Flying the flag for L&D can be a lonely and thankless task in some organizations. So, it’s all the more inspiring to hear success stories from passionate advocates of corporate learning.
On July 3, Mind Tools hosted its second L&D networking event. More than 35 fellow L&D practitioners joined them on the top floor of London’s iconic Gherkin building to share and discuss their own success stories.
I’m pleased to bring you the event’s highlights, as well as some key takeaways and practical tips from each speaker.
The informative and interactive session was titled “Successful Learning Transformation: How to Meet the Needs of the On-Demand Consumer Learner Generation.” It was designed to showcase insights from the new, groundbreaking research conducted by Mind Tools and expert learning analysts, Towards Maturity.
Mind Tools CEO Ollie Craddock introduced the morning, and along with Towards Maturity’s Chief Insight Officer Jane Daly, explored L&D’s perceptions of their learners in 2019. They revealed the divide that exists between the perceptions of L&D staff and those of their learners. And they questioned whether or not L&D practitioners are meeting those learners’ needs.
After this session, two of Mind Tools’ most respected clients in the U.K. joined Ollie and Jane in a fireside chat to discuss the biggest issues that L&D practitioners face when their learners don’t have the time to learn.
Taking part in the event were:
Jyoti Ghai and Grace Francis− L&D specialists at Heathrow Airport, the second busiest airport in the world, and the busiest airport in Europe. Heathrow handled a record 80.1 million passengers in 2018.
Ciara Lennon-Smith− HR Coordinator at Rothesay Life − a leading life insurer, established in 2007.
The questions asked by moderators Ollie and Jane were:
Does Your Organization Encourage Self-Directed Learning?
In response to this question, Jyoti outlined the challenges that the airport faces: their complex, multi-operational workforce runs on shift hours, making it difficult to offer employees face-to-face learning opportunities. As a result, the need for self-directed and on-demand learning is a must.
As a company, they have started their journey to develop a self-driven learning culture through their internal campaign, “Inspire to Grow.” The objective is to encourage people to be more proactive, stay curious and take control of their own learning success.
Does Your Organization Encourage, and Provide Time For, Reflection?
Grace admitted that currently, Heathrow doesn’t plan in time for colleagues to reflect. However, the company’s face-to-face learning programs actively encourage learners to reflect in different ways, even if they don’t insist on it.
“As part of our campaign we are going to start encouraging people to build ‘time to grow’ into their diaries so that they can have recognized, protected and undisturbed time for self-directed learning or reflection.”
Can You Give Examples of How to Adapt Learning to the Needs of Your Organization?
Ciara kicked off this discussion by describing the success of launching Mind Tools within Rothesay.
“We looked at performance review time and goal setting, which was a huge driver for people accessing Mind Tools content.
We split the learning population into cohorts and targeted people specifically, rather than company-wide. This included launch emails, and offering shorter training courses over three sessions rather than full days.
We now also offer increased lunchtime sessions so that they are more accessible, utilizing the feedback we have received to market our resources.”
As Jyoti explained, when Heathrow launched Mind Tools internally, they found that there were two issues they needed to address.
“The first was myth-busting about career development, and the second was giving line managers the tools and resources they need to do their job.
There was lots of feedback about line managers not being adequately prepared to line manage people – with this in mind we created two custom pages and mapped resources that would help these objectives.”
Grace has found the results from Mind Tools invaluable.
“We use the data that we get back from Mind Tools and our other platforms to help us to adapt our learning offering. It gives us an insight into what people are looking for, so we can adapt materials and resources according to those needs.”
Can You Provide Examples on How You Engage Your Learners Through Marketing Campaigns?
Ciara outlined the importance of keeping Mind Tools content at the forefront of thinking for the learners at Rothesay.
“We ran a campaign during Learning at Work Week, in which we had a huge drive towards Mind Tools content, along with our other training providers. Our intranet is gaining increased views, so to that effect, we have built dedicated landing pages around learning.
In addition to this, we have added some promotional banners on the site to remind everyone about the importance of self-development.”
Ciara also discussed the importance of continually testing campaigns and gathering feedback for the future.
“We have been focusing our campaigns around specific seasonal internal events, such as performance reviews and goal setting. This has seen great results in comparison to blanket emails at all times of the year.”
Grace and Jyoti provided five top tips on keeping learning fresh at Heathrow:
Set clear objectives and goals for the campaign. What are you trying to achieve?
Ensure materials look professional and on brand. Become friends with your marketing and design team!
Launch with a big bang. Use a “hook” if you can, such as Learning at Work Week, or a similar event.
Continue the drum beats. Set up lunch-and-learn drop-ins to maintain momentum.
Don’t just rely on digital. Talk to the business! Create ambassadors and create some energy. Excitement is contagious!
I’d like to personally thank all of our speakers for sharing their insightful stories with us.
“Analytics”, “data mining”, “big data”, “key metrics” – one way or another, data is regularly lauded as the solution to every problem that a business faces.
However, as I wrote in my last blog post, not everything is always as it appears in the world of data. Sometimes it pays to take a step back and consider if your key performance metrics are actually a help or hindrance.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when analysing your data.
Management Information vs. Data Analysis
First of all, it’s important that you separate management information (or MI) and data analysis.
MI is a record of fixed data sets, allowing managers to see and track changes over time (for example, a weekly stats report). Whereas data analysis is about digging deeper into the figures, looking for patterns and anomalies to predict future change. Essentially, MI says, “This is where we are,” and data analysis says, “This is where we could be.”
