
    • What do I do that you don’t like, and want me to stop doing?
    • What do I do that doesn’t really matter to you or impact your job?

That gave me a very upfront and personal performance review by my team members.

Then this morning I find the following on LinkedIn from Harvard Business School.

“If you’re worried that your employees are eyeing the door, it’s time to start having some important, career-defining conversations.  Here are five key questions to ask your direct reports at your next one-on-one to ensure that they feel seen and valued — before it’s too late.

  1. How would you like to grow within this organization?   Identify the career development opportunities they need — whether that’s coaching, mentoring, increased visibility, or more challenging projects.  They’re more likely to stay if they feel like they’re growing.
  2. Do you feel a sense of purpose in your job?   Tap into what’s meaningful to them — and connect it with the values of the organization.
  3. What do you need from me to do your best work?   Be prepared to devote more time and resources to help your employee feel fulfilled. 
  4. What are we currently not doing as a company that you feel we should do?   Asking what they feel the company could be doing better — what market opportunities it might be overlooking, how to leverage resources more effectively, etc. — conveys that their thoughts and opinions matter.
  5. Are you able to do your best work every day?   This allows you to determine whether they’re optimizing their strengths. You might follow up with, “What part of your job would you eliminate if you could?” Don’t make promises but knowing which aspects of their job are least and most enjoyable will help you make any necessary changes to ensure they stick around.”

As many of you know I am quite critical about our skills in performing a performance review with your team members. Typically, no one has trained any of you on how to do a review. In many cases the review is what I call a “hygiene” review. Is the employee on time or late, are they absent a lot, are they dressed properly. Oh, and then some metrics. In many cases the individual employee does not have any control over the metrics so why are they in their performance review. It is almost that I have to check off another of the boxes on the things I should do.

Many of you know that we have Job Function Skills Assessments for most parts and service and product support selling jobs. Ninety-Six Multiple Choice questions. Your knowledge and skill level will be seriously evaluated with these assessments. This is about getting an objective measure of the “gaps” in the skills and knowledge that are present with an employee. The employee and their team leader sit down and talk about the assessment. With the score that the employee has achieved on the assessment we can provide a “Learning Skill Level.” The Skill Levels follow the education system categories: Developing, Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced. With each Skill Level we have eight class recommendations for the employee to continue to grow and develop their skills. We recommend that the team leader and the employee come to a joint decision on the classes that the employee should take to continue on their “career path.” This is a very different performance review. This is about treating each employee as an asset not an expense. They are people that we want to operate “aspirationally” (our word) not transactionally. We want employees that are engaged in their work.

For more in this direction please read David Jensen’s recent post on PTO

The Time is Now.

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

Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Capital

In this week’s Lifelong Learning post, Founder and Managing Member Ron Slee continues to look at employees as assets. Read on to learn about Intellectual Capital.

In an earlier post on Lifelong Learning, I posed a question to you – “Are your employee’s assets or expenses?” I hope every one of you said they are assets. Today I am wanting to look at your employees from a different perspective. I want to look at your employees as an “Asset on your Balance Sheet.” Imagine if you took all of the knowledge, skills and experiences of your employees and were able to put it into a container?

Look at the skills required to operate your business.

Selling. Leading. Buying. Repairing. Maintaining. Data Storage. Warehousing. Shipping. Receiving. Transportation. Ordering. Purchasing. Stocking. Paying Bills. Payroll. And there are many more.

On top of that you have the specific skills within each discipline. Take selling as an example. The function requires Research, Goal Setting, Asking Questions, Overcoming Objections, Explaining Benefits, and Closing the Sale. Each job function can be dissected into the differing skills required to perform it. That is one of the byproducts of our Job Function Skills Assessments. Most of us view a job simply as that. I would ask that you look at it in a different manner. Each job is a composite of a lot of different items. Let me go in a different direction for a moment. Let’s look at the job of a surgeon. What is it? Is it simply using a scalpel and cutting. Or are the years of training given to the surgeon expecting that they will see with trained eyes and identify problems inside our body and then knowing what to do about it? Of course, it is the latter, isn’t it?

