Sharpening employees’ tools on a tight budget

As firms weigh up the benefits of flexible working and employees decide whether to stay remote, there is one thing they both agree on: reskilling must be a priority, discovers Emma Greedy .

In the past year, a quarter (24%) of the UK’s workforce have started learning new skills to guard against coronavirus job uncertainty, according to The Open University. And attempting to aid economic recovery, the UK government has launched the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, a scheme that offers every UK adult access to a flexible loan for higher-level education.

Recurring national lockdowns over the past 12 months have left businesses reeling. While the furlough scheme offered some solace, budgets are under greater scrutiny to protect viability. According to BBC News, pandemic restrictions meant the economy shrunk by 9.9% in 2020, and ONS figures show the increase in the UK’s redundancy rate was faster than during the 2008 to 2009 economic downturn.

COVID-19 has left an indelible mark on the world of work and driven demand among employees for more freedom and flexibility. And, as Martyn Dicker, director of people at UNICEF UK, points out, this means HR must be swift to adapt. He says: “As we quickly re-imagine the future of work, we should plan how to identify and support new learning needs.”

With remote and hybrid working becoming the norm for many, Dicker thinks HR needs to strengthen its support for remote management, resilience, wellbeing and work-life balance, networking and creative collaboration.

He says protecting, or even growing learning and development budgets will be key to supporting the changing needs of the workplace.

“It will help to ensure workforces are productive, competent and confident, and that their wellbeing is maintained,” he says. “People professionals will now have to step up and show how creative they can be to support the development needs of the UK’s workforce.”

Be prepared

Lucy Pearce, commercial director at HR consultancy, Advo Group, says the COVID-19 pandemic has shown people that the future is not promised. “Unfortunately, over the past year a lot of employees lost their jobs and quickly found that if they only had a specific skillset for one trade, they weren’t able to find a new role very easily.”

The pandemic has meant the job market is extremely unpredictable and Pearce says people now wish they had acknowledged the importance of regularly learning new skills.

“Employees now want to make sure that they have a robust skillset to protect themselves and their careers,” she says. “Should something like this happen again in the future, no one wants to feel as unprepared as they did during this pandemic.”

Lucy Becque, chief people officer at Coventry Building Society, says the pandemic forced many businesses to work differently – something which has only been possible through employees embracing new challenges.

“The past 12 months has ignited the belief that we’re capable of things individually and collectively that we may not have thought possible previously,” she says.

“With fewer limitations, development has become more about what spikes your curiosity or nurtures your ambition.”

Nurturing this curiosity and ambition can benefit employees by offering new ways of learning, and at a fraction of the price of in-person development, adds Becque.

“HR’s role in fostering employee development in the post-pandemic world centres on constantly communicating what’s available, curating great content and sharing the achievements of those employees who embrace development,” she says.

Upskilling is now a key part of how HR can support career progression, and to dismiss it would also mean dismissing the wellbeing of staff, argues Pearce.

“Post-pandemic, wellbeing has been moved to the top of HR’s agenda, and if HR teams do not provide employees with the right materials to learn new skills, they’ll be disregarding their workers’ future wellbeing.

Actively giving employees the opportunity to grow their skillset may become one of the most sought-after employee benefits.

“Employers who provide staff with the opportunity to upskill on the job will become a job-seeker’s dream post-pandemic,” she says.

“Going forward, employees will question whether or not an employer can provide them with enough opportunities to learn new skills. The pandemic has meant employees will now think outside of their roles and departments when it comes to upskilling, and employers are going to have to provide this.”

Making the most of resources

Although L&D budgets have tightened, it does not necessarily mean that employers are risking downgrading the skills opportunities offered to staff. In fact, it could be the opposite.

Sabby Gill, chief executive of recruitment company Thomas International, thinks sometimes the best forms of learning are free.
He says: “Upskilling, while a critical part of any development plan, doesn’t have to mean spending thousands on training courses.

“In fact, it can be as simple as identifying where you have a strong bank of knowledge in departments across the company and developing an insight-sharing programme open to all those who need upskilling and are keen to learn more.”

Gill says dedicated seminars or even informal sessions, such as ‘lunch and learns’, where employees can have one-to-ones with more experienced members of the team, are also an option. He adds: “After the shocking year we’ve all had, what better way to bring teams back together than to have them teach one another new skills that will serve them later on in their career?”

Ashleigh Otter, vice-president of people and operations at online library service Perlego, agrees with Gill on the cost-effectiveness of internal mentoring.

“There will always be some people within your company that already have the skills that others want to learn, so having those people coach others and train parts of the workforce, lends itself to absolutely everyone,” she says.

External mentoring is an option too, and though it may seem more costly than internal, Otter suggests partnering with another business to avoid excessive cost.

“We’ve partnered with Like Minded Females (LMF) to have senior female members of our team mentor members of theirs, and vice versa junior female team members are being mentored by seniors at LMF,” she explains.