Think of MI as looking directly through the windshield of your car at what’s in front of you, and data analysis as looking at various possible routes on your satnav app.
There is an important place for them both. However, automating MI will free up your analysts to start modeling ways your company can innovate for the future. (There are many automation services you can use, including Power BI, Oracle and Tableau.)
The Danger of Stand-Alone Metrics
Are there certain stats and figures in your company that are consistently highlighted, either for marketing purposes or as benchmarks?
If so, it’s worth regularly putting them under the microscope. You need to make sure they are accurate and are sending your company in the right direction.
Take the following example: “In five years time, we will have 500,000 customers.” Chasing this metric at the cost of all others could have potentially damaging consequences.
Have you considered other relevant metrics? What is the average transaction value? What are your retention rates? Customer satisfaction levels? And that’s not even mentioning wider considerations like the company’s contribution to society and the environment.
Again, an automated MI program can help here: they can provide an engaging and easy to understand data dashboard for all employees to use. Be sure to include a range of relevant data points that your colleagues can refer to. This can stop your company from focusing on just the traditional metrics.
Embrace the Inconsistent
There can be a certain comfort in the weekly stats report. Like clockwork, everyone gets the same report confirming that all is well with “that” sacred number (for example, total sales, page views, etc.) and things are progressing as predicted.
But should this be the case in a business that dares to innovate and search for new ways to gain a competitive advantage?
There’s always the temptation to say “we’ve had a great week” and leave it there. But being shackled to particular metrics, with the assumption that they’ll grow in a predictable fashion, is potentially dangerous.
However, if you take the time to really analyze the data, you may find a few surprises. It may show that there’s a new audience of customers you can market to, or that a bottleneck is hampering capacity. When you take time to dig deeper, you may find whole new areas of opportunity. “We’ve had a great week” could quite easily turn into “we’ve had a great month.”
Whenever you make new discoveries about your industry, my recommendation is to document and share this information around the team. This may form part of a toolkit of ways to boost performance at times when you really need it.
Traditional Metrics: a Ticking Time Bomb?
Without innovation, the continued growth of the sacred metric may not be guaranteed.
In fact, if you’re solely focused on sales metrics, for example, this may have a detrimental effect on your business and lower your return on investment.
As a business makes more sales, it might start to find that its current processes and “infrastructure” struggle to handle the demands of a growing customer base. Therefore, technically the cost of securing each sale grows as your company creaks under the pressure. This is commonly known as the “law of diminishing returns” – the economics equivalent of “too many cooks spoil the broth.”
The graph below shows how this might negatively affect a restaurant business.
If the restaurant keeps hiring more staff to serve more tables, over time this tactic can become increasingly inefficient. They may need a bigger restaurant space, or a bigger kitchen, or more serving stations.
Traditional metrics, like total sales figures (or tables served, as in the example above) can let the company down, hiding the real challenges that the business faces.
By taking a step back and assessing the bigger picture, you can focus on finding innovative solutions to the happy problems of increased demand.
Knowledge Is Power
Taking a step back myself, the key takeaways from this blog are the following:
Don’t work for your metrics, make your metrics work for you.
Make sure that the metrics ingrained in your company culture are suitable, sensible and wide-ranging.
Innovation is essential. So never be afraid to change those metrics: if you’ve made new discoveries in your data, they could take your company in a successful new direction!
In fact, sticking dogmatically to a narrow range of metrics could be dangerous for your company in the long run, as you miss opportunities and succumb to the law of diminishing returns.
With comprehensive MI and rigorous analysis of data, your team may well discover exciting new horizons for your company to explore.
Mind Tools is a U.K.-based company, that serves more than 25 million learners, offering on-demand management, leadership and career skills training to individuals and organizations. With Mind Tools’ customized corporate learning solutions, your organization will have access to all our premium resources, including expert interview and book insight podcasts, interactive quizzes, and learning streams.
Book a demo with a member of our team to find out more.
We’ve packed away our stand, headed back to Mind Tools HQ, and now it’s time to reflect on a busy, informative and exciting two days at the 2019 CIPD Festival of Work!
The CIPD is the professional body for HR and people development, and is dedicated to “championing better work and working lives.” Its Festival of Work conference and exhibition at Olympia London was billed as the world’s largest celebration of people at work.
The event attracted more than 10,000 visitors, 160 speakers and 250 exhibitors – including a handpicked team from Mind Tools! We were delighted to demonstrate our Corporate offering to L&D leaders from the U.K. and around the globe.
We were also pleased to showcase our latest white paper, “Challenging Perceptions: Optimizing Performance by Aligning With the Needs of the Consumer Learner.” The report was a joint venture with our Emerald Learning partners, Towards Maturity – watch this space for a downloadable version that will be available soon!
The white paper takes a deep dive into learner behavior, and explores how today’s learners feel about learning at work.
One of the key findings is the massive divide between the perceptions of L&D practitioners and those of their learners. Drawing on lessons from top-performing organizations, the paper identifies the key learning expectations L&D practitioners need to meet, and the changes that will likely have the biggest impact on bridging the divide that may exist in your organization.
Festival of Work: An Immersive Event
The Festival of Work had lots to offer the delegates, exhibitors and visitors. For example, in the Innovation Village, a number of organizations demonstrated the latest innovations in L&D. And in the Well-Being Village, visitors could take part in mindfulness tasters, yoga sessions, and even spend time chilling with canine companions in the Nestle Purina dogs area.
The Future Role of Technology
Embracing technology in the workplace (without forgetting the human element) was one of the most popular themes of the event.
