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  • Thursday, October 22, 2020 8:04 AM | Jan Szmanda

    By: Amy Johnson

    When you read the words ‘hard-to-reach’ to describe an audience, what comes to mind?

    When I proposed my upcoming coffee chat for ATD-MAC in the beginning of the year, I was thinking about our third shift, hard-to-reach primarily due to their resistance in workshops. Working with them often brings me back to my first career in the mid-90s in North San Diego County alternative classrooms where a young community health educator who, despite her amateur efforts and love for the audience, found herself often banging her head against a lot of walls. Why. won’t. they. listen!?

    It took more years of experience with ‘underserved’ populations, a degree in mental health counseling, exposure to Diversity and Inclusion conversations and some educational theory to better grasp why they weren’t listening. I still have more to learn, and continue to get stuck on “Now…what’s our strategy?”   

    Who is your hard-to-reach audience? The first step to reaching a hard-to-reach audience is defining who that is for you. Is it a time or physical barrier that your learners need to overcome? Or is it more deeply rooted; resistance to learning and difficulty with the material? Define what it means to better map your next steps.   

    Is it you? Next, are you making it ‘hard-to-reach’? Labeling your audience can be subjective. Admittedly one of the “hard” parts with third shift came from my hesitation to create a separate program for them. I was already doing this to accommodate different levels of leadership and given that I was the sole L&D provider at the time, my lack of time and energy were legitimate barriers. Yet third shift had a distinctly different job, audience and learning needs. It was easier for me to call them a “tough audience” and put their program on the back burner than to admit my workload and desire to be in bed by 10 pm heavily influenced my ability to reach them.

    Is it your material? By design, a good portion of L&D materials have the office setting and a 9-5 schedule in mind. Workshops, PowerPoints, and spaghetti towers work great for some positions, but can miss the mark with those in manufacturing, health care settings or if English is a second language. Are our design and delivery methods inclusive?

    Is it your system? When a 3rd Shift Supervisor joined our Leadership Development program held during the day, his Manager was (gratefully) flexible and gave him the night before and after off to adjust and get some sleep. This created the need to find back up for three-days on an already stretched crew. The shift system, running raw product, and multiple factors don’t allow for participants to easily pull away to learn. Nor, in some cases, is upper management on board to allow for that. What in your systems prevents you from consistently or appropriately reaching certain audiences? 

    Now…what’s our strategy? Join me on Thursday, Oct. 22nd for a cup of coffee and a conversation about Reaching Hard to Reach Audiences. We will define what ‘hard-to-reach’" means for us and exchange tips and tricks to working with hard-to-reach audiences and non-traditional learners in Leadership/Learning & Development programs.

  • Monday, October 05, 2020 1:33 PM | Jan Szmanda

    By: Lisa Koenecke 

    Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” http://www.goodreads.com 

    October is LGBT History Month. We celebrate our friends, neighbors, and family members identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.  Lisa is not here to recruit but rather to educate on how YOU can become a better ally.

    YOU don’t have to go to a PRIDE parade or wear rainbow clothing, but you could be an ally in some simple ways. I’ll remind you of three ways you can be an LGBTQ+ Ally:

    (1) SHOW you are an ally by not buying pink or blue items for a baby shower. Green, yellow and purple are lovely non-gendered colors. you can SHOW you’re an ally by wearing a rainbow ribbon, or displaying a rainbow sticker. you will SHOW anyone in the LGBTQ+ world you are an ally by that simple gesture.

    (2) SHIFT your mindset and those mindsets around you. When you hear a homophobic joke, or, if you see a homophobic meme, STOP the joke or STOP the meme. you can SHIFT from a small “a” ally to a capital “A” Ally by shifting the hurtful behaviors around you. Sometimes, silence equals approval. Take a moment to think about that, what can and will you do?

    (3) SHAPE your environment to be inclusive. you control where you spend your money. you control how you vote. You decide where to volunteer. If you can SHAPE policies, THAT is a double bonus! If you are in the majority, how will you use your voice?

