You’re complacent and that’s why your engagement sucks

Employee engagement is endlessly chatted about; as a HR professional I find myself in a constant chatter about how we can “move the dial” on employee engagement results. How do we get people to “live the values” and feel connected to their work. Then come the ideas about wellness and team building – activities HR can roll out in the hopes of making people feel better about their work.

But this is only one of the many components and until we get that then we are going to go in circles. Engagement comes in three parts and it’s the third part that for the most part we can all say, we arn’t so great at..


You need to pay people accurately, administer their entitlements and keep them safe. If you don’t do this (or have some focus on improving these areas) then what the hell are you doing.. Seriously, why are you in business?


You need to give people a sense of shared purpose and connection – not because HR said so, but because let’s get real people like to know what the heck they are doing and why

Teams need to get along, understand what they are doing and why it is important. You need to hire the right people, have sound people and task managers (note I mention ‘sound’ you don’t need the worlds best leaders, just people who arn’t evil and want to be good at their job).


Okay, this is where we become unstuck. This is about the one-on-one interactions with team members by managers. These interactions are more that task driven directions, it’s about reverse engineering motivations to get what you need out of that person. This isn’t soft and fluffy. This is legit – if you know what someone wants, what they value you will get more out of them.

If Sally has 5 kids and it means a lot to her to be able to leave at 4.30pm during the holidays and you make that happen for her, then you have won the type of loyalty money can’t buy. You provide her with the benefit and then you engineer to get something in return, maybe it’s discretionary effort on a project.

If Jenny is just motivated to grind away and get a promotion, then early finishes don’t mean anything to her, she wants coaching and stretch assignments – so you get her to help you on a project you are stretched to complete.

You’ve got to know what people actually want. Often it’s not things, it’s an experience. It’s cheap as chips, but it takes time and attention and that’s what we don’t have enough of.

How do we get managers to give it time and attention?

Senior managers, HR whoever it is for you need to engineer a workplace where it is natural for the time and attention to be spent in that way. That’s pretty broad, but an example is roping it into a performance review / management framework. You can’t guarantee  that they are going to execute, but you have created the attention and time for it to take place, so you are halfway there.

How do I get managers to reverse engineer motivation?

Ask you managers to go on a treasure hunt. Over a month or two they need to find what motivates each employee (that directly reports to them) within their team. Then phase two is workshopping how they can use that to their advantage. It’s not overly complicated, but it requires time and attention, the two things we are really short on these days.

What about my corporate wellness program?

Nothing wrong with that, it’s a tool, a branding opportunity, seeing how common it is, it’s almost a hygiene factor these days – we expect it. Discounted health insurance and memberships show you ‘care’ enough to have them, but not all people get a kick out of it, it’s not an individual you get me program. So don’t toss it, you need it, it’s just not going to solve anything overnight.


The below diagram sums up my feelings on the topic at midnight last night. 



The Rise of the Learning Ecosystem!

Last week I participated in an awesome Tweet Chat facilitated by @ozlearn, where I got the opportunity to introduce myself to new ideas (and new people) regarding Learning Ecosystems.

What’s a Learning Ecosystem?

Well that’s something that the chat couldn’t really agree on….


I can’t help but think that a Learning Ecosystem really sums up the discussion at the moment regarding the future of L&D. The move to the facilitating the learning community and not the ownership!


It appears to be a mix of everything! Creating an environment and system of sharing and collaboration, giving “power to the people” to create their own learning experience.

Is this a new idea?


Pretty much everything would come to a standstill if we didn’t have a Learning Ecosystem. At its core it’s about sharing knowledge, transferring skills and developing others, formally and informally – that’s not business specific that’s origin of civilisation specific! So the question is not whether it exists, it’s how do we improve it and grow it it’s something amazing within the workplace.

What does it all mean?


I almost started this sentence with “time to start thinking”. No, what I need is a plan. I am making a plan about how we bring this to life (with a particular interest in retail). I had started this activity a few weeks ago using this gem of an article by Jane Hart as a starting point to map activities. What’s steps are you taking – write a blog and share it with the community !! I’d love to read it, after all sharing is all part of the Learning Ecosystem.



Special thanks to those mentioned in the post for contributing to my learning journey and to all the awesome participants of the Tweet Chat!

Quick thoughts on the TAE

This week I have been completing my TAE (Certificate IV in Training and Assessment). The mix of students includes mostly technical specialists who will be involved with training others in the workplace. I have had some considerable conflicts with the content and that was to be expected because I have experience and have been exposed to some really great thinkers in the workplace learning space. However most people in that room will not get that experience and as a result will go on to think of themselves as trainers, not facilitators who tell people what they should know, not facilitators for understanding.