The opening keynote address was given by Garry Kasparov, a chess grandmaster and former world champion, and current chairman of the Human Rights Foundation.
He spoke about how the future of work is human and machine working together. This was followed by a panel with Garry and other prominent experts, to discuss good work and the future of jobs in a changing economic landscape.
Festival of Work Free Learning Program
In addition to the 75+ sessions on the main stages, CIPD also ran free learning events throughout the Festival of Work.
On the L&D Stage, our colleagues at GoodPractice delivered a presentation around the evolution of 70:20:10, a learning and development model that suggests a proportional breakdown of how people learn effectively.
In the session, they discussed insights, gathered from L&D practitioners working in leading organizations, about how they use 70:20:10 within their businesses.
For the uninitiated, 70:20:10 describes an ideal balance between different ways of learning and developing in the workplace:
70 percent by “experience,” through day-to-day tasks, challenges and practice.
20 percent by “exposure,” through social learning, in person or online.
10 percent by “education,” through formal learning including courses.
GoodPractice managing director Owen Ferguson explored the model with some important health warnings about the research methodology of 70:20:10.
He pointed out that L&D has a difficult job to do in terms of positioning and communicating 70:20:10, as there is a risk that people view it as “something extra,” or that L&D is pushing its responsibility out to managers and employees in the guise of 70:20:10.
As well as speaking and exhibiting at the event, GoodPractice also celebrated the third birthday of its podcast by doing a live show from London.
This special podcast featured Michelle Parry-Slater, founder of Kairos Modern Learning; Gemma Critchley, Head of Technology & Innovation for Learning at Aviva; and Andy Lancaster, head of Learning & Development Content at the CIPD. They discussed the past, present and future of learning. Listen to the live podcast on the GoodPractice website, here.
See You at the 2020 Festival of Work!
We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who visited the Mind Tools stand at the CIPD Festival of Work this year. We hope to see you again in 2020!
If you missed us at the event, but you’d like to find out more about our offering, request a demo today and discover how Mind Tools can help you and your organization.
Do you push too hard for perfection? Perhaps you struggle to get started on tasks, waiting for inspiration to arrive. Or maybe the projects you lead tend to miss their deadlines, while you and your people dissect and debate the details at length.
If so, chances are you’re making perfection your priority – at the expense of progress.
Long ago, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned against that very clearly: “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”
Today, Seth Godin, a successful entrepreneur, author and teacher, preaches that “waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.” The writer and leadership guru, Simon Sinek, agrees: “Progress is more important than perfection,” he says.
The Rise of Perfectionism
It’s easy to get caught up in the cult of perfectionism. A 2017 study by social psychologist Dr Thomas Curran analyzed data from over 40,000 people at colleges in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. It concluded that the drive for perfectionism is increasing.
Another study, by clinical psychologists at Dalhousie University, involved around 25,000 people, aged between 15 and 49. It showed that perfectionism has increased significantly in the last 30 years.
The Problem With Pursuing “Perfect”
In psychology, a perfectionist is defined as someone who maintains excessively high performance standards. They refuse to accept anything less than flawlessness.
But it’s an approach that’s unrealistic and unattainable. It’s a fast track to failure and unhappiness. To make matters even worse, perfectionists are often highly self-critical, and excessively concerned with the opinions of others.
Perfectionism can also lead to procrastination. You put things off because you’re waiting for the perfect idea, or for the timing to be spot-on. But while you’re busy deciding how to achieve your goals, deadlines sail by!
Many perfectionists focus on avoiding failure at all costs. They view mistakes as failures, and that leads to a fear of taking any risks at all. In the most popular TED Talk of all time, creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson says, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Perfectionism breeds fear of being wrong, and fear kills creativity.
Pushed to its extreme, perfectionism can ultimately affect a person’s sense of self-worth. If nothing we do is good enough, we can easily start thinking that we’re not good enough, too.
What to Do If You’re a Perfectionist
It’s always important to have high standards. But if your pursuit of perfect is getting in the way of progress, here are seven tips that might help:
1. Be clear about your objective.
From the very start, make sure you know what you’re aiming to achieve.
Let’s say you’re preparing a presentation to the C-suite. Do you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time fussing over the fonts for your PowerPoint slides?
If so, ask yourself what your objective is. Is it to dazzle people with your graphic design prowess? Or do you need to get their approval for a major initiative?
Being clear about your ultimate objective from the beginning will boost your success at each stage of a project.
2. Develop a bias for action.
When you’re stuck because you fear your work might not be flawless, or you don’t have the perfect right answer, don’t procrastinate. Perfection can lead to inaction.
Stop looking for the perfect way to do something – and just do it! Start, then improve along the way. This might not come naturally, but it’s achievable if you make it your intention.
3. Stop nitpicking.
Be ruthless about dealing with distractions. Precision is important, but you also need to step back and see the big picture. Ask yourself what other priorities are being missed while you’re busy focusing on insignificant details.
Any strength can easily become a liability if it’s taken too far, and perfectionists tend to obsess over every minor detail. Learn to let go of the small things so that you can focus on what matters most.
4. Refrain from excessive checking.
Be alert to anything that might threaten progress – including excessive caution. Yes, you need to check the key details. But don’t do so at the expense of efficiency and momentum.
Do you delay sending important emails because it takes you too long to find the perfect words? Does your team miss key deadlines because they’re double-checking documents and doing endless rewrites? Behaviors like these can make projects slow down, or stall completely.
Don’t sabotage yourself by “second guessing” every choice you make. After you’ve done a reasonable amount of checking, press “send” and move on.