    Maya Angelou said it best, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

  • Tuesday, August 04, 2020 7:53 AM | Jan Szmanda

    By: Jon Zulawski

    Professional assessments can and ought to be a key element of any comprehensive talent development and optimization strategy. Obtaining organizational buy-in, however, is not always an easy task. The adoption of professional assessments appropriate to meet the defined need is often stymied by concerns related to complexity and cognitive load, cost, and a bias against reliance on qualitative data. Talent professionals who develop a keen understanding of how to use professional assessments effectively can position themselves to overcome this challenge and thereby increase the effectiveness of their talent development interventions.

    I often speak with talent development professionals whose organizations are resistant to taking on the work of implementing a talent strategy that incorporates professional assessments. The most common refrains express concerns about “survey fatigue” or insist that “now is not the right time” to roll out an org-wide assessment because of ongoing organizational change or stress. This speaks to the need to ensure the correct assessments are being used to accomplish the desired purpose. When an assessment can be positioned as integral to the success of larger organizational strategic objectives, organizational leaders are more likely to provide access to sufficient organizational bandwidth and commitment.

    Another common (and understandable!) objection to adopting or expanding the use of professional assessments it the upfront cost. One talent development leader I spoke with recently had been challenged by her organization to help managers and supervisors adapt to organizational changes resulting from the pandemic. The organization had gone through a painful round of layoffs and restructuring, and new teams were coming together under a cloud of uncertainty. This leader worked to develop a strategy to provide some quick wins and immediate support to these new teams, and part of that strategy involved assessing the management style of the individual supervisors in relation to the preferred communication styles of the members of their teams.

    There was, of course, an associated cost, but this leader was able to obtain the support and funding she needed to implement the strategy. When I asked her how she “sold” senior leaders on the idea, she explained that instead of describing the assessment as part of the output of her approach, she positioned it as a necessary input to determine the specific needs of the individual supervisors and their teams. The output, then, was the coaching and support that each supervisor received that was tailored to their specific development opportunities. She went on to explain that under other circumstances, she may have adopted a different approach, but in this case, she was able to use assessments to personalize and target the subsequent support she and her team went on to successfully provide.

    On August 23, please join us for “Professional Assessments: Opening the Door to Insight & Action”. We’ll dive further into how different types of assessments can be used to drive your organization forward, how you can position assessments to obtain organizational buy-in and support, and how to use the data gleaned from assessments to inform your talent development strategy.

  • Tuesday, July 21, 2020 8:33 AM | Jan Szmanda

    By: Nancy Kalsow

    Collaboration has become so ingrained in the way people work nowadays that we rarely even notice when we are doing it. Case in point: after leaving the corporate world, many solopreneurs feel lonely and isolated. Myself included. There is no one to collaborate with. I miss walking to the next cubicle and asking a co-worker for a certain word I was searching for (ya know, that one that means working together to achieve a better outcome!) or convening in the board room to determine how we were going to finish a project on time and within budget when neither seemed possible.  

    How ironic that when something is widely available, we don’t realize how much we need it (i.e. toilet paper, hand sanitizer). In the workplace, I remember the pushback from co-workers, teams, and managers about the meetings that were meant to leverage our combined knowledge, skills, and resources. “There’s not enough time” or “All we do is have meetings”.  Certainly, there are some meetings that are not collaborative or may be a waste of time. Let’s explore the power of collaboration when done well.  Collaboration involves: 

    • Engagement – Participating in something bigger than yourself with a pinch of competition
    • Vulnerability – Learning through curiosity and not “knowing” 
    • Fun – Creatively playing with the ideas, people, and the process
    • Trust – The combined “parts” will be better than the whole 
    • Efficiency – Getting better results in a shorter amount of time
    • Innovation – New or enhanced ideas/results

    Collaboration is a critical component to today’s competitive advantage. It is people, along with their ideas, talents, and ability to implement their combined learning and knowledge that are the differentiating factor between success or failure. In fact, organizations that collaborate well are likely to be more financially successful, more culturally aligned, and have higher engagement rates. And isn’t that what every business is striving for?  