So, when people take our assessments, they are taken aback at some of the questions. A typical comment coming back to us after the employee completes their assessment is that I wasn’t aware that was part of my job. If we look at the telephone and counter selling job function, most of the employees have done it for a long time. They typically are on autopilot. However, they are often extremely busy. They don’t have time for many niceties. That is a shame. That is a result of not having enough people to do the job properly. That is the negative result of sales per employee. (Too many “bosses” think that a high sales per employee is a good thing. That is totally wrong. Completely wrong) Customer retention. Customer loyalty. They are critical measures of your success as a business. Market share is another.

Well in the parts business over the past forty years market share in parts and service has dropped by more than 50%. Many of you will argue with me as a result of your sales revenue continuing to go up. Perhaps many of you will point to the proliferation of competitors as the cause of this reduction. I will respectfully disagree. This drop in market share is a direct result of too few people serving customers doing too much work. 

Look at your service department as a good example. Surveys done by industry associations point out that 15% of the customers who purchase labor from an equipment dealer “defect” each year. Let me express that another way for you to better make my point. 15% of your service customers STOP buying labor from you on an annual basis. That means that you lose 50% of your customers over a five-year period. Don’t believe me? Check it out. Get a report in name sequence. Alphabetically. Compare the list from five years ago in a calendar year to the current year. In our case today compare 2021 to 2016. That is a gap of five years. Get the total number of customers in 2016 and compare that to 2021. In many cases the number will be very close to the same. Now go through and compare the two lists side by side. Name by name. How many names purchased labor in 2016 that did not purchase in 2021. I suspect you will find the number to be a very sobering illustration of the point I am trying to make with you.

In parts it is not as stark a defection rate but it is equally as disturbing.

Your employees are assets for your business. They are the people that create the glue, that bond your customers to your business. Too many of you view, these employees, your heroes, simply as tools in a toolbox. Nothing could be further from the truth. The sales per employee metric is given lip service. It is not the trigger that it should be used to hire people. In the 1980’s the sales per employee number, widely accepted in the industry was $600,000/parts employee/year. That number did not include the Parts Management nor the Product Support Sales team. For many of the dealers with which I have worked over the past five years that sales per employee number exceeds $1,000,000/employee. That means that the people working on your counters and telephones serving your customers are overworked. From the 1980 metric 5 people were required to do $3,000,000 per year. That job today it is being done by 3 people. How can this be allowed to happen? 

There is a very old expression. “You reap what you sow” The market share reduction is a direct result of this excessive sales per employee. It is a result of the employee NOT being viewed as an asset but as simply a tool to be used. This is wrong. It needs to change.

The time is now.     

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

     

The Challenges We Face

The Challenges We Face

Today, founder Ron Slee continues our series on Lifelong Learning with this blog post: The Challenges We Face. Education should lead to learning, shouldn’t it?

You are seeing it everywhere these days. The progress that has been made in education has not been very good. Through the pandemic and all the arguments about going to school or going virtual with reading, writing and arithmetic measures are all pointing out that things are not very good.

The New York Times reporting on September 1st, 2022 that the performance of 9-year-olds in math and reading dropped to the levels from two decades ago. For the first time since the National Assessment of Educational Progress test began tracking student achievement in the 1970s, 9-year-olds lost ground in math, and scores in reading fell by the largest margin in more than 30 years.

What makes this more troublesome is that “Student test scores, even starting in first, second and third grad, are really quite predictive of their success later in school, and their educational trajectories overall” said Susanna Loeb, the director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, which focuses on educational inequality. This holds serious implications for our society. Over the past decade or so, student scores had leveled off rather than gained, while gaps widened between low-and high-performing students.

One last comment comes from Dr. Ho, a professor of education at Harvard and an expert on education testing. He tells the story of a “decade of progress” followed by a “decade of inequality.”  He continues “Now we have our work cut out for us.” There are people now calling for a “Marshall Plan” for education. Janice K. Jackson, who led the Chicago Public Schools until last year and is currently a board member of Chiefs for Change. She is saying “no more of the arguments, and the back and forth and the vitriol and the finger pointing. Everybody should be treating this like the crisis it is.”