5. Boost your sense of certainty.
One of my clients – I’ll call her Nadia – got a promotion recently. In her new role, she became progressively more anxious about impressing others. She worked extremely long hours, aiming for perfection in everything she did.
Nadia’s approach started to affect her sleep. She ended up getting only four hours of sleep most nights. “I need to show them that I deserve the promotion,” she confided.
People often seek perfection because they’re insecure. It seemed to me that Nadia had a dangerous mix of perfectionism and Impostor Syndrome!
In her book, “The Anxiety Toolkit,” psychologist Alice Boyes provides a tool for keeping your standards high, but avoiding perfectionism.
She advises that we shift our thinking from a performance focus to a mastery focus. Then, our aim to pursue high standards becomes less about proving ourselves to others, and more about gaining and using new skills. Instead of reinforcing our sense of insecurity, we start boosting our self-confidence.
Say you have two weeks to complete a report. You should set yourself an artificial deadline to finish it, and submit it then – rather than waiting until the end of the two weeks. If you try to use all the time you’ve got, you’ll likely continue writing and rewriting your work, to the point where you’re getting “diminishing returns.”
Do your due diligence, set a realistic deadline – and then (to paraphrase Seth Godin), “Ship it already!”
7. Be fair to others.
When you’re leading others, it’s easy to say, “Do as I do.” However, holding others accountable to your own personal standards may not be practical. You can still demand excellence from your team, but don’t confuse excellence with perfectionism.
Excellence is attainable, while perfectionism places an unfair burden on people to achieve impossible standards.
Perfectionism slows down the team, ramps up the stress, and puts overall performance at serious risk.
Cut yourself some slack. Tempering perfectionism for the sake of progress doesn’t mean giving up on excellence.
It’s not about being careless. You’re just setting realistic and achievable standards of performance. The focus is on continuous improvement – not on some distant possibility of perfection.
Focus on knowing when something is good enough, so that you can move on. Ultimately, you need to recognize that progress trumps perfection every time.
How Mind Tools Can Help
Mind Tools has a wide range of resources to help you tackle all the issues raised above.
If you think procrastination is a particular issue for you, why not start with our quiz, Are You a Procrastinator? And, if it turns out that you are… don’t put off doing something about it! We’ve got a great video guide to overcoming procrastination.
Not sure if you’re up to the challenges you face at work? Boost your confidence with our article on beating Impostor Syndrome.
ATD 2019 attracted more than 10,000 delegates to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. We were delighted to be there to share our Corporate offering with L&D leaders from around the globe.
As well as exhibiting at the event, our CEO, Oliver Craddock, gave a joint presentation with the Chief Insight Officer at Towards Maturity, Jane Daly. They discussed the new white paper we’ve worked on together, “Challenging Perceptions: Optimizing Performance by Aligning With the Needs of the Consumer Learner.”
Our Client Success Manager, Ricky Patel (second right in the photograph above) was part of the Mind Tools team in Washington. Ricky gave me his take on ATD 2019.
“There were so many great speakers this year,” Ricky told me. “They ranged from business giants and leaders of industry to media superstars like Eric Whitacre and Oprah Winfrey.”
In between meeting people at the Mind Tools stand, and exploring the event for himself, Ricky got the chance to hear the keynote speech given by entrepreneur and best-selling author Seth Godin.
“He said we’re living in revolutionary times,” Ricky recalled. “As artificial intelligence advances, many roles are already being replaced by technology. So, to future-proof our careers, we need to let our human skills shine.
“Seth explained that it’s qualities like empathy, creativity and insight that distinguish us from the artificial intelligence we create. It’s our ‘human skills,’ or ‘useful skills’ (also known as ‘soft skills’) that will help us to make change happen, make an impact, and make ‘art,’ whatever type of organization we’re in.”
So how do we nurture those skills – in ourselves, and in our people?
Ricky noted that Seth Godin emphasized the word “development.”
“He’s passionate about people getting ongoing opportunities to learn and grow, and the inspiration to keep challenging themselves. With the right resources, they’ll actively choose to learn, keep doing it – and enjoy it!”
Liberated learning is a key theme in Seth Godin’s book, ‘The Icarus Deception,’ and Ricky heard Seth explore the idea further during his ATD address.
“He got us to rethink the whole Icarus story from Greek myth. Yes, Icarus’s father told him not to fly too close to the sun. But he also warned against flying too low, because staying close to the ocean is even more dangerous! And we’ll all fail in the end if we continually play it safe.
“Conformity no longer equates with comfort. In order to soar, we need to be brave innovators, continually pushing the boundaries. Our people need leaders who support that, and the right tools to drive their own learning.”
ATD 2019 gave Ricky the opportunity to speak directly with a wide range of L&D practitioners. He was keen to hear about their L&D strategies, and to discuss the sort of learning solutions they’re looking for.
A common conversation was about the challenges faced by L&D teams to meet their learners’ needs. “And that gave me the chance to talk about our latest white paper,” Ricky said.
“In ‘Challenging Perceptions,’ we explore what L&D professionals think their learners need – but also what those individual learners have to say. And there are some big differences!
“The data shows that L&D practitioners tend to be much more critical of their organizations’ efforts than the learners themselves. For example, only 45 percent of L&D practitioners say that L&D is discussed as part of a performance review or appraisal, whereas 68 percent of learners say that it is!
“And, although only 26 percent of L&D practitioners say self-directed learning is common in their organization, 86 percent of learners say they’re actually learning all the time, as part of their everyday work.”
The white paper takes a detailed look at these and other key differences in people’s perceptions. Crucially, it also explores how we can challenge them.