Mandy Matthews, HR director at BPP Education Group similarly promotes mentoring and reverse mentoring, secondments, apprenticeship opportunities, buddying and job shadowing within her organisation. Resource sharing is also critical.

She says: “Making regular use of internal resources and subject matter experts in the business to deliver bite-sized learning sessions, is also key to in-house upskilling.”

L&D teams should be carefully curating learning so that employees can quickly find resources when they need them, she adds. As an example, creating a variety of online curriculums for different job families with a mixture of targeted online learning, TED talks, research papers and relevant activities that can be used to support a training programme or individual development.

Perlego also advocates this type of resource-sharing and uses a platform called Ocean as a type of internal Wiki to build learning hubs of useful articles, podcasts and videos.

The nature of the pandemic demanded everyone unite and work together to get through lockdowns, the loss of loved ones and the uncertainty of what lay ahead. This may also be how businesses can best upskill the workforce post-pandemic and prepare for what lies ahead.


Three ways to create sustainable employee happiness

It’s no surprise that engaged employees are happy employees, and that happy employees thrive along with the organisations they’re part of.

As Happier founder Nataly Kogan explains, employees who are engaged and thriving perform 27% better than non-thriving employees, including 89% better on innovation, and they are 79% more committed to the organisation.

This is in contrast to the 30% of disengaged workers who are more likely to miss work, negatively influence their co-workers, and drive customers away. Surprisingly, too few organisations understand the true potential of engaged employees – nor understand how significantly unengaged employees hinder organisational growth. That’s why it’s critical to ensure your people are fully present at work and that they understand the value of their responsibilities.

Every organisation wants engaged employees – and the power to make that happen rests on leaders everywhere. The question leaders need to ask themselves is this: How can you ensure you’re supporting employee happiness in a consistent, scalable way? The answer lies in these three proven methods.

Focus on engagement
People who love their jobs come to work with passion, purpose, presence, and energy. Forward-thinking organisations realise this and make engagement central to their business strategy by conducting surveys, offering benefits and perks that truly matter, and providing the tools and support people need to do the best work of their lives.

According to Gallup, teams who score in the top 20% in engagement realise a 41% reduction in absenteeism and 59% less turnover. At the heart of employee engagement is a sense of purpose; if people are able to connect their work to a larger goal, they’re more likely to feel dedicated to it. They’re also more likely to attach greater importance to everyday tasks and do them better as well.

Make it easier for everyone to show they care
Companies thrive when their grateful, human-centric cultures meet employees’ core needs, support work-life harmony, and establish an overall more positive employee experience. Everyone should be empowered to express authentic appreciation for a peer’s effort or behaviour, up and down the organisation. This means not only saying “thank you” when our colleagues help us specifically, but also noting when a person has done their job well.

This promotes very real human connections and leads to a collective culture of positivity, which is proven to unlock and unleash the human potential resting just below the surface. Ultimately, people just want to be appreciated for what they do – they want their work to be seen, and they want to see it functioning in a valuable context. If employees are given the opportunity to understand how their efforts are being utilised in effective ways, they will be far more likely to thrive and drive their company toward success.

Appreciate abundantly
Successful recognition programs are those that achieve an engagement rate (called “reach”) of at least 60-80%. When recognition with monetary value is given frequently (rather than as a yearly lump sum), it drives a better employee experience, positive business outcomes (think reducing turnover or increasing safety), and measurable financial returns.

In addition, recognition paired with other human workplace practices contributes to making your people 52% less likely to leave, 32% more likely to perform at a higher level, and 73% more likely to go above and beyond, according to research from Workhuman and the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute – so don’t be shy with gratitude; a little bit can go a long way.

It’s clear that employee engagement is essential for organisational health, and yet too often underappreciated by leaders around the globe. It’s also clear that engagement is easier to promote when companies prioritise employee happiness and authentic human connection. All that, thankfully, can be achieved in numerous ways. Want to learn more about how gratitude can drive sustainable employee happiness? Dive deeper.


Why Now Is The Perfect Time For A Post-Pandemic Career Check-In

We’ve officially crossed over into the second half of 2021, and in any other year pre-COVID, you’d likely pause and reflect, career-wise, on where you’ve been and where you’d like to go.

But if you’re like most people, the pandemic threw a wrench (and possibly an accelerant) into that process.

According to Prudential’s latest Pulse of the American Worker survey, half of all workers say that the pandemic has made them reevaluate their career goals. Nearly the same number (48%) are rethinking the type of job they want post-pandemic, while 53% say they’d switch to an entirely new industry if they could retrain.

The survey also cites that most people feel the pandemic has given them more control in deciding the direction of their careers. And now that we’re quickly approaching a post-pandemic existence, it’s the perfect time to conduct a career check-in; here’s how:

Start with clarity
What do you want? Though straightforward, that question isn’t easy for most to answer. Some wrestle with insecurities and fears about acknowledging their true desires; others have never pushed the pause button on their busy lives long enough to give themselves space to do so.

