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  • Wednesday, February 17, 2021 7:32 PM | Angela Dawson (Administrator)

    This was originally published on Forbes

    By Ron Zamir

    Are you suffering from Zoom fatigue? Maybe it’s even gotten to the point that you dread the next Microsoft Teams meeting popping up on your schedule. For many of us, it will come as no surprise that the rapid and enthusiastic transition to virtual work — with seemingly endless rounds of videoconferences, virtual chats, presentations and instant messages — has overloaded our attention span for digital learning.

    The move from the classroom to the virtual meeting space has become the norm within corporate training. There’s also been an increase in available technology that enables videoconferencing and mobile interactions. As a result, many organizations are taking another look at the way they do things. However, at AllenComm, a corporate training solutions company, we’re seeing that the danger in this rapid transition is that organizations are forgetting the reason they’re training and degrading the learning experience in the process.

    The Power Of Instructor-Led Training (ILT)

    In-person training is still one of the most common training modalities across topic areas. Besides the tradition of instructor-led lecture formats in higher education, there are several unique components of ILT that make it successful as a training modality. The most notable of those include the collaborative nature of social learning, immediate personalized feedback and experiential learning. Unfortunately, all these can be difficult to reproduce in a virtual environment.

    Transforming Your Training Content

    There are several approaches to transforming your training into a new digital learning modality. On one end of the spectrum, there is the conversion of ILT into a virtual lecture format: virtual instructor-led training. On the other hand, a training consultant can redesign the learning experience, assets and modalities to reflect the challenges of performance gaps and the new virtual environment. It’s in the latter of these two cases in which you can maintain the benefits of ILT activities and assets.

    Challenges For Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT)

    Though it may be the easier learning solution to implement, VILT can be the wrong choice for your training. Transforming ILT content into a virtual lecture causes many of the benefits of ILT to be lost because of the limitations of technology.

    Research into digital learning has found that students have better recall when reading on paper compared to reading on a screen. Essentially, using technology for learning can affect learning outcomes. In the case of VILT, many of the challenges are based on the loss of social engagement. Learners can’t easily interact with peers in social cohorts, which has been shown to improve learning outcomes through mirroring and modeling. Moreover, many platforms can’t easily replicate real-time feedback or experiential learning.

    Learners may also suffer from fatigue as training delivery efforts mesh into the noise of day-to-day work interactions. Research by Robert Half found that 38% of workers have experienced video call fatigue in 2020. Consequentially, many organizations I’m familiar with have seen a decrease in motivation for learners to attend VILT and video training, and that’s a problem we can’t ignore.

    A Better Approach To ILT Redesign

    The better approach to transforming your ILT content into digital learning activities is usually a redesign that addresses the employees’ new environment. As your training environment changes, so do the respective benefits and challenges of a specific modality. Your redesign should be a learning solution with the optimal blend of VILT, web-based training and experiential learning targeted at the unique needs of your learners.

    Although it may be tempting, don’t skip steps in the process because of an urgency to deliver training. Start with an analysis to determine the performance gaps and challenges that need to be addressed through remote learning. As with any training initiative, an ILT redesign should be a strategic effort that drives employees closer to an underlying business goal. It is best to construct the training design methods around these objectives and your available training technology to create the best remote learning experience.

    Learning and development consultants have more power in their hands than ever before. For that reason, digital learning assets should go well beyond the limited experience that is VILT. For example, it is possible to make use of engaging digital assets for activities before and after training to avoid overuse of VILT and cut through the noise of day-to-day virtual meetings.

    The Training Delivery Experience

    To take a lesson from marketing theory, it’s evident that organizations need to create a complete learning experience with finesse, rather than zero in on the production of a single event or class. Training must engage the employee throughout the experience for the learning to stand out. Many of our customers are investing in learning experience platforms or employee learning portals to share and recommend training content. However, for the material to be interactive, we need to encourage the use of technology platforms that promote collaboration and sharing across the organization.