“Lots of people were talking about that at ATD,” Ricky recalled. “L&D teams are eager to discover how their learners really think and feel – and then to use those insights to engage and inspire them. They know it’s going to be a key step toward creating a culture of learning that’s right for today’s learners.”
See For Yourself
Keen to read the research in full? Our white paper will be available for download soon, so watch this space to get your copy for free!
See You Soon!
We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who visited the Mind Tools stand at ATD 2019. We hope to see you again next year!
If you missed us in Washington, why not join us at the CIPD Festival of Work 2019, on June 12 and 13 at Olympia in London? It’s actually three events in one: the Learning and Development show, the HR Software and Recruitment show, and the new Future of Work show. Come to meet us, and discover why so many organizations use Mind Tools to engage their people in learning that works!
Spoken out loud, the first way I introduced myself is an example of “upspeak.” Simply put, upspeak (or uptalk) is a way of speaking in which every sentence ends upward – that is, with a rising tone, as if we are asking a question rather than making a statement.
Why should we be concerned about this topic? Well, for one thing, uptalk is supposedly on the rise, especially among young people. It’s often associated with women and many consider uptalk an unequivocally bad thing.
But are the concerns justified? And how could upspeak affect your career? Let’s explore some of these issues.
Who Uses Upspeak?
Is it mostly used by women? Is it a Southern California phenomenon (sometimes referred to as “Valley Girl” speak)? Not so fast.
Although it’s often associated with younger women, a University of California study (led by linguist Amanda Ritchart) confirms that men also use uptalk. From my own experience living in Vancouver, Canada, I encounter many highly intelligent women and men using upspeak frequently.
Ritchart claims that “several other studies investigating uptalk in different dialects of English have noted the use of uptalk by males as well, though women generally use it more often.”
Indeed, uptalk is not just a Southern California phenomenon. In his book, Uptalk: The Phenomenon of Rising Intonation, Paul Warren shows that uptalk has an extremely wide geographic spread across the English speaking world. To the British ear, it might be reminiscent of dialects in the Midlands (particularly Birmingham). And it will perhaps be most familiar to Australians and New Zealanders, where an upward inflection is common.
Negative Perceptions of Upspeak
There’s no shortage of opinions on upspeak. It’s often disparaged in the media and by communication coaches, academics, linguists, and psychologists, to name just a few of the naysayers. It was even a segment on the CBS program 60 Minutes as far back as 1994!
An example, among many, is John Baldoni, an internationally recognized leadership educator who claims that upspeak is becoming more prevalent, particularly among young women. According to Baldoni, “Women who speak in this manner, may be perceived as less than serious, and in extreme examples, as less intelligent.”
A survey by publishing company Pearson (involving 700 men and women in managerial roles) was fairly damning. According to the survey:
85% of respondents view uptalk as a sign of a person’s insecurity.
70% find uptalk irritating.
57% think that uptalk can damage professional credibility and hinder career prospects.
Is the Negativity Justified?
But many people have spoken up in defense of upspeak. Some have suggested that women may use upspeak to “hold the floor” and avoid being interrupted, signaling that there is more to come.
New York journalist S.I. Rosenbaum, for example, tweets that upspeak is not a sign of uncertainty or a lack of assertiveness, but “a demand that the listener[s] demonstrate their engagement.” Rosenbaum adds that this makes sense “in a culture of people who are ignored and talked over.”
Others use it to check that the person they’re talking to is following or is agreeing with what they say, and acts as an invitation to jump in if they don’t agree or didn’t understand.
Professionals Using Upspeak
Upspeak can be a great way to temper strong viewpoints or to appear collaborative. A young technology professional said to me that she uses upspeak because she doesn’t want to appear too aggressive or pushy in stating her views.
A supervisor giving feedback to an employee may use upspeak to avoid appearing aggressive. In such situations, upspeak makes people feel safe, as long as the speaker doesn’t overuse it or bury the message.
However, in some contexts upspeak can come across as condescending. A doctor, for example, might use upspeak when speaking to a patient, or a teacher, when speaking to a student. I’ve witnessed both male and female professionals in engineering and I.T. who used upspeak when explaining complex issues to non-expert staff.
A study by Hong Kong Polytechnic University found that in certain business and academic meetings conducted in English, the most senior people in the room used upspeak up to seven times more frequently than the subordinates. In this case, the senior figure used it to pressure participants to respond and establish common ground.
Is This a Generational Issue?
Some scholars suggest that adverse reactions to uptalk may be generational. A senior technology professional told me that upspeak used to annoy him but no longer does. Similarly, a top university professor in science told me that he found upspeak irritating at first but that he has learned to get used to it.
Penelope Eckert, a linguistics professor at Stanford University, was initially shocked to hear an announcer on the radio use uptalk. Her students, however, thought it was authoritative. “And that was when I knew that I had a problem… There’s been a change, and those of us who are bothered by some of these features are probably just getting old!”
It’s safe to say that many young professionals don’t even notice when others upspeak. They may not even be aware that they upspeak themselves. A young technology executive said to me, “I’m more interested in what people have to say than how they say it.”
Upspeak in the Workplace
Clearly, there is a diverse array of opinions and ideas on the subject. And, as we’ve seen, people use upspeak in many ways, from sounding less aggressive to dumbing down or even signifying superiority. So how can you apply this to your working life?
If You Are hiring
If you oversee recruiting and you struggle with upspeak, it may be time to re-evaluate your negative perceptions.