The key to answering this query is finding clarity on what matters most to you. It takes thoughtful introspection, and sometimes, a reality check: do you really want (fill in the blank), and are you willing to do what it takes to achieve it? Ensure that your reply isn’t merely a grass-is-always-greener scenario but a genuine desire for which you’re willing to work.

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What you wanted when you began the pandemic may no longer apply, or you may use this time to pivot and realize that dream you had tucked away for “one day.” Now might be the perfect time to reinvent yourself. Challenge yourself to be open enough to allow new and alternative—and sometimes even better—possibilities to emerge.

But here’s the thing about clarity: it demands specificity, and there is no room for a wishy-washy answer. You can’t make progress if you “kind of” want something. The more focused you can be about what matters most to you, the better.

Audit, assess, and align
Once you’re clear on what you want, you need to align your goals with a plan to achieve them—and stay away from the things that can derail you.

Audit how you’re spending your time and determine whether it’s supporting (or preventing) your short- and long-term goals. When you’re intentional with your time management, you’ll find that certain activities drop away, making way for other, more productive pursuits.

Also, assess your environment, which includes your friends, colleagues, location, habits, and lifestyle, and impacts you far more—for better or worse—than you realize. You’ve likely grown and evolved, and what once worked for you has probably changed. If an aspect of your environment is holding you back from accomplishing what you need to do, let it go. The power in saying no to people and things that no longer serve you is that you’re able to say yes to more that do.

Ensure that you’ve positioned yourself for success
All your time spent gaining clarity and alignment is for naught if your message is muddy. If your intended audiences can’t quickly understand you, what you offer, your value, what differentiates you, and how you can help them, you’ll confuse — or lose— them.

Position yourself for success by updating your LinkedIn profile’s career story, removing anything out-of-date or irrelevant, and adding information that supports your goals and sells your destiny, not your history. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about making it easy for potential employers and clients to understand how you can help and solve their problems.

Properly crafted, your career story helps differentiate you from your competitors, highlight your value, and draw others to you. And being able to clearly articulate your story — especially as we move into a post-pandemic world — is invaluable.

Source :

Top guide to helping teams help themselves

His focus was understandably on what wasn’t working. But what about what was working?

“Well,” I offered, “despite the disappointment of that survey, we have other information. As you’d expect, I did a Google search before coming here today. I believe you have 50,000 visitors a day. That’s up 7% on last year.”

“Somehow, the vast majority of those visits go smoothly. People do their shopping, eat, and use the various facilities. Some of them temporarily lose their kids and are reunited with them by your staff. There are first-aid incidents that are handled without drama.”

“So we know that at least some of your staff members are engaged. I also know that I personally have never had a bad experience in many visits as a ‘civilian’. So, although this is all anecdotal, and although you’ve clearly got an issue to address, you must be doing some things right. In fact, a load of people must be doing a load of things right. Let’s start there.”

The director’s mood visibly brightened. He said: “That’s completely changed my perspective. I feel a hundred times better.” And more importantly, he felt empowered to take that message to the management team and his own staff. They realised they had overlooked resources and set about building on them with renewed enthusiasm.

Start With What Works
Even an average performer is doing lots right. We don’t tend to focus on that. We tend to focus on what’s not working. In my book Start With What Works: a faster way to grow your business, I introduce a brilliant solution-focused technique — called Scaling— for helping people flip their mindsets.

Here are the steps.

In relation to your current situation, ask yourself: “What’s my best hope?”
Create a scale. If your best hope is 10/10, and its opposite is zero, where are you on the scale?
Most people say something in the range of 3 – 7. Let’s say you pick 6.
Then ask the question: What aren’t we a 5? What is stopping us being worse? (We must
be doing some things right.)

Inventory the reasons you are at least a 5. What are those strengths and capabilities? What’s working? (This is what I did informally with the shopping centre director.)
Look at those strengths and capabilities and ask yourself what you can do with them.
Here’s another example.

Help Teams to Help Themselves
I worked with a financial institution where employee satisfaction among new recruits was embarrassing, and staff turnover stood out even in an industry notorious for poor retention. Employees felt like cogs in a machine. They didn’t understand how their jobs fitted in, or why they mattered. This was despite the extensive, and expensive, training the company provided during induction to try to explain the job and its significance.

In response to the problem, the company engaged consultants to redesign the induction programme, but to no avail. Corporate HR also tried a redesign, but again it made no difference.

“Maybe it’s just a ‘millennials’ thing,” they concluded.

At the time, I was working with the company on a leadership development project and the HRD raised the turnover issue during a debrief with the executive team. I took them quickly through the scaling process.

“What’s your best hope for this?” I asked.

“Staff turnover of 14% or lower (the industry average was 27%), engaged staff and lots of promotable business analysts,” they replied.

“If your best hope is 10/10, and its opposite is zero, then where are you on the scale?

“We’re a 5/10.”

“How come you aren’t worse? Why not just a 4/10?”

