Charles Jennings

Charles Jennings is a co-founder of the 70:20:10 Institute and is widely renowned as one of the premier experts on building and implementing 70:20:10 and organizational performance strategies.

For those who have heard the ‘70:20:10 model’ referenced, it’s a learning model that describes the optimal sources of learning to be 70% on the job, 20% from interactions with others an 10% from formal education/events – a well understood core component of many learning and development approaches the world over.

I had the pleasure of meeting Charles when we were on a PSK Performance Fishbowl panel together in Melbourne – to have the opportunity to hear him speak on how to build a high-performing global workforce is absolutely unmissable. To see Charles speak in Chicago at SHRM18 is a must for any HR professional who wants to deliver effective, evidence-based people solutions, on a global scale.

After a 40-year career focusing on how to help people “just do their jobs better’, Charles has a wealth of experience and notes that he’s seen a real sea change in how people view organisational learning over the past 15 years.  He says that we’ve have “moved from a world where learning and ‘doing’ were separate. In the past the focus was exclusively on ‘learning to do’ rather than also focusing on ‘learning from doing’… So, one of my key motivators is to help HR and L&D professionals navigate their way out of the straightjacket of formal learning.”

Who has influenced your understanding of learning in the workplace the most?

Many people have influenced me over the years.  To name just a few:

Jay Cross, whose book ‘Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance’ was a ground-breaking insight into the art of the possible for workplace learning. It should be required reading for every HR and L&D professional.

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton, whose 1999 book ‘The Knowing-Doing Gap’ exposed the fallacy of knowledge-based training as a universal solution to today’s problems.

Gloria Gery, whose 1991 seminal book ‘Electronic Performance Support Systems’ is another one that should be required reading for every L&D professional when they start out on their career. Gloria opened eyes to the practical ways (which are usually more efficient and effective than training) to help people ‘do their jobs better’.

Additionally, I’ve been influenced by many conversations I’ve had over the years, and many articles and books I’ve read.  Thinkers and practitioners such as Roger Schank, Marcia Conner, Ellen Langer, Charles Handy, Joseph Stiglitz, Harold Jarche, Jos Arets and others have all helped my own understanding that learning is a natural process that occurs mostly in the daily flow of work, and that learning alone is not a destination, but a journey with waypoints to higher performance.

Where have you seen a high performing workforce be most improved?

At the 70:20:10 Institute we have worked with organisations that have demonstrated huge organisational performance improvements.  Friesland Campina, the world’s largest diary co-operative, is one example. By implementing our 70:20:10 methodology, just one project at Friesland Campina delivered a saving of EURO 248,000 for a EURO 1,000 input plus some work from the L&D team. This won the Gold Award at the 2018 Learning Technologies awards. Friesland Campina also reports that more than 90 percent of training demands are now re-directed to other solutions which deliver greater impact.

There are many other examples of improved organisational performance across all types of enterprise – government departments, hi-tech, energy companies and large financial institutions – by re-focusing on learning beyond the classroom and eLearning module.

Do you think what they’ve created is transferable?

Absolutely. They are transferable. No two organisations are identical, which is why I find the cry for ‘best practice’ a futile one, but we can learn ‘good practice’ from other organisations and then mould it for our own needs.

The research analysts Bersin by Deloitte and others have reported that organisations with strong informal (workplace) learning capabilities are 300 percent more likely to excel at global talent development than organisations without those capabilities.

The Corporate Leadership Council (now part of Gartner) reported a study across a number of organisations that showed an increase in employee engagement of more than 250 percent and an increase in employee performance of 300 percent where people engaged in learning activities ‘integrated into manager and employee workflow’.

In other words where people focused on learning from their daily work and sharing their learning with colleagues rather than just relying on training to build capability.

What do you see HR practitioners most often get wrong when it comes to understanding learning in the workplace?

The most common mistake I see HR practitioners maintaining a ‘command and control’ mindset. In the past when we focused almost exclusively on formal training and development, it was possible to control and manage all the activities that we designed to improve learning. In the new world where we also need to support and encourage workplace learning that’s simply not possible.

The question I am asked frequently is “how can we be sure people are learning the ‘right’ things’ if we add support for workplace learning to our job?”.  The answer to this is that adults learn best through experience, practice, conversations and networks and reflection, and that if we try to control those processes we’re likely not only to stifle effective workplace learning, but to create a culture where self-empowerment will shrivel and people will expect learning to be ‘done to them’.  That’s an environment that sounds a death knell for innovation and agility. It’s also a death knell for capturing and sharing exemplary performance across our organisations.

We also often leave measurement metrics until last.

The metrics HR professionals should be looking at are their stakeholder metrics. These are often gathered as a matter of course in the daily business workflow. If you want to understand if some interventions and solutions HR has co-developed with your customer support team, use the CSAT (customer satisfaction) data that your stakeholder will surely be gathering.

What are you hoping to get out of the #SHRM18 conference?

As with all large conferences I have attended over the years, I’m looking to meet new people and learn as much as I can from them.

At SHRM18, I’m looking forward to hearing some great stories about successes and lessons that have been learned.  We learn as much, if not more, from our failures as we do from our successes.

I’m also looking forward to hearing how the wider HR community at SHRM18 is approaching the challenges of helping to build resilient, high performing workforces through exploiting the principles behind the 70:20:10 approach –  supporting learning from working, learning from others and learning from high-quality structured training and development.

 

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