Upspeak is widespread among millennials entering the workforce. These bright, tech-savvy, young employees bring talents and skills highly needed in the workplace of today. Underestimating these applicants because of the way they talk can hurt your company’s chances of success in a highly competitive business environment.
It’s also worth mentioning that marking down applicants because of uptalk may be grounds for discrimination. This is the view expressed in an article from Canadian Business.
If You Are a Young Professional
If you are concerned that uptalk may be an obstacle in your life, you might find that it’s best to “err on the side of caution” and, on occasion, try to avoid upspeak.
“I have started thinking of voice,” says Journalist Jessica Grose, “almost as the way I think about outfits. If I’m going for a job interview, I’ll wear a different outfit than when I’m out with my friends.”
Here are a few tips to help you to minimize your upspeak:
Raise your self-awareness. Self-awareness precedes self-management. Here are a few questions to ask yourself: when I make a statement, does it sound like a question? Do I do this frequently? In what context am I likely to use uptalk? Are there specific groups of people that I use uptalk with more often?
Ask for help. A trusted colleague can tell you if you use upspeak excessively. You can also ask that person to record you when you present at meetings.
Boost your self-confidence. If you think that you use uptalk because you feel insecure, first of all make sure that you do know what you’re talking about, then work on improving your confidence. For example, one of my clients said that she uses uptalk in meetings when she is stressed because she has to speak “off the cuff.” Her self-doubts manifest themselves in an excessive use of uptalk.
Practice alternatives. Before going into an important meeting or giving a presentation, practice making declarative statements over and over. Some speech therapists recommend practicing speaking sentences out loud, both ways: once with uptalk, and once with intonation going down. Others advise that speaking slower and in a more neutral tone could help. Doing this allows you to hear the difference and help to normalize a different way of speaking.
The Future of Upspeak
Hearing upspeak in today’s workplaces may soon become innocuous, especially in industries that attract young people. As more and more bright, uptalking millennials continue to take positions of authority in the workforce, uptalk may no longer be a career derailer. In fact, it may even become the norm.
Stanford’s Penelope Eckert puts it best: “Language and society change, and a lot of these patterns that older people stigmatize sound perfectly natural and OK to younger people.” Never forget, the workforce of the future is young people.
Do you use uptalk? Or do you work with someone who uptalks and it drives you crazy? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!
Join Mind Tools and expert learning analysts Towards Maturity at ATD International Conference & Exposition to discover the results of 18 months of research that will challenge the way the L&D industry perceives its learners.
Mind Tools CEO Oliver Craddock and Towards Maturity Chief Insights Officer Jane Daly will present the findings of a new white paper, “Challenging Perceptions: Optimizing Performance by Aligning With the Needs of the Consumer Learner.”
The research takes a deep dive into learner behavior, exploring how today’s learners really feel about learning at work. The findings reveal a massive divide between the perceptions of L&D practitioners and those of their learners.
Here’s a preview of some of the data collected:
L&D Perspective vs. Learner Perspective
• Only 16 percent of L&D professionals believe that learners put what they learn into practice quickly. However, 70 percent of learners say they are able to do so.
• While 21 percent of L&D professionals believe that individuals engage with professional self-development without prompting, an overwhelming 87 percent of learners believe that they take responsibility for managing their own learning and development.
• Only 21 percent of L&D professionals say that their people understand how to find the information they need to do their job, but 62 percent of learners say they know how to access the learning they need.
• 16 percent of L&D practitioners believe that their people engage in online learning without prompting. That’s starkly different to the 74 percent of learners who say they are happy to take online learning without prompting.
• Only 13 percent of L&D practitioners report that managers provide active support in the application of learning in the workplace. But 75 percent of managers report that they do this, and 61 percent of learners report that their managers do this.
This research shows that L&D practitioners are making decisions without being fully aware of how learners really think and feel.
So the time has come to challenge our perceptions, and to find out how we as L&D professionals can align with our learners’ needs, and optimize performance as a result.
Taking into account lessons from top-performing L&D teams, known as “Top Deck” organizations, the presentation and white paper identifies the key learning expectations you need to meet, and the changes that you can make, to have the biggest impact on your learners’ performance.
We’ll also share the best practices employed by Mind Tools client and global pharma giant, AstraZeneca. The organization achieved great success in engaging their users in learning by transforming their learning culture.
Meet the Mind Tools Team at ATD
If you’re at ATD 2019, join us for our seminar on May 19 in room 156 at 3 p.m., or visit the Mind Tools Corporate team at booth 527 on May 19-22.
We’ll be handing out copies of our new white paper, “Challenging Perceptions: Optimizing Performance by Aligning With the Needs of the Consumer Learner.” We’ll also be demonstrating how our high quality, on-demand content is helping organizations around the world to develop the leadership, management and personal excellence skills of their people.
How many studies or surveys have you seen presented this year, each accompanied by an unambiguous conclusion and an urgent call to action? And how long do you spend in the average month analyzing data yourself, perhaps to prove the worth of your organization’s investment in L&D?
In recent years, the world has found itself in a place where honesty can be seen as a commodity. People struggle to know who to trust, whether in business, politics or our daily lives. It could even be argued that integrity can give a business a competitive edge.
But how can you find trustworthy sources of information to make great decisions for you and your business? And how can you deliver information to your people in a way that prevents misinterpretation?
The tips in this blog might be a simple reminder of best practice, or they might come as more of a surprise to you. In either case, feel free to share them with your colleagues! Encouraging the generation and dissemination of accurate information can increase trust and confidence: two great attributes in a corporate culture.