For some time, the world looked to America for ideas and concepts in educational success. That is no longer true, if it ever was. From the 1930’s. when the President of Harvard dramatically increased the learning options, from the basic “Science and English curriculum,” and dramatically increased the monies coming into the University, we have seen a decline in the University creation of “work ready” graduates for our society. Today we have over 11,000,000 open jobs in the USA. Companies are looking to hire 11,000,000 people. Although answering the question of how many people are unemployed is tricky to answer, Heather Long published a report in February in 2021 that provided the official number of unemployed people in the United States as 10.1 million. This from a report the Labor Department puts out every Friday. But there are other numbers to consider. Unemployment payments have been going out regularly to 20 million people. Perhaps these people are unemployable. By Colleague Ed Gordon continues to tell me that by 2030 50% of the American Workforce will not have the skills required to be employed. If he is correct, we as a society are in a very serious situation. The Challenge is Real.   

In 1965 the federal government began guaranteeing student loans provided by banks and non-profit lenders. They created a program that is now called the Federal Family Education Loan program. The American public has been bombarded for many decades that the path to success in the US is to have a University Degree. The message was very successful. In 1980 there were 3,231 higher education institutions in the United States. By 2016, that number increased by more than a third to 4,350 (how government guaranteed student loans killed the American Dream for Millions by Daniel Kowalski). According to Forbes, the average price of tuition has increased eight times faster than wages since the 1980s. In 2018 the Federal Reserve estimated that there was $1.5 trillion in unpaid student debt.

If after reading this far you don’t sense a problem then I have done a very poor job of communicating.

Career and Technical Education as we now know it has its roots in the founding of the United States. There were a series of stages through which learning progressed; The Awakening (1776–1826) which provide a right to a free public education, primarily to boys. Independent Action (1826–1876) when public education joined with the workforce to provide a continuous stream of workers for different jobs. The Vocational Education Age (1876-1936) the first manual training school, established in St Louis, Missouri, in 1879. Coming of Age (1926-1976) the first mass acceptance of career and technical training. Technical Schools are thought to produce job ready skills for work that is demand. They don’t cost nearly as much as university.

Mike Rowe says “We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.” Since 1980, the cost of going to college has risen by 260%. If you attend a technical college, then the cost of your entire education is the equivalent of one year at another institution. Today only 19% of college enrollees can earn their degree in four years or less. (Trade School vs College: The Big Pros and Cons for each June 24 2019 by Louise Gaille). Further, there are several trade schools operating right now in the US which offer vocational opportunities online.

An article was written in the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness by Jeremy Monk in March of 2018. He starts the article recounting an information session at a local technical and career education center. He tells us he attended a school known for its academic rigor and high ranking. Most students laughed at the idea of attending a vocational school. A school counsellor told those going to the information session the following story.

You are rushed to the hospital one evening and told you need emergency surgery for a rare infection. The only doctor who knows how to perform this surgery is at his country house and it will take an hour for him to get to the hospital. The doctor gets in his fancy car and starts the trip. Twenty minutes into the trip something happens to his engine and his car stalls on a rural highway. The doctor calls a local mechanic who rushes over, and in a few minutes diagnoses the problem and fixes the problem. The doctor makes it to the hospital and performs the surgery successfully. The school counsellor then asks the question.

Who do you thank – The Doctor or the Mechanic?

While University education has been promoted at most levels of society career, vocational and technical education has become increasingly stigmatized. Finding for technical education programs have decreased and vocational credit offered in high schools have dropped. Career, Vocational and Technical Education has been portrayed as a Plan B, a “Silver” medal compared to a university education. Recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that nearly 44 percent of recent college graduates were employed in jobs not requiring university degrees in 2016.

Germany continues to show us how to proceed. They have a greater percentage of young people opting for non-university post-secondary education. There is also much greater respect for these students. Similar social and education programs are dominant in Scandinavia. In Finland, which is often referenced as the jewel of all national education systems nearly 45% of students choose a technical path.   

The evidence is clear. The facts are compelling. Society is showing this in how the “white” collar and “blue” collar job status is viewed. This has created a social hierarchy. It isolates people and further divides us. We face some very serious challenges. Don’t forget the doctor would still be on the side of the road waiting if it had not been for the mechanic. 

The Time is Now.

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

Transitions In Our Education System

Transitions In Our Education System

In this week’s post for Lifelong Learning, founder Ron Slee takes a hard look at some of the transitions in our education system, and why we need those transitions now more than ever.

I come from a family of teachers. My grandmother was a teacher and my mother taught. We have been teachers for over one hundred years. My grandmother taught in a one room schoolhouse. Educators seemed to be all around me. My mother chose all of my teachers in grade school. She was the Vice Principal at the school, and I couldn’t get away with anything. But for some reason I always used to watch my teachers and how they worked. One thing a lot of us forget is that the “teacher” is typically the only person that we see at work when we are children. 