“Well, we do retain a lot of people even though there are other banks trying to poach. Most people are staying – they must have their reasons. And we do have some very bright and enthusiastic people who we’ve promoted to first level supervisors. Their teams in particular seem happier and more committed than some of the other teams.”

“OK so even though you have a gap, some things must be working. What if we build off them? What if we convene teams of the most enthusiastic recent recruits, and put them under the leadership of your bright new team leaders, give them a few quid and ask them to design their own induction programme?

“Great,” said the MD. “And we’ll have some senior managers and HR business partners take on a coaching role, providing resources and oversight.”

The most successful team developed an interactive board game, in which players followed the journey of a financial trade through its various stages, getting clues from established colleagues running the actual desks involved. The players raced each other to complete the process. By the time they had finished the game they had grasped the end-to-end process and started to build the relationships they would need across the business. It was a huge hit.

The solution was far more creative, effective and cheap than senior managers expected, and when the CEO saw it, he sponsored its global roll-out including having the game materials professionally made.

Another of the ideas the team came up with was to build a website and post video interviews with staff at varying levels in the organization. As the recruits interviewed the senior managers, they also broadened out their picture of the same managers.

Notice that I’m not suggesting games and websites as a general solution to staff induction problems. That’s just one example. The point is, instead of being hypnotised by stubborn problems, to look more deeply at what’s working. That way organizations can tap into overlooked potential and resources they have already to boost performance, growth and engagement.

Key points
When you ask why things aren’t better, you’ll hear about deficits. When you ask why things aren’t worse, you’ll hear about resources.
Often the most engaging way to improve performance is to help people do it themselves.
In challenging times, starting with what works creates the resourcefulness that allows you to provide much-needed leadership.

The Easy Mathematical Indicator For Meeting Engagement

There are lots of ways to measure whether a meeting was good or bad. One can look at what was accomplished versus what the agenda set out. But even this quick checklist approach will often provide a false positive: It may seem like the meeting was good and well run because all of the agenda items were covered in the allotted time, whereas the participants may still walk out feeling unappreciated, uninvolved and generally unengaged.

This applies to participatory meetings where input is being sought, ideas or solutions are put forward, concepts are discussed and debated, and then there is ultimately some form of resolution or consensus. In short, if people are invited to a meeting to participate, then one of the ultimate measures of success is whether people felt like they were actually engaged.

One of the easiest ways to think about meeting engagement is simply the amount of time that each person could potentially speak. We can think of it as each person’s potential meeting participation portion. And, in the vein of thinking of portions, it makes a lot of sense to picture dividing a pie between the people seated at the table (even if “the table” is some sort of virtual construct).


All this is to say, “What’s the most amount of time that each person is able to talk, assuming an equitable division of the total time?”

As an example, think about an hour-long team meeting with 10 people. In a best case scenario, dividing the 60 minutes by 10 people means that each person gets six minutes to talk. However, practically, there’s probably some sort of introduction as to why everyone is there and what the point of the meeting is; that will take a few minutes. Then the person leading the meeting will typically take up a disproportionate amount of time, which carves off more minutes. Assuming that comes to 12 minutes for the person leading the meeting, it now leaves 48 minutes to be divided by the other nine people, resulting in a shade more than five minutes per person to talk.

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Therefore, the best case scenario is an even six minutes per person, but a more realistic scenario is more like five minutes per person of active time—and 55 minutes of time mostly spent observing. Then, if one takes into account that there’s inevitably someone in the room who takes up a disproportionate amount of the conversation, it further reduces the amount of time that other people can contribute. For argument’s sake, assume that the person leading the meeting speaks for 12 minutes and then the other dominant voice in the room speaks (unchecked by the person running the meeting) for 10 minutes. That overweighed portion then leaves under 5 minutes each for the rest of the room; they’ll each spend around 56 minutes per person just sitting and watching. Meeting engagement is hard to come by when one is an observer for close to 90 percent of the time.

Sure, not everyone in a room wants to speak or always has something to say. However, if the math indicates that the people sitting around the table wouldn’t even have a shot at playing a significant role in the meeting—especially if it’s sharing less than 10 percent of the time—then a logical question to ask is, “Are there too many people in the room or is there not enough time?”

The subtext of this question is more about managerial intent: If a meeting is called where it’s clear that there isn’t even time for people to participate if they wanted to, do you even need to have those people meet? In that case, are we calling this a meeting when it’s really more of a telling? Is it a lecture or pronouncement that’s been mislabeled?

Yes, a meeting can masquerade as a good one if all of the agenda items are covered. But if the people in the room are mostly passive witnesses to the proceedings, the way they feel about the meeting and the larger organization may not be so rosy. Indeed, there may be very little meeting engagement on the morale front, but also a real lack of the ideas, input or discussion that would produce the best results.