    I really didn’t think I’d miss having a team to collaborate with.  After all, I am a driven, independent, and productive employee. It took me several months to realize something was amiss. I had plenty to do and became obsessed with the tasks at hand. The list kept getting longer, the days felt shorter, and my creativity, clarity, and confidence began to waver. Has this every happened to you?  Perhaps lack of collaboration is the culprit? 

    Join ATD-MAC virtually on Thursday, July 23rd for Kickstart With Collaboration. You’ll leave with clarity on the power of collaboration and take new perspective back to your workplace on how and when to collaborate for success.  

    Guest blog by Nancy Kalsow, Certified Professional Coach, Business Consultant, Facilitator, Speaker, and Author. Nancy is dedicated to helping you live a fulfilling life with joy, success, and clarity.  She helps companies thrive as they lean into the values, talents, and experiences each team member brings to the table.  

  • Monday, June 15, 2020 11:04 AM | Jan Szmanda

    By: Deborah Laurel & Peter Korynski

    Virtual is Here to Stay

    Although virtual teams and collaboration have been in practice in recent years as an extension and addition to traditional work processes, the recent pandemic has turned auxiliary virtual into a permanent feature of how we live and work. Learning and professional development are no exception.

    Management Training Lost in Translation

    Since this is a time of great challenge and change, effective management skills are now needed more than ever. Managers need to develop new competencies and create new management systems that are appropriate for a virtual world. It is imperative that management development programs continue- but how to do this effectively is not a simple matter.

    The transition of traditional face-to-face management development training programs to an online format has, by necessity, been very rapid and often rocky. Some programs have been more successful than others at becoming virtual. Redesigning 6 or 8 hour sessions to be effective in much shorter virtual formats is not easy. Simply putting the handouts and PowerPoint online with a video lecture is not enough to engage learners and create the behavioral changes that are needed for the challenging times ahead.

    Peer Learning: A Perfect Fit for the Virtual World

    There is a management development program that requires no conversion or reinvention to adapt to the virtual world. Peer learning groups naturally lend themselves to virtual settings because they are self-facilitated and based on group discussion for self-discovery.

    Peer learning groups involve 5 or 6 managers who come together to learn how to better handle a pressing management challenge. They meet in two 90-minute sessions separated by a month of practice and experimentation.

    In the first session, they explore current and potential methods for handling the challenge. During the practice month, they try out new methods. They come back for the second session to report on their experience, reflect on what they learned, and commit to the continued use of new methods.

    These peer learning group sessions can naturally occur online. The small number of participants in each group is easily accommodated by virtual platforms, such as Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams. The member whom the group selects to be the facilitator hosts the session and keeps the discussion on track and on time.

    The agenda and learning materials are provided electronically in pdf, so every member has ready access. If necessary, the group facilitator or one of the members can share the materials on their screen.

    The agenda apportions separate times for each of the group members to speak and the facilitator can ensure equal participation during the all-group discussions.

    The different activities and their brief duration ensure active engagement and participation throughout the 90-minute sessions.

    Because of the security features of the different virtual platforms, the conversation between the members can remain confidential.

    Peer learning groups are ready-made for virtual team building and learning. The self-directed group discussion approach lends itself well to a virtual format.

    Don’t feel that you need to stop your management development efforts. Use peer learning groups instead.

    Deborah Laurel, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer, The Peer Learning Institute

    Peter Korynski, Co-Founder and Chief Program Officer, The Peer Learning Institute

    “Teachers can’t simply take a face-to-face lesson and put it online and expect great learning to happen.” Callie Bush

  • Wednesday, June 03, 2020 8:18 AM | Jan Szmanda

    By: Derrick Van Mell 

    When making the financial case for T&D, many of us use numbers when we should use reason, and reason when we should use numbers—and then wonder why we just got kicked out of the CFO’s office.

    The CFO has seen every pitch there is, and if you take the wrong tack, they’ll toss your “ROI” argument at a glance. A hint: it’s not really about what’s in your spreadsheet.