I remember one particular teacher of mine in High School. He taught high school boys health. A subject that really gets the attention of teenage boys, right? He did some amazing things to keep us engaged. He used facial expressions, he used his voice dramatically, he used body language. He used everything he could think about to keep our attention. It made quite an impression on me. Over my career and involvement in training and teaching one thing always has stood out to me. You have a responsibility to keep the attention and interest of your students, your audience. 

I also remember another teacher who had a Master’s Degree in English and he was teaching Mathematics. His first class with us is indelibly etched on my mind. He said, “if I can learn to teach you mathematics with an English education all of you will pass this class.” He meant it and he delivered. Everyone passed. Several of my classmates had trouble with Calculus and they had to spend countless hours work after the school day ended. This teacher never left them. He was committed to the success of this students. It was his life. 

Teachers are special people. They are more influential in the development of a child’s intelligence and knowledge than nearly everyone else. We start with parenting before a child goes to school. Then we transition from preschool to grade school, to middle school, to high school and then to more serious learning either in the technical world or the academic world. Both of those paths of development are beneficial to society. The goal of the education system, in my mind, is to create work ready people for the business world, not JUST expand knowledge and learning. This is true whether that person becomes a doctor or plumber. 

Ed Gordon, President of the Imperial Consulting Group, a man who has devoted his life to teaching and education and employee development, has written around twenty books. The one that got my attention was titled Future Jobs, Solving the Employment Skills Crisis. He has written a series of papers on Job Shock, which we have published as blogs. He has pointed out something very significant to me. The First Industrial Revolution required reforms to the education system to create math and literacy. Prior to that we were hunters and gatherers and farmers. We are now in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We have the same need to reform education. We need stronger analytical skills; we need better communications skills and better critical thinking skills. 

That means teaching will have to change once again. 

Teaching will have to transition to something different. We have to continue fulfilling the traditional role of preparing children to be able to enter the workforce. However, we are also now facing the need to create an adult reeducation program. No longer will the skills we obtain before the age of twenty-five be sufficient for our typical career. Science and Technology and Computerization and Artificial Intelligence and other advances will make our skills obsolete. The education system will have to be able to provide updated skills so that people will continue to be employable. 

This creates a wonderful challenge for us all involved in helping people learn. 

Traditional education has had a teacher in the front of the room. What I have called the “sage on the stage.” This model requires physical plant, a school, with classrooms and teachers and in some models with a teacher’s aide. This is an expensive model. Further this model clearly doesn’t work with the world that we live in today. We should not leave any person behind in the world. That means that we cannot stay with the current model. We need to move to the internet to bring learning to a much broader audience. In different geographies, Africa and Asia, where we don’t have the infrastructure, we have no choice but to seek out alternatives. 

We have examples and models available to us today. For instance, we have a very accomplished scientist who teaches at MIT. His name is Eric Lauder. Dr. Lauder also happens to be an amazing teacher. And there are others around the world. Dr. Lauder teaches a class at MIT called “The Secret of Life.” He has cameras in his classroom that record the class. This class then is put up on the internet and is available to anyone who has access to a computer and the internet. The same curriculum, the same homework, the same everything. This is an example where you have a subject matter expert who is an exceptional teacher, available to the world. Imagine that. 

Our classes at Learning Without Scars are complicated. Most of us who started into training on the internet started with a slide show that is the foundation of any class that you are putting on with a group of people in the room with you as students. The transition is then to try and have audio tracks tied into the slides to portray the messages you would have just as if you were in a classroom. That is a typical internet-based class. We do it differently. 

We would like to believe that our structure is a complete class. Required reading that is followed with a quiz to prove that you understood the reading material. Each class is built as a series of videos consisting of slides, and audio tracks and film clips, complete with close captioning, wrapped up with a quiz at the end. We have five to ten segments in each class. The transition is easy to go from one segment to the next. Each student receives an email upon the completion of each segment. One class I completed recently had twenty emails. Then we have a final assessment for the class. You must achieve an 80% score on the final assessment to pass the class. Then we ask each student to complete a survey, to help us continue to improve our products, and finally the certificate of achievement. The certificate includes the number of CEU’s that are earned in the class and apply as academic classes in other schools. (Our CEUs apply to other schools; technical schools, Junior Colleges, State Universities and private Universities.) Our subject specific classes now “feel” like a school program, no longer an internet-based slideshow. 

