Are you listening?

“How can learning leaders partner with specific line of business peers to ensure learning efforts gel with top line strategic concerns and drive organizational change?”

That’s the question I encountered today. And the answer, in a word, is listening.

Okay, it’s not quite that simple. It’s critical for learning and development efforts to be aligned with the mission of the organization. Therefore it’s incumbent on the L&D professional to know the mission and strategy of the organization to best be positioned to support it. Otherwise we’re just guessing.

And the best way I know to ensure that our L&D efforts are in sync with the organization’s needs is to meet with my peers, the senior and strategic leaders of the organization, and find out what their most pressing needs are. Find out what skills they envision their staff will need to meet the demands of the future. Find out what competency gaps are most crucial to address and then craft a plan, again working with the line leadership, to meet those needs.

Just throwing training at staff is a waste of time and money if it isn’t giving staff the skills they need to succeed both today and in the future. May my training brethren forgive me, but training is not always the answer. If we’ve identified a deficit of knowledge, train them. But if we determine that they know how to do the job but for one reason or other they aren’t doing the job, then manage them.

I know lots of L&D professionals out there who’ve had managers come to them saying, “My staff person needs training on [fill in the blank].” And then we dutifully identify the best, most cost effective training, send the staff person to it and nothing changes! Because they already knew how to do the job. It was easier for the manager to blame the lack of performance on a training need than to actually manage the person. And then when there is no improvement post-training, well it must be L&D’s fault for having sent them to the wrong workshop. Manager is off the hook and L&D is to blame.

But the bottom line is, the work still isn’t getting done.

The best way to ensure that learning is aligned with the strategic needs of the organization is to meet with your line peers, listen to them, offer your professional advice, and then take the appropriate steps to see that the work gets done. And that does not always mean training.

Are your managers smarter than a 5th grader?

Mrs. Neuman, our teacher, stood at the front of the class. It was late May in fifth grade, and she told us that she’d been asked to submit suggestions for next year’s Safety Squad.  When you’re in elementary school there is no higher honor than being on the Safety Squad. It’s practically like being a cop. You get respect, you get recognition, you get a badge, you have power. You can actually give kids demerits. For running in the playground, for talking during line-up, for teasing, for fighting. Face it, the safety squad boys (only boys, this was the 1960’s) were cool.


Then Mrs. Neuman said something I’ll never forget.

“Every year when I make this announcement I notice that lots of you boys start sitting up straighter, paying more attention in class, keeping your fingernails cleaner. ” Now she was walking up and down the aisles stopping next to some of our desks. “but I’ve been watching you boys all year long to see how you’ve behaved.” She was standing next to my desk now. “I’ve already got a pretty good idea of who would make good monitors.” She started walking again. “And it’s not very likely that you’re going to sway my recommendation by behaving well for a few days at decision time. It’s how you behave all year long that matters.”

It’s how you behave all year long that matters. Or in workplace parlance, it’s how you perform all year long.

Some employees suffer from Santa Claus Syndrome. In the same way that children can behave for the 30 or so days between Thanksgiving and Christmas in order to ensure they get all the presents they want, when employees realize that performance appraisal time has rolled around again they start showing up on time, completing their homework, I mean assignments, and keeping their fingernails, I mean cubicles, cleaner. If their managers have been doing their job all year long, then, as Mrs. Neuman said, this will not sway the manager’s opinion.

But do your managers evaluate performance all year long? Do they manage the staff by setting objectives, giving feedback and looking for improvement? Or do they start paying more attention to their employees’ performance at the end of the year when they realize they’re going to have to craft a performance appraisal?

What I’ve discovered is that in today’s leaner, flatter workplace, managers often feel they don’t have the time to do all that’s entailed in being able to craft a thorough, comprehensive evaluation at the end of the year. As a result, they fall victim to the employee who sits up straighter and holds it together for the last three or four weeks of the performance cycle.