There’s the old office complaint heard the world over where someone exits a meeting and remarks that it could have been an email. In essence, what people are saying is that they don’t feel that their presence was needed; in fact, maybe no one’s presence was needed. If people don’t feel engaged and don’t feel that they’re participating in meetings, then they’d rather be at their desk getting work done.

It’s tempting to add more people to a meeting. After all, being inclusive is good. And having the right people at the table is important. But if people are going to be at that table for an hour, it’s important that they’re actually engaged and involved. If someone only has time to say a few words in that time, it’s probably a good indicator that either the structure of the meeting should change or not everyone needs to be there.


How To Lead High-Value Meetings With Senior Executives

In advance of an important meeting with company executives, you provide an agenda along with a set of pre-read materials. Your ask of the senior leader audience: Please review these documents before our meeting. It seems like a simple request, except for the fact that for many of us, getting an audience to even skim our pre-read materials in advance of a meeting is a minor victory.

Pre-reads are tricky. Just ask anyone who has started a meeting by asking the audience if they reviewed the slides, charts, or documents that were painstakingly crafted and shared in advance. Cue the awkward silence, as audience members explain how they were too busy, they just didn’t have time to get to it, so could you please walk through the pre-read materials now, blah, blah, blah. On the other hand, you may have one or two colleagues that seem to enjoy poring over your pre-reads, ready with their tough questions when the meeting time comes. Let’s appreciate the thoroughness of these individuals, rather than wish they were more like everyone else who just ignored the pre-reads in the first place.

Done right, pre-reads play a valuable role for leaders and teams: They provide important background and context, enabling meeting leaders to make well-informed decisions and engage in productive, strategic discussions far more efficiently. How do we consistently create these types of outcomes? Here are some simple principles to consider:

A CFO and his team had scheduled an important meeting with the CEO and executive leadership to determine future capital expenditures at the company. In advance, the team prepared a detailed set of materials for the senior leaders to review, including a 60-page document that contained important information that would be relevant to the discussion. Knowing that the meeting would not succeed unless the executives had thoroughly reviewed the document in advance, the team prepared a short note to accompany the pre-read that reminded the audience of the purpose of the upcoming meeting, the relevance of that purpose to the audience, and the role the pre-read materials would play in achieving that purpose. The simple note paid off when company executives told the finance team it was one of the best meetings any team had ever led at the company.

As the CFO shared: “The note made such a difference. Too often, we assume the purpose of the pre-read is obvious, but we must make the connection clear to the audience. It isn’t enough to send slides in advance. If you really want people to read them and absorb the information, provide a compelling reason why. We learned that by saying, ‘If you read these, we’ll achieve something important together,’ made all the difference.”

Let’s imagine that you were part of the audience described by the CFO in the above example. No matter how compelling the note and materials provided in advance of the meeting, there’s no getting around the fact that you’ve been asked to read and absorb a 60-page document. For your average senior leader, it’s challenging to find the time to prepare for meetings and one of the biggest reasons why pre-read materials don’t get the attention they deserve.

Here’s where you can help your audiences: Provide questions and answers. This easy step can be a game-changer when done right. One simple technique is to raise a few relevant questions in a short email to your audience in advance of your meeting that includes your pre-read. For example:

What is the overall purpose of the project?
What do we want to accomplish in our meeting?
What role will the pre-reads play in accomplishing that objective?
How are the pre-reads structured to enable our discussion?
What role will you play?
Don’t forget to provide simple, bullet-point responses to your questions as part of your note. The question-and-answer format is a powerful combination that helps you set the stage for your meeting by guiding participants in advance. You’re not just sending an agenda with an attachment: You’re taking charge and helping your audience understand how to show up prepared and ready to engage in a very productive discussion with you.

Good pre-reads take time to create, and even outstanding materials may get overlooked because the value they provide may not be immediately obvious to your audiences. The moral of the story? Don’t let your efforts go to waste. Good information provided in advance of meetings leads to better discussions and smarter decisions, but those outcomes won’t just happen on their own. With a few small tweaks to your pre-meeting process, you can achieve far better post-meeting results.


Jumping To Conclusions: Why It Happens And How To Stop It

Every day requires hundreds of tiny judgments and decisions. Usually, there’s not enough time or information to really make a rigorous judgment with perfectly solid evidence and airtight reasoning behind it. So we take shortcuts.

For instance, I recently had to evaluate a research proposal. But I did not have enough time to read through all the researcher’s previous work. So I trusted her reputation and a persuasive summary of the project and supported the work.

Most of the time this kind of reasoning is justified, but every now and then it goes too far. People jump to conclusions that aren’t warranted by the limited information at their disposal — or they consider conclusions solid that should actually only be regarded as very tentative.

Like with other cognitive biases, most of the time jumping to conclusions is harmless. Even if judgments based on limited reasoning and quick thinking are wrong, the consequences are rarely dire. It’s unfortunate, for example, if you dismiss a young politician too quickly because of his age, for instance, but it’s hardly the end of the world.