This is part of what we foresee as the transition on education. The arrival of the internet as a learning platform. Of course, there will be many iterative changes, but we have to make higher quality learning available across the world to anyone who is interested not just those that can afford it.      

The Time is Now.

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

Learning As a Way of Life

Learning As a Way of Life

In this week’s post on lifelong learning, Ron Slee tackles the difficulties of making time for ourselves in “Learning As a Way of Life.”

Should Learning be a Way of Life?

Over my career and involvement in training and teaching one thing has always stood out to me. The amount of time and effort that we devote in our lives to our own personal health and development seems always to come last. Imagine that. We spend our time working, in many cases the same job for years, and we don’t do much if anything to get to another level of opportunities.

A number of years ago my wife and I took a vacation. A nice vacation for a couple of weeks. During these two weeks, I spent each morning looking out at magnificent scenery while I was on a treadmill. That is when it struck me. I had not spent any time at all on my own personal health and wellbeing. I don’t think I am alone in this regard. We get into ruts in our lives. We have our personal lives and our professional lives and we get to a place where we have everything under control and we are comfortable with our lives. Or so we think.

So, when the vacation was over and we returned home I reverted to my normal life which left no time for me.

During the time I was teaching in a classroom, I always asked the class to tell me about the last book that they read. Rarely had anyone read a book in the last thirty days, or ninety days, a few had read a book in the past year. Does that remind you about the time I DON’T invest in myself? The people in my classes rarely did anything in the form of reading that helped them develop as individuals, either in their personal or professional lives.

I think it is long past the time when we should be investing in ourselves.

When I worked in dealerships, I regularly got a book for the members of my team. We all read the same book and set a day when we would talk about that book and share with each other our impressions. It was always enlightening to all of us. We were talking about our personal impressions, with no filters. No judgment, no one was right or wrong, we were just talking as people. I found that the team became much closer as a result of this exercise. You should try it, or something like it, with your teams. Maybe even in your family if your children are old enough.

Recently my granddaughter moved to Hawaii to take her Master’s Degree at the University of Hawaii. It is a real joy for us to have her this close. During the past six weeks or so we have spent a lot of time together and those of you who know me reasonably well can imagine the conversations we get into with each other. As you know I am a contrarian. I love debating. And it really doesn’t matter which side of the debate I am on. During this time my granddaughter has figured me out and we now can have some really vigorous debates about darn near any subject you want to talk about. That is also a joy for me as it shows me a person who is growing in their thinking and communications styles.  

Recently I was talking with the President of a University and I was asking him what he viewed as the most significant elements of learning that the students coming to university were lacking. He was very clear in those three things.

  1. Critical Thinking Skills
  2. Analytical Skills 
  3. Communications Skills

I was intrigued and we talked about it for some time. It would appear that when the US introduced the “No Child Left Behind” program, the teaching became more about teaching to a score on a test than teaching people to think. Of course, in some parts of the U.S., a low test score was grounds for firing a teacher. Learning the subject matter should be the primary objective, of course. Learning to think and develop your own intellect was also a priority. It would appear that aspect of learning was less prioritized in the face of so much high stakes testing. To this University Leader it showed.

I would like for us to get much more serious about our own personal development. As you know one of the goals for us at Learning Without Scars is to help everyone identify their individual personal potential. Then to get on a path to achieving our potential. That applies to all of us. Caroline and I are in this mode constantly. She is much more effective at it than I am as she has held a full-time teaching job while at the same time involved in personal development with a mentor once a week and completing her own Master’s program in education. I feel like a slacker beside her. But think about that for a moment. Caroline has put embedded learning in her life. 

Writing this blog has renewed my commitment to put learning into my day-to-day life. I read constantly. I recommend five books in each of our Quarterly Newsletters so each of you can be stimulated to do the same thing. The newsletters all have four main subject areas; parts, service, selling and business. They are in the form of a separate document which I wanted you to use for Continuous Improvement in your work.