Check and Cite
We’ve all been there… You’re keen to make a groundbreaking point in a presentation, and you look for supporting quotes from industry or academic articles to give your point substance. Then, you find a publication that agrees with your point of view entirely! So far so good, but there are a couple of things not to forget.
First, check your sources. Are they reputable? What are their motivations or biases? Are they reporting first hand from their own experience or observations? If not, who were their sources?
You might need to spend quite some time researching, but it’ll be worth it, both now and in the future. At the very least, you’ll have protected yourself from potential embarrassment and loss of credibility. At best, you’ll have a new reliable source to refer back to for subsequent information.
Second, cite your sources. This will show your audience that you’ve done your homework and they can rely on what you’re saying. People will also be able to follow up on the background details themselves if they need to.
Identify Misinterpretation and Overinflation
Which of the following statements sounds most impressive?
“Our sales page conversion rate has improved by 50 percent.”
“Our sales page conversion rate has improved by one percentage point.”
Obviously, we’d all like to boast of a 50 percent increase. But both of the above statements could be true at the same time.
For example, if the rate were 2 percent and rose to 3 percent. In that case, the first statement could easily mask the truth that the conversion rate isn’t a very large number at all. Statements such as, “Recruitment costs have plummeted by 50 percent” are similarly open to misinterpretation.
My advice in these situations is to ask for the raw figures in order to see for yourself, in the clearest of terms, what change has occurred.
When you read that the “average” participant in a study behaved in a certain way, what does that really mean?
Averages are most meaningful when the data set meets “the empirical rule.” This is where you have a large sample of data that’s spread smoothly across a range of values without any “outliers” (unusual findings).
This subject could easily justify an article of its own, but my quick and easy recommendations are as follows.
First, never be afraid to ask a third party how they calculated their average.
Second, ensure that you collect enough meaningful data yourself.
If you feel that a result is so complex that an average will not properly explain the situation, then consider requesting or creating a visualization of the data. Those outliers (which may have been hidden behind an average) could offer fascinating insights.
Visualize Your Data
Put simply, data visualization is the art of displaying data to reveal its full meaning, in a way that all recipients can grasp at a glance. With the right software, you can make some beautiful, engaging charts that bring your data to life.
Data visualization helps to answer the age-old question of how to explain a detailed piece of analysis to people in your company who may not necessarily be mathematically minded, whether on the shop floor or in the C-suite.
Develop Your People’s Skills
We all handle data in our daily lives, from deciding which car to buy based on performance and emissions, to comparing deals at the grocery store, or politicians’ voting records. Our watches can tell us how well we move or sleep, while social media posts use statistics to shock us 24 hours a day.
You can take your own, and your people’s, abilities in data and analytics to the next level with the Mind Tools resources I’ve listed below. And if you have an analyst in your organization, why not ask him or her to share their expertise in a lunch and learn session?
Mind Tools is a U.K.-based company that serves more than 25 million learners from 160 countries offering on-demand management, leadership and career skills training to individuals and organizations. With Mind Tools’ customized corporate learning solutions, your organization will have access to all our premium resources, including expert interview and book insight podcasts, interactive quizzes, and learning streams.
Book a demo with a member of our team to find out more.
There are many benefits to learning at work: it can boost team and individual performance, improve employee retention, and contribute to your bottom line. See the infographic at the end of this blog to discover a host of other advantages, too!
However, some organizations can be reluctant to spend money on a learning strategy if they doubt that they will see an immediate return on their investment.
And despite the benefits we’ve highlighted, learning is sometimes hard to quantify, and some L&D practitioners struggle to prove its success and value to their stakeholders.
So, how can you prove to your organization that employees are engaging with your learning solutions, and are genuinely benefiting from the resources dedicated to them?
There are lots of different ways that you can measure success. And Mind Tools is here to help you to identify and measure those successes!
Mind Tools’ Client Success team highlights five factors that you need to consider when analyzing your L&D results:
1. Do Your Learning “Successes” Match Your Business Objectives?
Monitor these KPIs regularly so you can see whether your learning strategy is having a positive impact.
2. Are Users Sharing What They Have Learned?
Employees sharing learning resources that have engaged them is a great sign that they’re really benefiting from them. It’s also an effective way to encourage further engagement from other users. People are much more likely to engage in learning if it’s been recommended by their peers. Encourage users to share the content they’ve engaged with by getting a group discussion going.
3. Are You Measuring Quality Traffic?
Tracking the number of visitors is a popular way of measuring user engagement, but it doesn’t take into account how successfully you’ve promoted the learning.
When sending a marketing email to learners, measure how the click through rate compares to the number of opens. Likewise, consider the traffic on your platform against click through rates, to measure the impact of your marketing. You can measure this from campaign to campaign and test how well you perform in each.
4. Can You Any Spot Spikes in Activity?
A spike in activity can indicate a number of things. For example, if it coincides with a campaign that you’ve carried out, it’s a great indication that the topic, execution, or an element of the campaign has been successful.
Consider the resources that you used, who you sent them out to, how you sent them, and the time and day you ran the campaign. By analyzing what you did, you can then run a similar campaign to try to replicate the results.
Do some small tests and tweaks to your campaigns to identify what elements best engage your users, and then apply that to the rest of your marketing activity.
If there wasn’t any planned activity around that time, again consider the time and day that this happened. It could be that you’ve uncovered a particular time at which your users are engaged with learning.
Keep monitoring this particular time and date to see whether this spike is repeated. If this is the case, why not schedule some marketing activity around that time, such as push notifications or emails, and see whether this encourages users to engage even more?