    It hurts when you’ve heard the CEO say, “people are our biggest asset,” but won’t really invest.  You suspect they mean, “people are our biggest liability.” It can make the T&D team feel they’re not valuable, and it’s frustrating because investing in people does provide the best return.

    Yes, it’s challenging to make the financial case for an intangible like T&D, but executives decide about intangibles every single day: hiring a person, approving a webpage, projecting market share, creating a new org chart or quality target. What can we learn from those financial cases?

    On June 24th at 10:00 -11:00 a.m. (Central), ATD-MAC is hosting a Zoom workshop led by two MBAs, member Derrick Van Mell and a special guest, Tom Oakley, who’s been CEO, COO and VP of Finance. They’re going to reveal the secrets about how CFOs actually think about these decisions.  A few key ideas are a) understand what relevant KPIs the CEO tracks, b) how to use stories as proofs, and c) when research and quantification will and will not work.

    Register here!


  • Tuesday, April 21, 2020 3:23 PM | Jan Szmanda

    By: Megan Torrance

    Have you ever conducted an experiment that required several rounds of testing? Or rehearsed a presentation in front of your friends before doing it in front of a live audience? You’ve worked iteratively. It’s not rocket science. 

    How does it make a project better?

    Iterative development focuses the team on a near term deliverable and holds team members accountable to deadlines & budgets. Ever started a project with a ton of grand ideas only to realize halfway through that you don’t have the bandwidth to execute them? It’s not fun. It’s disappointing. And it can cause your team members or project sponsors to question your ability or lose trust in future work. 

    Iterative development approaches like Agile and LLAMA® can help you prevent these types of situations from occurring because it forces you to analyze and evaluate things at planned, defined stages. It also breaks big projects down into manageable increments, which helps alleviate the stress of a giant deliverable that may seem scary and nearly impossible at first glance. By breaking a project up into iterations, you not only give yourself and your team more opportunities for feedback, you also tie in a different level of control that may have been missing before.

    What does iterative development mean in an instructional design context? 

    At its most basic level, instead of following a linear, waterfall shaped ADDIE approach, we’re going to incorporate frequent rounds of implementation and evaluation throughout the project in order to get needed insights from learners into the process. 

    At each iteration, we're looking at what worked, what didn't work, and what still needs to be done. Developing in iterations helps us ask the right questions. 

    • What prevents us from releasing right now? 

    • Does this solve the problem? 

    • Are we even asking the right question itself? 

    Each iteration then kicks off a new round of design and development. And we keep doing this until we run out of time, resources, or things worth fixing. This last piece is key: If we run out of things to fix, it may mean it may mean that we're releasing something earlier than we thought we would... because we finished it! 

    To reiterate a key point: Once we’ve landed on something that works, we don't do an additional polishing round on it. This allows us to broaden the footprint of the material, the content, and the business problem that we solve, because we're not overworking each individual piece.

    So why iterate? 

    The iterative process gives us the ability to find out mistakes earlier. Are we going off track? Where have we crossed paths in our assumptions? Are we solving the right problem? We find those big mistakes very early on in the development.

    It also means that we always have a useful product. Iterations always give us the ability to release something of value. It may not be beautiful yet, but it is something of value. This happens all the time: Organizations’ budget priorities get changed. A new emergency project comes in in the middle of something else. A global pandemic forces us all to change our plans drastically. With iterations we have a useful deliverable that can be handed off and used in some fashion to teach from at any point in the project. That’s a really powerful reason to do this.

    Finally, it simply feels good to deliver something. We hit this milestone, we released this thing.  Working on a project for an extended period of time without seeing any deliverables is just a soul-sucking way to live. Being able to release an iteration, and reflect and learn, that's really powerful. 

    How can you use iterative development to your advantage right now?