I am very fortunate in that I am exposed to people that take me out of my comfort zone when I do Zoom calls and create our Podcasts and YouTube and Vimeo Films. I am challenged to explore a subject on which my guests are subject matter experts, and I have a conversation with them that can be helpful to our Learning Without Scars audience.

But I am entering a new phase in my life. It seems that the changes will never end. I am going to embed Learning into my day-to-day life, and I invite you to join me in this new phase.    

The Time is Now.

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

Does Anyone Know the Skills Required For a Job?

Does Anyone Know the Skills Required For a Job?

When you first seek employment, do you know all of the ins and outs of the job you’re applying to do? Founder and managing member Ron Slee takes a look at skills in his learning post for this week: Does Anyone Know the Skills Required For a Job?

I have been manic about having Organizations Charts and Job Descriptions and Performance Metrics for Jobs for a long time. I have also always been able to have performance reviews with any teams that I led when I was an employee. For one-on-one discussions of performance reviews, I tried to put the employee at ease. I wanted us to be able to be completely honest with each other. It was reflected in my day-to-day activities as well. I was always “on the floor” walking around and talking with everyone. I guess I was interrupting their work but neither the employee nor I ever complained about my presence in their jobs and their lives. We were family from my perspective.

Today as I look around businesses today, I see organizations without inadequate numbers of employees. Push-push-push. More-more-more. People are complaining about the lack of loyalty that customers have toward their suppliers. I am constantly asked that question “What happened to loyalty?” The internet has changed everything. Many people today are writing about the problems with “WFH” – working from home. We have lost something that we will regret. I don’t agree with that comment at all. We are entering into a new era of work. Most small business has to have employees at work. At their place of business. They cannot work remotely at a coffee shop or a warehouse or a service shop. It is the  larger corporations that are having the problem with WFH. They don’t like it. They think that the “office” is where life happens. We work collaboratively. We make friends and have adversaries. Sometimes we meet someone that we will marry. Everything happens at the office. Isn’t that something?

Our lives and our society depend on us going to the office.     

WOW.

I truly hope that is not true. It is not true with what I do. It isn’t true with my daughter who teaches in the classroom. My grandchildren went to school virtually for nearly two school years. My granddaughter took advantage of it and loaded her schedule with the classes that would have been too far apart (distance-wise) for her to take back-to-back during her Undergraduate Degree. I don’t think that hurt her at all. I think it helped. My grandson learning virtually was something that he did better with than in the traditional classroom. There were fewer distractions. That would have been the same thing with me. Too many distractions. That is why I have been talking about a book titled “Indistractable.” How helpful that has been in how I organize my workload. But my grandson did very well with virtual learning.

Which brings me to what I wanted to talk about in this blog. Who has defined the job skills required for a job? I know. Education. Years of Experience.  Gets along well with others. The usual stuff. But what skills are required? Can they use the telephone effectively? Can they solve problems? Can they sell? Can they manage an inventory? Do they know how to set up a warehouse, a distribution center? Can they manage a shop floor? Do they have critical thinking skills? Do they have analytical skills? Can they communicate well in writing and orally? Do they have leadership skills? Who has defined and clearly described the specific job skills required for a job function? 

I will suggest to you most people think that those things are supposed to be handled in the interview. Alright I will go along with that for a moment. Who trained the person conducting the interview with the prospective employee? We have a problem here. In my opinion.

This shows itself up in our Job Function Skills Assessments. Experienced and talented people are surprised at their scores. The results that most people get are lower than what they thought they would be. When I discuss it with them, I ask them why they were surprised and they tell me that they do the job and have done the job for years. They are good at their job. They get promoted.

Let’s get specific then and talk about inventory management. I start by asking questions. They give me good answers. They think that they do a very good job. So, I ask them how long it takes to get a part. Their lead time. And everyone now, even during the troubles with the supply chain, says less than a month for most vendors. Then I ask if their inventory turnover is greater than eight times. They look at me as if I was from another planet. The point is that they have been doing the job that has always been done in the same manner. Is that what we want? What we need? Continuous Quality Improvement, CQI, seems have gone away for most of us. 

I do the same thing with people in the service department, or product support selling or parts and service marketing. And everyone that got a score lower than they expected. Our assessments are evaluating the skills that the employee has to have in order to be able to perform that particular job function. Not how the job is being done but rather what the job requires. Instore Selling is not Order Processing. Repairs are not conducted in a job shop it is a planned and scheduled repair facility. Marketing is not simply brochures and trade shows. It is everything and anything that influences the customer to purchase something from you.

