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Highlights from the Canadian Training Industry Conference

The Canadian Society of Training & Development Conference

A diverse set of training industry topics was on the menu at the recent Canadian Society of Training & Development (CSTD) conference held here in early November. The now all-Canadian association was formed last spring when the formerly Ontario-based organization (OSTD) became a national body. Here are some highlights:

Improving E-Learning Design:
Dr. Ruth Clark, a researcher, presented the latest findings about learning transfer in designing e-learning programs. The trend has been to include a lot of entertaining but anecdotal information and points of interest. Dr. Clark's research evaporated that practice by showing that learning actually improves when these extras are omitted. Unrelated music was found to be distracting.

The best programs used an on-screen character to help guide the learner through the program. This adds a "human touch" to the training. Audio narration doubled the learning results. When narration + text + visuals were used together they put a strain on short-term memory and distracted the learner. It is far better, she says, to explain complex ideas using a diagram with narration rather than text.

It was worthy to note that Dr. Clark's test subjects for the study were digital generation students. So much for multi-tasking young people who claim to study better while listening to the radio and text-messaging their friends at the same time.

New Forms of Learning:
Because new knowledge is being created faster than workers can learn it, there exists a continuous "skills gap", says Jonathon Levy, a senior learning strategist. "The answer is not classrooms, but platforms." Knowledge workers, which represent most of us in today's economy, need to access knowledge from where they are in both human and digital content, delivered in real time. "Just what's needed, when, and just to those who need it." Currently only 12% of training in Canada is happening via technology.

The way traditional education is represented in workplaces is changing. Effective sources of learning can be found in courses but also in different kinds of content. These include learning sourced directly from experts or co-workers; from media in the form of tools, simulations, and scenarios; time-relevent learning which can include games, chunks and granules (needed information bits) and community; and the use of artificial-intelligence-like bots (information robots) to link to networks and courses.

Link Training to Business Results:
Levy also spoke about needing more compelling numbers to link training measures with business results. The typical not relevant measure is something like "a 33% reduction in training costs."

Yet, some companies are finding ways to report relevant post-training results.
Here are a few:
Century 21 Real Estate reported a 33% increase in revenue per agent
Fidelity Investments reported a 200% increase in 401 (k) investments (pension)
Wyeth Pharmaceutical reported a 10 x increase in market share
Microsoft reported a 50% reduction in time to market.

Leadership Talent Gap:
Over 70% of Canadian CEO's view their leadership capacity as week according to surveys by the Conference Board of Canada. David Weiss, a Partner at Knightsbridge, says their top concerns include building leadership capacity and effectively implementing innovation.

He goes on to say that in recent years many organizations terminated the middle management level so as executives retire, there are now fewer competent people to take their place. Most succession planning processes are doing a good job at finding "acting" positions. Learning at this level presents another challenge. 67% of executive learning came from mistakes. Only 6% was identified as coming from traditional learning.

Executives have been concerned that management one level down can't manage the challenges of the future. But when they looked two levels down, they found out that the average staff age was older than the senior managers. This is a big issue for them because an aging worker represents a loss of future intellectual capital. 40-50% can retire with pension within 5 years.

Contributing to this dilemma is the fact that there exists a significant values clash as hard-working "baby-boomers" (born after World War II from 1955-1965) are now in charge of a diverse workplace. The younger workers that follow after them don't share their values and loyalty. Many of them grew up as children of divorced families and watched their parents work loyally for their company only to get down-sized before they were old enough to retire. Loyalty to a job, a company, and the accompanying commitments just aren't the same for them. They are demanding balance in their lives and time for their families. It's a whole new equation.

"Functional leadership thinking is dysfunctional, it is a "silo-approach"emphasized Weiss. The kind of leadership capacity now needed is more holistic leadership which requires the development of "cognitive capacity" and "integrative thinkers in critical positions". It's very important to identify who the new leaders are and to build organizational, customer, team and personal leadership with the business strategy amid culture and values.

Workplace Literacy
This topic was so important that it had it's own parallel track conference.
Rising numbers of immigrants in Canadian workplaces has brought the issue of workplace literacy to the forefront. This isn't only about whether workers can read and write in English or compute numbers. Other things like comfort in using computers, tracking data or filing reports are also included. Many real issues exist as a result of quality processes and safety practices becoming automated over the years through the use of forms and other tracking measures. Reports that identify quality deviations or production issues often contain difficult to understand language, to which even English speaking workers, by way of the company's culture, attribute their own meanings and purposes. Often these relate to industrial relations issues.

Quebec's 1% Training Law
There were many other interesting presentations that I didn't get to. A few years ago Quebec passed a law requiring corporations to re-invest an amount equivalent to 1% of their annual results into training. This now presents some unique opportunities and challenges.