But it is a problem when jumping to conclusions becomes the default, especially in relation to decisions made about complex social and political issues, where more fine-grained reasoning is typically required. The prevalence of jumping to conclusions, on social media contributes to serious negative trends, like polarization and even conspiracy theory. This can happen to even the sharpest among us. Take, for example, a recent episode where a number of Jeopardy contestants jumped to an extreme conclusion about a fellow contestant’s innocuous hand signal.

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So, why do people end up jumping to conclusions? And what kinds of educational interventions and reminders might help us all reason better? Recent research from Professors Carmen Sanchez and David Dunning may shed light on this question.

First, what exactly is jumping to conclusions? Technically defined, it involves extrapolation from limited evidence that goes well beyond what is warranted by that evidence. People prone to jumping to conclusions take small amounts of evidence as reason for being confident about conclusions that are not warranted; they read meaningful patterns into random data; or they develop elaborate theories on the basis of one or two items of data that are not representative.

This behavior is often associated with clinical problems like schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression, and it can contribute to delusional thinking — though it is also a problem in the general population as well.

Sanchez and Dunning’s experiments sought to learn more about this bias in a nonclinical population and what can be done to remediate it. Specifically, they investigated what kinds of other behaviors are associated with jumping to conclusions and they tested a promising intervention strategy.

In one experiment, participants were asked to assess whether fish being caught one by one wer

e coming from Lake 1, where the fish are 80 percent red and 20 percent gray, or Lake 2, where they are 80 percent grey and 20 percent red. Participants could either come to a decision or ask to see more fish. On average, they were ready to make a guess after between three and four fish. But those prone to jumping to conclusions, around 30 percent of participants, issued a verdict after just two fish or fewer.

The researchers then put participants through a battery of other tests, including a cognitive reflection test, which shows how well people can avoid intuitive, but wrong, answers. “High jumpers” (those prone to conclusion jumping) performed worse on the reflection test and other cognitive tests. They had more trouble evaluating logical arguments and accurately evaluating gambling odds, and they showed overconfidence in answering questions on civics and current events.

They also made errors caused by overconfidence when learning new tasks, like diagnosing a hypothetical medical malady. Those prone to jumping to conclusions were “exuberant theorizers,” meaning they were more likely to develop theories of how to complete the diagnosis based on little experience or evidence — leading to more mistakes.

Finally, they were also shown to be more likely to hold “oddball” or conspiratorial beliefs: including that health officials are hiding evidence that cell phones cause cancer or that the Apollo moon landings were faked. Jumping to conclusions may, therefore, help explain, as other research has suggested, the attraction of conspiracy theories and other misinformation.

Further analysis of these reasoning failures showed that jumping to a conclusion involves a problem with what is called “controlled processing.” This is opposed to “automatic processing,” where judgments are made and tasks completed without conscious awareness of what is happening. In controlled processing people are explicitly aware of the decision-making process. In other words, they “see themselves” thinking.

Sanchez and Dunning were able to isolate parts of these tasks and found that the correlation between conclusion jumping and poor cognitive performance is connected to a lack of controlled processing. Simply put, those more prone to make snap judgments don’t spend as much time thinking reflectively and analytically and are thus susceptible to the mistakes of automatic judgment.

This finding suggests that encouraging more explicit and analytical thinking might help curb jumping to conclusions. To see if educational interventions could have any impact, the researchers relied on tools that have been used successfully in schizophrenia treatment. Specifically, they used metacognitive training tools that have proven effective in combating certain thinking patterns in schizophrenic patients who are prone to jumping to conclusions and delusional beliefs.

The application of schizophrenia treatment may sound like a “jump” itself, but it makes sense. Metacognition is a core part of critical thinking, in any population. Metacognitive training is geared toward getting people to see their own thinking patterns and adjust them intentionally in line with evidence. It includes exposing trainees to examples of problematic thinking like overconfidence, jumping to conclusions, and single-cause explanations. Trainees also practice externalizing their own thinking in writing or speech, reflecting on it, and pushing back against it explicitly with more rational and analytical thinking.

The training proved successful with Sanchez and Dunning’s population, at least in part. It was particularly effective in reducing the overconfidence that is usually paired with jumping to conclusions. The researchers write that this suggests productive intersections between clinical and social psychology.

It also suggests that there may be a number of quick and easy ways to educate the general population to think more carefully and analytically. More than ever, a complex and oversaturated information environment calls on news consumers to resist easy answers, bad reasoning, and outright fake stories. Inflammatory stories and easy narratives push people in exactly toward knee-jerk responses and emotional reasoning.

Developing quick and easy metacognitive interventions that could be completed online could be a significant step forward. It’s clear that people in general lack the skills they need to think through the information environment. Tools and education are needed to help them arrive at productive judgments and conclusions — while keeping their feet firmly on the ground.


How to decide on your workforce development priorities as we recover from Covid

Professional development has been a major factor in job satisfaction for some time. Last year, 73% of employees surveyed said that they would be likely to stay at their company if there were more skill-building opportunities.