    With the COVID- 19 pandemic upon us, our projects are changing rapidly and frequently in terms of budget, bandwidth, timelines, deliverables and available resources. This is a perfect opportunity to use iterative development, releasing a minimum viable product (MVP) much earlier in your project timeline than you otherwise might have. While the idea of this can be scary or intimidating at first, it provides the team with a real deliverable that can be seen, tested, evaluated, and expanded upon down the road. Furthermore, if an MVP is met with awesome feedback and minimum requested changes, you might be done with your project sooner, and ready to take on something new.

    With iterative development, what we're trying to do is to make small mistakes earlier and maybe skip the big mistakes all together. In today’s world, we’re being asked to do more, with less ... now faster and under stress. That likely won’t change anytime soon, so making strides to adapt is something to consider sooner rather than later. Using Agile’s techniques to guide your business in making these adaptations is not only an excellent step in the right direction, it helps you do more, with less, faster and under stress. 

    Stay safe out there.

  • Tuesday, March 03, 2020 9:18 AM | Jan Szmanda

    By: Mike Stefonik

    The ATD Competency model has long been the standard against which we, as talent development professionals, measure our skill and ability. It is also a measure that has helped to define what our role encompasses. There have been several iterations of the Competency Model with the most recent update in 2013. While it was a long-standing model for our industry, ATD began the process of updating it in October of 2018. In fact, as a member of ATD you may have participated in the survey and research that was completed by over 3,000 respondents.

    After all the research was completed, the conclusion was made that there is enough changing in our environment of work that major changes were needed to the model. While Competency focuses on the current state, Capability is about meeting the future needs. 

    The new Capability Model is broken down in to 3 domains of practice, defined by ATD:

    • Developing Professional capability: This domain of practice embodies the knowledge and skills talent development professionals should possess to be effective in their roles of creating the processes, systems, and frameworks that foster learning, maximize individual performance, and develop the capacity and potential of employees.

    • Impacting Organizational Capability: This domain of practice embodies the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by professionals to ensure talent development is a primary mechanism driving organizational performance, productivity, and operational results.

    • Building Personal Capability. This domain of practice embodies the foundational or enabling abilities all working professionals should possess to be effective in the business world. These largely interpersonal skills, often called soft skills, are needed to build effective organizational or team culture, trust, and engagement.

    Each of the domains are made up of several capabilities that you may find familiar, like Instructional Design, Performance Improvement and Training Delivery. However, there are also several new capabilities like Learning Sciences and Future Readiness. In the domain of Building Personal Capability, skills like Communication, Cultural Awareness and Collaboration are now their own capabilities, where they used to fall under the broad topic of Global Mindset. 

    One of the best parts of the new Capability model is the interactivity. ATD has created a hands-on interface that helps you explore each domain, learn about the capabilities and take a self-assessment. If you haven’t taken the time to check out the model, I recommend perusing https://tdcapability.org/#/. Take the self-assessment and see where you can build your Talent Development Capability.

    Disclaimer: ATD-MAC is proud to have a blog that features local ATD-MAC members as authors and contributors. We’d like you to know that the views and opinions expressed in this article or by any author/contributor in publications outside of this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ATD or ATD-MAC.

  • Monday, February 17, 2020 10:56 AM | Jan Szmanda

    By: Curt Klinkner

    I’m really out of the loop.  That might not seem strange to those of you that know me personally.  The context however in this case is our industry - talent development (TD).  I work for a large multi-national organization with over 12,000 employees in 31 countries, and there are about 35 employees across the global dedicated to TD.  That’s one TD professional for every 343 employees. My gut tells me that’s a bad number, but I don’t really know.  

    This is just one reason why I love the annual “State of the Industry” report from ATD.  It keeps me in the loop and has valuable benchmarking data. Turns out that a ratio of 1/343 is on par with the 2018 industry stat of 1/335 for BEST organizations when NOT adjusted for outsourcing (page 21).  But we outsource a ton; vendor management is an increasing section on my resume. The report has that answer too! The ratio for BEST organizations is 1/293 when adjusted for outsourcing. I guess we have some room for improvement.

    What about spending per employee?  Learning hours per employee? What content areas are in demand?  Is instructor-led delivery still on its way out? Should I be developing learning that’s accessible on mobile devices?  So many questions, but thankfully - it’s all in the report.