Aren’t these managers smarter than a 5th grader?

Lieutenant’s Badge.
I was second in command of the squad.

An HR Professional’s Guide to Quitting

Neil Sedaka said it and it’s true of jobs as well as relationships. After finding a job, leaving one on good terms is one of the hardest things for people to do. I’ve helped scores of people find new jobs. Usually these people are unemployed but sometimes they’re switching jobs, and usually from one they hate. As a result, the break-up must occur. Here are a few answers to questions I’ve received about how to make a graceful exit.

Is there a best day to resign?
Some would say any day you quit a job you hate is your best day, but here the writer was referring to day of the week. The most common days are Mondays and Fridays. Usually this is linked to when you need to start your new job. Most jobs want you to start on a Monday so people give notice two weeks before that. Others choose to resign on aFriday to start the celebration. There is no good day for your employer, just be sure to give enough notice. Choose the day that works best for your new job.

What’s the best way to resign?
Verbally? In writing? Should I speak with HR first or my boss?

Speak to your boss first, and then go directly to HR. Have a copy of your resignation letter to give to each. HR will need lots of information from you, including a copy of your letter, and managers, in my experience, don’t always get the info/paperwork to HR in a timely manner. The letter should not discuss the reason for leaving or make any apologies. It does need to be clear as to your last day with the company and a cordial thank you for the opportunity of having worked there, even if it was hell. Don’t burn bridges.

How candid can I be during my exit interview?
Assuming that the exit will be with HR, not your boss, be honest and factual. If you’re leaving because of anything illegal or unethical, you have a responsibility to your co-workers to advise HR. Do not get into character assassination of your boss or you will lose credibility. If your reason for leaving is your boss, his management style, or nasty disposition,you can tell them this, but be prepared to back it up with specific examples. And be ready to answer the question, “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” I would not advise sharing this with your boss, of course. He can still make your life even more miserable.

Do I have to give two weeks’ notice?
Yes, unless it is absolutely impossible. Be a professional. Give more if you can and if you have a good relationship with your soon-to-be-ex. The only reason to forgo the two weeks is if it would jeopardize your new position. But if your new employer is leaning on you so heavily to treat your former employer shabbily, why are you going there? Relocation is another reason that could suffice. There can be other exceptions to the two week rule based on industry (security professionals, IT, etc.)

Is it OK to keep in touch with my ex-co-workers/bosses, and if so, what’s the best way?
This is an absolute “It depends” question. People often stay in touch with ex-co-workers, less frequently with ex-bosses. Work friendships can be very strong and the occasional lunch, drinks or phone call is fine. Don’t be surprised though if the friendship wanes once you no longer have a common bond. Be careful not to gloat if you’re the one who’s escaped from the seventh circle of hell, and recognize that many employers are concerned about poaching. Certainly connecting on Facebook or LinkedIn, if you haven’t done so already, is acceptable and common. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile.

Here are a few other things you can do to make the parting go smoothly.
– The farewell celebration on the last day is common. But word of your leaving becomes common knowledge well in advance of your last day. Consider bringing in doughnuts, pastries, cookies or fruit perhaps a week before your last day as a “thank you” to all your co-workers. This will make the separation easier. You want to make sure you leave good memories.
– Make sure all your projects are in good shape and be sure to meet with whomever will be taking them on after you’re gone to pass on the unwritten knowledge about the project or client. In some cases you may even visit a client with your successor to make for a seamless transition.
– After you’ve spoken with your boss and HR, touch base with the people with whom you’ve worked most closely so they hear it from you, not through the grapevine.
– Don’t wait until your last day to pack up your personal belongings. Spend a little of each day working on this as it will take longer than you think, and your last day will be a whirlwind of activity and emotions, whether it is finishing up projects, or being interrupted by people stopping by to wish you well. The last thing you want is to have to stay late on your last day to pack. Plus, then you’ll be late getting to the bar where everyone will want to buy you drinks!