So how do you pick your L&D priorities as we emerge into this post-pandemic world?

Variety is the spice of life

It might sound cliché, but it’s true: people are different. Some might prefer to engage solely in classes that teach specific skills; some are more willing to take on additional responsibilities or shadow someone.

As a general rule, the 70-20-10 principle is a good place to start. It suggests that 70% of learning should be experiential: completing tasks and resolving issues that come up in the course of assigned tasks.

This suggests the need to assign new duties regularly, otherwise you risk your employee falling into a pattern of monotony. Meanwhile, 20% of a person’s learning should be social: interacting with teammates to solve tasks, and perhaps having a mentor.

Let’s embrace the new ways in which we can connect and learn, and continue to do our best to promote satisfaction and development at work.

Lastly, just 10% of learning is formal – think online courses or face-to-face seminars on particular topics. That said, not everyone will enjoy this schema. It should be tweaked as the employee figures out what works best for them – which brings us neatly to our next point: feedback.

The importance of feedback

Not only is feedback important in determining what style of learning suits a person best, but it should also play a huge role in deciding what sort of learning they should be doing.

It is no use trying to shoehorn an employee into specialising in a certain skill set because of company needs. A manager and employee should be able to sit down together to discuss career goals and how to achieve them.

This way, the employee is motivated to succeed and the company benefits from an engaged employee. It can be useful as an employee to know that a company is looking for a particular skill, especially if it is presented as an opportunity to somebody who isn’t sure of their course.

In this case, the conversation should focus on where learning that skill might take them within the company and wider industry, and any additional steps that might be needed to succeed.

Changing priorities

Let’s think about the difference between a junior staff member and a more senior one. It can be particularly useful to keep a flexible approach when it comes to junior staff.

They may feel that they will reap more benefits from having a mentor than they would from being thrown in at the deep end of a project, especially if confidence is an issue. On the other hand, they might be more comfortable widening their skills base with courses before they fully commit to shadowing someone in an area they haven’t quite got to grips with yet.

A manager, on the other hand, will likely have to learn on the job a little more: being able to make good hires, tackle disputes between colleagues, and possibly even firing someone are all situations in which experience trumps theoretical knowledge.

The way to get that experience? Having the uncomfortable first opportunities to feel out the situation, with some guidance from someone more adept in the area.

COVID and work

Talking of shifting priorities, COVID has altered which skills we consider essential. Amid the Fourth Industrial Revolution, reliance on technology has been accelerated by the pandemic.

Perhaps your organisation will prefer more tech-savvy skills as you embark on new eCommerce ventures or migrate to the cloud. Any shift in the company’s direction will necessitate rethinking workforce development priorities.

Equally, with remote classes at our fingertips, it might be hugely more accessible for your employees to partake in upskilling courses, and they should be supported in doing so.

Let’s embrace the new ways in which we can connect and learn, and continue to do our best to promote satisfaction and development at work.


Managing Up: How to Do it Successfully

One thing we have learned from years of administering 360-degree feedback assessments is that people can be perceived in vastly different ways depending upon who is giving them feedback. People receiving a 360 assessment benefit from understanding the different perspectives provided to them from various groups. As a 360 company, we have seen the benefit of understanding gaps in perception and how to close those gaps. One troubling gap that 360 participants occasionally see is a gap between how they see themselves and how their manager sees them. When coaching an individual with lower scores from their supervisor compared to everybody else, we have conversations about the importance of managing up.

Many people may feel—in a perfect world—that the concept of managing up would not exist. Most people want to assume that any difficulty, hardship, or success they encounter would be noticed and recognized by their managers without having to say anything. People may also wish to have complete trust from their managers to make impactful decisions without having to check in. In reality, even the most dutiful and trusting managers will have difficulty fully recognizing and buying into the efforts of their employees without help.

5-15 Reports: Your Success is Your Manager’s Success
The founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, created a system of managers gathering reports from their employees each week. He called them 5-15 Reports. Each week employees take 15 minutes to write about their current work, progress, challenges, and general feelings about how things are going. Managers then take 5 minutes to review each report. Managers then create their own 15-minute report to send to their managers, incorporating the information in the reports from direct reports. By doing this, information flows upward in an organization, and employees keep leaders informed about and bought into what is going on. You can use Patagonia’s system for upward feedback as a template for managing up.

Assume your manager cares about your ability to successfully navigate and manage your work. Your success is your manager’s success. This means, like Yvon Chouinard, most effective managers will care about critical aspects of your job. Using the Patagonia system, you might think about what sorts of things you ought to consistently communicate to your manager. You might also think about how and when you should communicate those things. Here are some ideas:

Major or impactful decisions you have made or will make
Challenges or roadblocks you are facing
Progress you have made on major projects or initiatives
Your personal accomplishments
Let’s look at each of these categories and examine why and how to communicate them to your manager.

