SHRM18, Training

How to Build a High Performing Global Workforce: A Q&A Charles Jennings

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.


Facilitator, Formal learning, Training

Learning Event Measurement for Non-L&D Folk

A quick 5 in 5 on why we should be measuring learning events in the workplace!


1. Why should I be measuring learning ?

It’s important to measure learning events so you can ensure that your intended outcomes translate into behaviour change or action within the workplace.

Evaluating training, seminars, workshops or events that you have put time into developing is important so you can:

  • Find out if your learning event had the intended outcome
  • If your learners didn’t get the required outcomes from the event, you can find out if there’s anything you need to follow up on (e.g. extra resources, follow up training etc.)
  • Reflect on what went well and could be improved next time to help you embed continuous learning to how you develop your people.


2. What do you mean by ‘learning event’?

If you have developed/delivered a training/event/workshop/seminar for staff or volunteers. This might be as simple as a two-hour face to face training session or a series of workshops or experiences that build into a ‘program’.


3. What if I think I need more comprehensive measurement?

You might do! If you’re doing a large scale project/change/series of events I would recommend a more detailed approach to measurement than a standard event follow up survey.

For example in some situations it may make sense to test your learner’s knowledge of the topic prior to the learning event/s so you can ask the same questions after and see the impact of your approach.

Alternatively in some situations it may make sense to survey both the learner and their manager to discuss change of behaviour from both perspectives.

A word of warning though – you don’t want to disengage your stakeholders through asking too much of them!


4. How do I measure?

You want to be careful that you’re measuring with a purpose – so don’t ask anything of your learners that isn’t going to feed in to constructive analysis afterwards.

Check out this great basic analysis on Kirkpatrick’s four-level evaluation model from Mind Tools.

This PDF of possible training questions is a good start – but it leans towards the old-school ‘happy sheet’ model where impact on, and change to, behaviour isn’t measured.

I recommend choosing a couple of questions around the experience of the learning event and then focusing most of your questions on what impact your learning event had on your main objective. This might be something like ‘increasing amount of time customer service staff spend making potential customers feel welcome in store prior to engaging in sales’, or ‘sharing personal personality testing results to enable constructive conflict to happen within our team’.

Once you’ve defined your primary objective it should be much easier to build a couple of questions around assessing the impact of your learning event on changing behaviour in this space.


5. What tools can I use?

Well you can go old school – forms at the end of the session. But for your convenience – as well as some additional analytics tools – I recommend using something like Survey Monkey to send out your survey electronically. It’s free to use and is a great starting point for  gathering data on your learning events.



Don’t Think Induction is Worth the Cash?

Everyone has to learn when they start with a new organisation or in a new role. There are policies and procedures, learning new systems, navigating new co-workers, managers and employees. There are the unwritten norms (yeah, the policy says you have to do a written request, but actually you need to speak nicely to the Admin Manager…) and don’t even get me started on the huge amount of compliance boxes that need to be ticked!

I’ve worked with organisations that have fantastic, well thought through programs, and ones that didn’t have ANYTHING (one guess as to which ones I’d refer colleagues to work for…). Its just not that hard. New hires are enthusiastic, they’re excited and they’re drinking the Kool Aid. Take advantage of it!

So with the huge amount that new hires need to learn when joining your organisation, and the knowledge that a poorly planned on-boarding/induction program dramatically increases the chances of your new hire moving on within the first 6 months, how much are you investing in your induction program?

Considering how costly it is to make a new hire, and the amount of time it takes for that new hire to get up to speed in a job, you lose considerable cash when replacing staff. So why is it that once the contract is signed and the employee turns up to their first day in the office so many organisations feel like their job is done? Sure they might get the hapless hire (let’s call him Harry) doing his new job in a muddling capacity… but how engaged is Harry going to be? How productive can we ever hope him to be? And if he’s not that well trained then are we even going to want him around in 12 months (and let’s face it, that’s if he stays).

For the vast majority of organisations, their people are their #1 expense. If you are already spending a high percentage of your turnover on your people, there are a couple of things that are important to remember;

  • Well trained people = productive people
  • Well trained people = loyal people
  • Productive + loyal people = higher outputs

A good induction program and ongoing learning and development for your people don’t need to cost the earth, what you do need is commitment from the top.

And the best time to start developing your people? Right at the get-go. Set them up to succeed. They will thank you for it (and so will your balance sheet).


Soft or Hard Skills?

This topic brings back flashes (mostly traumatic) of conversations with many managers over the years of why it was important to not just focus on one. Lets start with the basics:

What Soft & Hard Skills Are

Skills that involve emotional intelligence are often referred to as ‘soft’ – this could be anything from having performance management training, customer service or understanding the vision and mission of your organisation. Skills that involve technical competencies are then referred to as ‘hard’ – these are skills like how to operate machinery, use the intranet or meet health and safety compliance training needs.

To put it simply, both of these sets of skills are crucial for a functioning business; ‘hard’ skills because you need people who are technically capable of doing the job they were hired to do, and ‘soft’ skills because to have a effective business you need to have some form of structure and have people that are able to manage others.

Do Operations Focus on Hard Skills Too Much?

I often see organisations who promote really incredible operational/technical people into management because that is, in many instances, the only way to ‘move someone up’ the career ladder/reward them for hard work. We think: if Jared is great at his job and the team looks up to him why wouldn’t we promote him?

Well there a few reasons why
– Has Jared received any management training?
– Does Jared realise that a large part of any management role is looking after and developing their team rather than doing the specialist work themselves?
– How will Jared cope with becoming ‘the boss’ to people that were his peers?
– What development has Jared received in thinking about where he would like his career to go? Is this something he wants to do?

Now – I’m not saying don’t promote Jared. He may become an incredible manager. But often Jared is promoted and the soft skills, the skills that enable him to become a great manager, develop his people (and you know, avoid potential employment lawsuits) are undervalued.

This is why HR often seem to be ‘pushing’ soft skills training on the business. Its not because hard skills aren’t important, its because most operational managers often already spend a great deal of time in that area, sometimes leaving the ‘soft’/people skill development in their team underdeveloped.

So What To Do?

– What can you get for your budget? This will be dependant on things like if you are in a city where there are a lot of competing training providers, whether the training topic is expensive (the more specialist a skill is usually the more is charged by training providers), does the training have to be certified etc.
– Do you have access to internal trainers? These might not be fulltime trainers – they might just be staff who have a lot of experience with the topic
– Is formal training really the answer? Sometimes we go straight for formal training when there are lots of other ways we could address an issue: coaching with other staff, utilising free resources from the internet (check out for info on the 70:20:10 model), having a ‘Lunch & Learn’ (where you have an informal training/experience sharing session with a provided lunch) etc. 

There is no easy answer here – both hard and soft skills are important, although I would argue that both are equally important to your bottom line. Consider conducting a TNA (training needs analysis) to prioritise your teams needs, and remember that not everything requires plonking someone in a training course – informal coaching can make a world of difference.