5. Have Your Users Noticed Any Benefits?
If you really want to know how successful your strategy is, go straight to the source!
Ask your users directly how they’re finding the resources, what they like most about the solution, if there’s anything they’d like to change, and if there’s anything they want more of.
From this, you can create success stories of some of your learners’ experiences, and encourage them to explain how learning has helped them to overcome challenges and excel at work. Keep a record of these testimonials and share them with your senior management team as proof of success. Don’t forget to share them with the rest of your learners, to inspire them, too!
Some people may not be comfortable in sharing their opinions on the solution openly, so consider sending out a survey that users can fill in anonymously. That way, they can share any pain points without feeling judged or embarrassed.
You can even include some quantifiable questions, for example, asking people to rate the resources with a mark out of ten. That way, you’ll have some strong statistics to share with your SMT when they ask how learners are responding to the solution.
From this you may also be able to create user profiles based on their answers and preferences, and aim content at that particular group.
Want to see your learning strategy soar? Request a demo today and find out how Mind Tools can help your organization.
And here’s the handy infographic we mentioned earlier!
However, recognition still doesn’t extend to teamwork in many workplaces. In one large organization where I worked as a consultant, individual recognition was the go-to option. Once a year, the CEO gathered all the staff together and handed out bonus letters and checks to each employee. There were sales teams, customer service teams, product teams, HR teams, and various task forces, all contributing to the company’s success. Groups came together to complete most of the work, yet there was never an award for teams.
In sports, when a team wins, there’s a high-energy exchange of high-fives and pats on the back. There’s an esprit de corps. We celebrate the whole team as one winning band of brothers or sisters. At the office, teams are rarely celebrated with such enthusiasm or fanfare.
Is team recognition better? Or is it best to reward individual contributors? Let’s start by looking at one significant advantage and disadvantage of each option.
Recognition of Individual Contributions
When you reward individuals for their hard work and for achieving results, you incentivize them to keep up the good work. This recognition can, in turn, influence others to improve their performance.
However, rewarding individuals may create a more competitive environment. This could undermine any efforts to establish or maintain a collaborative culture within the organization.
Recognition of Team Contributions
Recognizing an entire team encourages greater camaraderie. And, when people are motivated to work harder for the good of the team, it often results in higher performance.
Team rewards also put pressure on team members to achieve results for fear of letting the team down. One study found that some workers are more motivated by team spirit and a desire to help their team members than by money.
However, the downside is that it can reward unmotivated employees who rely on other team members to carry the load. It may also put undue pressure on team members who are less capable, or those who struggle to keep up with the highest performers in the group.
Social Loafing: A Potential Problem With Team-Based Recognition
Social loafing is the tendency of certain members of a group to get by with less effort than they would have put in when working alone. In organizations, this manifests itself in “freeloaders” who get away with doing less.
One of my coaching clients works at a company that actively supports team incentives. My client mentioned that in this setup, he felt short-changed. One particular colleague received the same rewards as the other team members, even though he did less work. He shirked some of his responsibilities, and often had a free ride on specific projects that were more challenging. But, at year-end, he received the same bonus as the rest of the team. It made my client wonder whether he should scale down his own efforts. “Why should I work so hard,” he said, “when others are not carrying their load?”
I recall a similar complaint from a client a few years ago. Let’s call her Rodika. Rodika felt perturbed that while working on a design project, she and her co-worker Agnes had come up with some of the best ideas – many of which were then adopted by the company. The two other members of the group were putting in markedly less effort, yet they all received the same reward. Understandably, this was viewed by Rodika as very unjust, and she felt less rewarded for her efforts as a result.
What Can You Do About Freeloaders?
Here are a few tips for preventing freeloaders from enjoying the ride:
Make it clear to employees that the company evaluates every individual’s performance. Employees are more likely to up their game if they know that their performance in a group is easily identifiable and assessed.
Establish guidelines on what constitutes high performance for each team member’s position. Once you and your people know the guidelines, it’s easier to spot these traits and behaviors in members of the team.
Be clear with everyone about performance standards and expectations.
Provide training on how to work in teams. Give employees access to team-building resources.
Show people how their work matters, no matter what position they have. Connect the dots for employees so that they can see how their work is essential and aligns with the company’s mission and goals.
Hybrid Recognition Programs
Both individual and team-based recognition have their pros and cons. So, what would be a compromise solution? One avenue to consider is offering a hybrid recognition program.
A hybrid recognition program offers a mix of individual and team-based recognition. When you reward group and individual achievement, you can motivate everyone to work hard toward achieving the team’s goals. At the same time, you also recognize individual team members who go the extra mile. These are the people who make outstanding contributions to the team’s overall performance. The work they do is worthy of special recognition and should be rewarded appropriately.
In situations like those discussed above, a hybrid incentive plan can help. It rewards individual contributors, in addition to rewarding a team’s overall achievement. A hybrid plan can help to mitigate the effects of the freeloaders or less stellar contributors. It might even help to motivate these lesser contributors to clean up their act.
Done right, hybrid incentive plans may be the best of both worlds, for both small and large companies.
Monitoring Your Recognition Program
Ultimately, whichever way you decide to improve your recognition plans, it’s advisable to monitor and periodically evaluate your program’s effectiveness. As with most things in business, one size may not fit all.
Ask yourself if the incentive structure you’re using is helping you to achieve the results you want. Survey your employees to track their opinions and feelings about the program. Then use the survey results to help you improve your recognition program, and get the best from all of your people.
What are your experiences of employee recognition schemes? What have you seen work well – or badly? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.