Major or Impactful Decisions
Your manager is ultimately responsible for your performance. A major part of your performance will be based upon the decisions you make. That does not mean that communicating every decision you make to your manager is part of effectively managing up. In fact, for the most part, you should work to build enough trust from your manager that most of your work decisions will be made without their knowledge or consent.

Choosing which decisions to communicate and which decisions to keep to yourself is more art than science. Here are some questions you might ask yourself before determining whether to communicate a decision to your manager.

Would your manager disagree with the decision you made?
Does the decision have significant impact on profit or loss in your area?
Does the decision directly impact other departments or leaders of other departments?
Are you having difficulty making the decision?
Simply communicating decisions to your supervisor does not qualify as managing up. You should communicate these things with the purpose of building buy-in from your manager, and to solicit support for the decision you have made or will make. You might also communicate prior to making the decision to make sure your manager’s opinion is considered when you ultimately make the decision.

Challenges or Roadblocks
Part of managing up is informing your supervisor of the challenges you face. You do this for two reasons. First, when you inform your manager of a challenge or roadblock, you also invite them to help solve the issue. Your supervisor likely has authority or relationships you do not have. Communicating challenges allows your manager to help solve the problem before it drags on for a long period of time.

The second reason to inform your boss of challenges is to make sure they understand what could prevent you from delivering optimal results. Ensuring that your boss knows the degree of difficulty you experience is a critical part of managing up. Without that context, your manager may unfairly judge your performance to be unsatisfactory. The key to presenting any challenge or roadblock to your manager is to do so with a solutions-oriented approach. You may solicit recommendations from them, but you might also think about providing your own recommendations for how to clear the roadblock.

Progress on Major Projects or Initiatives
As you manage up, remember that your boss also needs to manage up. Equipping your manager with the information they need to effectively communicate with their managers or peers should be a part of your managing-up strategy. Your boss needs to understand the progress you are making on major work projects or initiatives, so they can communicate that progress to other stakeholders in the organization. By regularly communicating progress on major projects, you proactively hold yourself accountable to the timelines and milestones you set for yourself. You also provide your boss the opportunity to provide input and to support what you are doing.

As you can imagine, managing up effectively requires that you find ways to appropriately inform your manager of your accomplishments. Many people struggle to walk the balance between keeping their managers informed of successes in the workplace and coming across as overly pompous or arrogant. While nobody wants to be seen as overly arrogant, you might think about how being a little loud and proud about your accomplishments might positively impact your career and your relationship with your manager. So much of the narrative that is built about you in your organization comes down to anecdotes. Other people form opinions about you based upon a few meaningful stories. You can gain experience by overcoming obstacles and accomplishing great things, but you can’t build your reputation unless other people know about those accomplishments.

Sharing anecdotes about the things you accomplish will help build your brand with your supervisor and with others in the organization. Informing your manager of your accomplishments provides them with positive anecdotes about you that can be shared with other people in the organization. You cannot manage up effectively without regularly informing your manager about your accomplishments.

The perceptions of critical stakeholders around you have significant impact on your ability to succeed. One of your most important stakeholders is your manager. You can significantly improve your manager’s perception of you by effectively managing up. You can manage up most effectively when you consistently communicate the right things to your supervisor at the right time. Create a regular process for yourself to keep your supervisor informed and appropriately involved. Managing up will improve your managers perceptions about you, and it will help you move your career forward.


Emojis At Work Are Fine If Used Properly

Emojis At Work Are Fine If Used Properly [poll results]
HR Bartender graph showing poll results of is it okay to use emojis in business communications
A few weeks ago, I asked for your thoughts on using emojis in work-related communications. It was just an informal poll. And the outcome was pretty one sided. You’ll see by the chart above, that emojis are fine. But there is a caveat: Emojis are fine if you use them properly.

I’m going to define properly as three things.

We know our audience. Fast Company just published an article about the collaboration platform Slack offering a new emoji pack that includes bunny slippers and a Dali-esque melting clock. Personally, I love them. But I could see how someone else might find them a little too cheeky for work. Just like email, tone doesn’t always come across with an emoji, so it’s important to understand how the recipient will receive it.

The emoji being used is pretty well-defined. For example, we know what the “happy” emoji looks like 😀. And we know what the “I’m cold” emoji looks like 🥶. There are some emojis with a definition that may vary. I’ve seen more than one definition for the “palms together” emoji 🙏. And there seems to be some question about how to communicate “laugh out loud” (aka LOL) via emoji.

We recognize that the overuse of emojis could become annoying. A single emoji to acknowledge that you’ve read something is great. Or a couple of emojis to signal happiness, as in 🧁🍸🎈 to celebrate someone’s birthday or promotion might be awesome. But emojis are not a substitute for real communications.

So, if you’re using emojis – please feel free to keep it up. But do take a moment to ask yourself, “Am I sure that I’m sending the right message?” And if you’re not using emojis, consider dropping one in occasionally. It might help you grow engagement as you make your point.

Source :–poll-results-&