To find out more about the CSTD, I recommend you check out their web-site at www.cstd.ca.
A diverse set of training industry topics was on the menu at the recent Canadian Society of Training & Development (CSTD) conference held here in early November. The now all-Canadian association was formed last spring when the formerly Ontario-based organization (OSTD) became a national body. Here are some highlights:

Improving E-Learning Design:
Dr. Ruth Clark, a researcher, presented the latest findings about learning transfer in designing e-learning programs. The trend has been to include a lot of entertaining but anecdotal information and points of interest. Dr. Clark's research evaporated that practice by showing that learning actually improves when these extras are omitted. Unrelated music was found to be distracting.

The best programs used an on-screen character to help guide the learner through the program. This adds a "human touch" to the training. Audio narration doubled the learning results. When narration + text + visuals were used together they put a strain on short-term memory and distracted the learner. It is far better, she says, to explain complex ideas using a diagram with narration rather than text.

It was worthy to note that Dr. Clark's test subjects for the study were digital generation students. So much for multi-tasking young people who claim to study better while listening to the radio and text-messaging their friends at the same time.

New Forms of Learning:
Because new knowledge is being created faster than workers can learn it, there exists a continuous "skills gap", says Jonathon Levy, a senior learning strategist. "The answer is not classrooms, but platforms." Knowledge workers, which represent most of us in today's economy, need to access knowledge from where they are in both human and digital content, delivered in real time. "Just what's needed, when, and just to those who need it." Currently only 12% of training in Canada is happening via technology.

The way traditional education is represented in workplaces is changing. Effective sources of learning can be found in courses but also in different kinds of content. These include learning sourced directly from experts or co-workers; from media in the form of tools, simulations, and scenarios; time-relevent learning which can include games, chunks and granules (needed information bits) and community; and the use of artificial-intelligence-like bots (information robots) to link to networks and courses.

Link Training to Business Results:
Levy also spoke about needing more compelling numbers to link training measures with business results. The typical not relevant measure is something like "a 33% reduction in training costs."

Yet, some companies are finding ways to report relevant post-training results.
Here are a few:
Century 21 Real Estate reported a 33% increase in revenue per agent
Fidelity Investments reported a 200% increase in 401 (k) investments (pension)
Wyeth Pharmaceutical reported a 10 x increase in market share
Microsoft reported a 50% reduction in time to market.

Leadership Talent Gap:
Over 70% of Canadian CEO's view their leadership capacity as week according to surveys by the Conference Board of Canada. David Weiss, a Partner at Knightsbridge, says their top concerns include building leadership capacity and effectively implementing innovation.

He goes on to say that in recent years many organizations terminated the middle management level so as executives retire, there are now fewer competent people to take their place. Most succession planning processes are doing a good job at finding "acting" positions. Learning at this level presents another challenge. 67% of executive learning came from mistakes. Only 6% was identified as coming from traditional learning.

Executives have been concerned that management one level down can't manage the challenges of the future. But when they looked two levels down, they found out that the average staff age was older than the senior managers. This is a big issue for them because an aging worker represents a loss of future intellectual capital. 40-50% can retire with pension within 5 years.

Contributing to this dilemma is the fact that there exists a significant values clash as hard-working "baby-boomers" (born after World War II from 1955-1965) are now in charge of a diverse workplace. The younger workers that follow after them don't share their values and loyalty. Many of them grew up as children of divorced families and watched their parents work loyally for their company only to get down-sized before they were old enough to retire. Loyalty to a job, a company, and the accompanying commitments just aren't the same for them. They are demanding balance in their lives and time for their families. It's a whole new equation.

"Functional leadership thinking is dysfunctional, it is a "silo-approach"emphasized Weiss. The kind of leadership capacity now needed is more holistic leadership which requires the development of "cognitive capacity" and "integrative thinkers in critical positions". It's very important to identify who the new leaders are and to build organizational, customer, team and personal leadership with the business strategy amid culture and values.

Workplace Literacy
This topic was so important that it had it's own parallel track conference.
Rising numbers of immigrants in Canadian workplaces has brought the issue of workplace literacy to the forefront. This isn't only about whether workers can read and write in English or compute numbers. Other things like comfort in using computers, tracking data or filing reports are also included. Many real issues exist as a result of quality processes and safety practices becoming automated over the years through the use of forms and other tracking measures. Reports that identify quality deviations or production issues often contain difficult to understand language, to which even English speaking workers, by way of the company's culture, attribute their own meanings and purposes. Often these relate to industrial relations issues.

Quebec's 1% Training Law
There were many other interesting presentations that I didn't get to. A few years ago Quebec passed a law requiring corporations to re-invest an amount equivalent to 1% of their annual results into training. This now presents some unique opportunities and challenges.

To find out more about the CSTD, I recommend you check out their web-site at www.cstd.ca.

Arupa Tesolin, owner of the training firm Intuita, is a consultant, speaker, seminar leader and author of The Intuita 3-Minute Solutions for Innovation, Intuition, Vision & Stress. Her numerous international publications on intuition in business have established her as a thought leader in this field. She is currently working on a new book entitled "Becoming An Intuitive Organization". Contact her at www.intuita.com, intuita@intuita.com or 905.271.7272.

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