    I’d love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee and get your perspective.  Please join me on Thursday, February 20 – 8:30 – 10 am at Cool Beans on Eagan Rd to discuss the above and more.

  • Friday, January 24, 2020 10:40 AM | Jan Szmanda

    By Ryan Panzer

    How does one start a successful training consulting business? 

    What skills are needed, what attitudes are required, what challenges should one expect? Elaine Biech, author of The New Business of Consulting, and Halelly Azulay, host of the TalentGrow Podcast, discussed these questions and more in a December webinar with the ATD Madison Area Chapter. Biech, who now lives in Virginia, is a native of Portage, WI and was formerly a member of the ATD-MAC board. During the webinar, Biech and Azulay shared several insights from their 50+ years of talent development consulting. 

    Elaine’s latest book, The New Business of Consulting, is an approachable and authoritative resource for learning and development professionals. The chapter sequence aligns to the entrepreneurial journey: from converting an idea into a business plan, to acquiring one’s first clients, to scaling the business and refining one’s niche. Each chapter begins with anecdotes of challenges for new consultants. Biech then describes specific practices for engaging those challenges and leaves the reader with actionable tools and resources. Not to leave out tenured consulting professionals, sections conclude with advice for the consummate pro. Throughout each chapter, Biech’s assessment of the consulting business is grounded but decidedly positive. She never shies away from describing the challenges: long hours, lots of travel,  occasionally difficult clients. But she is resolute in her position that consulting is rewarding, fulfilling, and personally meaningful - especially for those in the talent development industry. 

    I found three pieces of advice to be particularly intriguing. The first: hire an accountant. Given the complexity of business structures, bookkeeping, and tax law, a trusted accountant is a must-have. Second: be honest about start-up expenses. From equipment to marketing and professional dues, new consultants face a wide range of potential expenses. While Biech shares that a “consulting practice can be surprisingly inexpensive,” it’s important to know where the money will come from - and where it will be allocated. Finally: be realistic yet assertive while pitching clients. Biech encourages new consultants to pitch to enterprise clients, who require more consulting services than small businesses or non-profits. She also shares that charging too little is one of the most common mistakes made by new consultants. 

    The New Business of Consulting is an important and thoughtful read for the transition to the gig economy. All training development professionals, even those who are not currently considering consulting, would do well to read it.

    After the webinar, I had a chance to sit down with Elaine to discuss the book. Biech offered several meaningful pieces of advice to prospective consultants in the Madison-area. 

    Before one launches a consulting business, she recommends an intentional focus on building the skills that lead to consulting success. These skills aren’t directly related to training and development, in which many would-be consultants are already strong. Rather, these are the skills of networking, communication, and customer focus. “Most people who think about consulting are already skilled in what they want to consult on - like talent development, design, or delivery,” said Biech. “What you need to have is entrepreneurial skills… You absolutely have to be customer-oriented, all of the time.” 

    After one launches the business, Biech encourages consultants to be comfortable with not knowing an answer. “You can’t fake it until you make it when your name is associated with the business,” she said. “Be familiar with what you do not know, and be willing to look into a situation before providing a client with an answer.” 

    And for those in the Madison-area, Biech advises consultants to consider the industries for which Wisconsin is a hub. “If you consult in an industry with a large presence in an area, clients are more likely to refer you. Wisconsin is a hub for many things, and increasingly for healthcare.”  Biech added that the small yet approachable Dane County airport offers a convenience factor for those who choose to build their niche in other regions. 

    The New Business of Consulting and The New Consultant’s Quick Start Guide are available now on Amazon.com.


    Ryan Panzer (@ryanpanzer), the Co-VP of Professional Development for the Madison-Area Chapter, is a Senior Instructional Designer with Zendesk.

    Disclaimer: ATD-MAC is proud to have a blog that features local ATD-MAC members as authors and contributors. We’d like you to know that the views and opinions expressed in this article or by any author/contributor in publications outside of this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ATD or ATD-MAC.

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