That takes me to the title of this blog. 

We need to write a different description of what is expected of the employee in their specific job. That would help in every area of the employee – employer relationship. The trouble with this is the same as most other issues we face. We don’t have enough time to do it. We are not sure what the skills should be for that job. We hadn’t really thought about it before.

Think about this seriously. I sincerely believe it will make your life easier with each employee and it will really help the employee understand what is expected of them with more clarity. The employees will feel much better about themselves and what is expected of them. However, make no mistake, this is not easy to do. Perhaps that is why we haven’t done it before. It is too much like work.   

The Time is Now.

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

Are Your Employees Assets OR simply Tools from a Toolbox?

Are Your Employees Assets OR simply Tools from a Toolbox?

In this, the second installment in our series on learning and education, our founder and managing member Ron Slee asks a fundamental question: Are Your Employees Assets OR simply Tools from a Toolbox? Your answer determines how you approach the education of your team members.

One of the common issues that I have had to deal with since I first arrived in this industry is the cost of payroll. Payroll has traditionally been measured as a percentage of sales. We have a payroll of $1,000,000 and Sales of $10,000,000 so we have an expense sales ratio of 10%. I have always believed that is the improper way to be looking at your employees. I believe that your employees are in almost all cases revenue generators The employees are also the ones who develop the relationship with your customers that improves customer retention and satisfaction. 

One thing that I have found quite interesting over the years, when talking with very smart, experienced people, executives in charge of parts and service is how they have viewed employees. Several of them have expressed surprise when we discuss head counts. One Executive Vice president of a large major brand equipment manufacturer told me that every time he hired a new employee for his parts business the sales revenue for parts increased. He expressed how surprised he was. My answer? Keep on hiring at the rate at which your business can absorb new employees until the sales do not go up.

Many of you are aware that I use a sales per employee metric that is based on three variables; the gross profit of parts, the compensation package for the parts department, and the average unit price for the parts sold. From this you can arrive at a specific standards dollar value for a parts department employee. Let’s use $750,000/parts person, excluding the management. We use that measure over a rolling twelve-month time period. I use a bracket around that standard, 80% as a floor and 120% as a ceiling. When we have three consecutive months below the 80% of standard level, we have to reduce the number of employees. When we have three consecutive months above 120% of the standard level, we have to increase the number of employees.      

Is there anything wrong with that approach?

The same thing is true with technicians as well as the teams that sell equipment, parts and service or rentals. There are dollar standards for all of these job functions. That is also true about the administrative job functions.

I still find it interesting how many of the leaders of businesses in most capital goods industries look at a high sales per employee as a positive thing, and I understand that very well. However, we can easily be misled with that approach. Nothing is ever that simple, is it? 

Yes, a high sales per employee number provides higher levels of profitability for the business. That is clearly one of the metrics that owners are concerned with for their business. However, there are other factors that cannot be overlooked. 

Over the past 50 years market share has decreased. For parts and service, it has gone down by over 50%. Is there a correlation that we should be concerned about here? I think so.

Looking back at the past forty years we have had a relatively stable situation with interest rates and inflation. We all became accustomed to the way we needed to operate the business. Of course, there some variations but they, for the most part they have been of a short duration. Then the pandemic hit and we were forced to adapt how the business operated.

From January 2020 as a starting point until the end of June 2022 both employees and employers were forced to rethink a lot of things. Office spacing, masks, vaccines, working from home and many other adjustments were made. Education had a very serious change forced upon it. Virtual learning became commonplace. The teachers and schools, the School Boards and Teachers Unions all were forced into serious changes. Caroline taught from home for over a year. The results determined from surveys of scores and grades are not very good. The learners in K-12 have lost in some states as much as a year in their learning results. As a society we will be paying a price for that loss of learning for decades.

Today as the employees and employers reevaluate their work and operating methods, we are noticing big, significant changes. In many cases positive ones. These changes would have taken place naturally anyway at some point. However, the changes this time were compressed over a very short period of time.

Now we are confronted with the question in the headline at the top of this blog. Do you view your employees as tools from a toolbox that you can deploy to satisfy a job function need OR are they assets that drive your business?

I think you know where I stand on that question. What about you?       

The Time is Now.

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