One personal opinion of the trainer was that she doesn’t like online learning. Okay I can understand that – and there were nods around the room from people who felt the same. The problem with online learning is that term itself is so broad and online learning has been done poorly in many circumstances! I like online learning in the right circumstance. I have had some awesome MOOC, video tutorial, discussion board and social media platform learning experiences. But that wasn’t explored in this course, it’s outside the scope but we have 1000’s of people completing the qualification each year who don’t understand that online learning is a critical part of the new world of work and ignoring it, saying you don’t believe it works without seeing what good looks like is a massive gap in the skills of our workplace learning facilitators.

The TAE is the baseline qualification for people wanting to be “qualified” in designing and delivering competency based training in Australia because it links to understanding how our Vocational Education and Training system works. So it does have it’s place. But I question whether it really prepares people to truly support an engaging and dynamic learning experience at work, maybe the qualification isn’t about that, but shouldn’t it be part of it?

SME’s turned expert facilitators

Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) do not always make the greatest facilitators, at least at first. Often they make the mistake of assuming the learners know what they are talking about, or they might have little confidence and knowhow when it comes to public speaking let alone facilitating! Today I attended a training course where I watched people who were not career facilitators, trainers or L&D folk give some pretty nifty presentations on the fly.

We were tasked to facilitate a short presentation on a random topic and were given with very limited time to prepare. I watched people with varying degrees of confidence present topic and connect with us as participants in different ways. Everyone has their own unique style of facilitating and great facilitators vary their style depending on the situation; however this activity allowed us to see what ‘felt natural’ to each person. I can summarise what I saw into the following:

  • The energy champion – they work the room, use the space, hand gestures are plenty and they are animated in their delivery.
  • The structured consultant – they are very logical, have a clear sequence and don’t like to divert from the plan.
  • The group therapist – great at reflecting back what participants are saying, reading between the lines and capturing the message.
  • The presenter – delivers the content but finds it difficult to know how to engage the participants.

So obviously my observations aren’t based on science, but it does raise the question about how we get our SME’s ready to facilitate. I see this as a five step process.

  1. Understanding your style
  2. Understanding other styles
  3. Capitalising on your strengths
  4. Learning how to shake it up
  5. Mastering participant connection

The activity we did today was so valuable to my learning. I fall into the first category – it’s my natural style to be animated when it comes to delivering training to a group. But today helped me to really evaluate other styles in a really short space of time. Even though I am across personality and behavioural styles , sessions like this give quick feedback and proactive reminder about style and the ability to flex in and out and think on your feet.

So next time you are preparing your SME for success have a think about the ways you can help them master their personal style, maintain authenticity and connect with the participants all at the same time.

Accredited training programs, why do we use them?

Have you ever wondered why organisations want to have training programs? If you answered ‘no’ you are in the same camp as me because I feel it’s all pretty obvious right? You want to increase the skills of your employees, get your slice of government incentives, build your workforce, build your brand… the list goes on.

Recently an article was published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources  with the fancy title of “Modelling the reasons for the use of vocational training in Australian enterprises”. The modelling was based on a 2005 survey of employers by the National Centre for Vocation Education Research, Australia (the article didn’t cite how many employers were surveyed). The reason for the research was due to a lack of explicit research in the area, which I guess perhaps is true….

Okay, I’ll bite, maybe this article will teach me something new….

*15 mins later after reading*

The article didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already believe to be true, or that I hadn’t read on other VET education blogs. It really confirms the complexity of the reasons why organisations choose to deliver accredited training programs. A couple of the key reminders for me included:

Reminder 1: Connection

The article talked about how employees who are completing accredited training are seen as completing something outside of the organisation and not directly linked to the strategy of the business.  I’ve actually been really impressed recently when talking to RTO’s about their real desire to partner and offer something that isn’t a walk in, walk out service – it’s like insourcing your L&D department now.

Reminder 2: Remember the Why

The article highlighted the trend that the more skilled your workforce the more likely you are to shy away from needing an Accredited Training Program with the exception of industries and roles that are driven by mandatory certifications and training. I agree and disagree at the same time. I think it’s dependant on your Why, why do you want to have an Accredited Training Program? Accredited Training is awesome for building a structure, keeping your eye on what matters and capitalising on funding that you can reinvest into your people. I think that reasoning with that trend without looking at other factors kind of gives Vocational Training a bad name. It’s all in the execution and being clear on why you are having the program in the first place.

In other news the article did cite a fun fact from research carried out in the mid 1990’s:

…enterprises reported that training needs were increasingly fragmented to the individual level and that they were progressively abandoning the traditional approach to training programs that saw large groups of employees receive the same training regardless of individual need…

This observation was from the MID 1990’s – 10 years ago people – and we are still having this same discussion about the need for L&D structures to catch up and join us here in the present day.

If you want to read full article check out the reference below.

Smith, A. and Oczkowski, E. (2014), Modelling the reasons for the use of vocational training in Australian enterprises. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources. doi: 10.1111/1744-7941.120