    Many of the skills learned in ILT modalities can be developed with a bit of training technology. For example, simulations made with interactive videos or 3D models can promote the same mirroring, modeling and repetition that enable social learning. PDF documents can be made interactive, and other company communication systems such as chat and email can be used to promote collaboration and learning engagement.


    Though it might seem simple to transform your ILT content into a VILT modality, taking that approach would be detrimental to your employees' learning outcomes. The apparent ease of VILT content conversion is outweighed by the challenges associated with VILT platforms, employee motivation and employee engagement. Instead, it is important to differentiate the learning experience from the overall virtual communication mediums.

    Successful outcomes from a content conversion are most often generated when you approach your training with a strategic redesign in mind. By first assessing the unique needs of the remote learner and then building a learning experience around specific performance goals, you can ensure your employees are better equipped to be successful.

  • Monday, January 11, 2021 1:59 PM | Angela Dawson (Administrator)

    This Spotlight is brought to us by Jonathan Thomas from AllenComm.

    The Global Impact of Mental Illness 

    While the last decade has seen progress with mental health awareness, the impact of common disorders still has a far-reaching impact. The World Health Organization reports that between 76% and 85% of people in low/middle income countries receive no treatment for their disorder(s)1. Moreover, research by Penn State found poor mental health to be one of the costliest forms of sickness for US workers. The global economic cost of mental illness is expected to be more than $16 Trillion over the next 20 years2. What these figures don’t account for, however, is the toll that mental health challenges have on individuals. While it is important to consider mental health on a global scale, we must also consider our friends, families, businesses, communities, and how precisely to care for those impacted. 

    Wellness and the Workplace 

    A report by the World Health Organization outlines the common consequences of mental health challenges, and many of them center around the workplace. For instance, absenteeism, workplace performance, attitudes, and relationships all suffer. There is also a higher rate of unemployment among those with mental illness. Though it may come as a surprise, reemployment has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of promoting mental health within this population. So, governing bodies will need to address the role employment, or an employer can play in promoting mental health. 

    Most organizations have some form of employee wellness program in place, though they can be quite varied in their scope. Many programs focus on physical health, offering incentives to achieving clinical benchmarks around blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, and smoking cessation. Understanding the impact mental health has on workplace performance, these physical health models are missing a vital component. Psychological wellness initiatives, on the other hand, are less common. Corporate mental health advocacy tends to be limited to extended mental health benefits.  

    Unfortunately, people often choose not to seek treatment even when they have access to mental health services. Several studies have linked these infrequent treatment-seeking behaviors to a stigma associated with mental illness, which leads to negative attitudes about treatment, and deters individuals who need mental health services3. It certainly doesn’t help that operational changes among mental health practices – a result of COVID-19 – have limited the ability of many to continue their usual services. In that sense, mental health services have been navigating a challenge well-known to those of us in the corporate training space: how to provide products/services in a virtual environment and/or following frequently changing guidelines.  

    Leadership Development Solutions to Promote Wellbeing 

    There is an important, though often overlooked, role organizational leaders can play in promoting the psychological wellbeing of employees. First, they need to be equipped with the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to be advocates and facilitators. For instance, leaders must be able to recognize the signs of anxiety and depression in the workplace. Well-developed interpersonal skills (e.g., active listening, empathy, providing feedback, etc.,) are also critical for leaders when approaching their employees as advocates. Most importantly, leaders must have the knowledge about relevant services their employees can pursue – whether through internal employee wellness programs, company health benefits, or community resources. 

    The Role of Corporate Training in Mental Health Advocacy 

    Of course, organizational leaders can’t offer much direct support for their employees’ mental health challenges. Instructional designers certainly can’t do much either. That would be well outside of their scope of practice, but corporate training teams can be advocates in a different way. For instance, projects like converting the wealth of online educational resources to digital learning formats for the company, designing training videos to reshape stigma around mental illness, or creating custom eLearning activities around stress mitigation would go a long way in most cases. However, it is best to start with a company-wide survey to determine the biggest challenges for employees, and prioritize a few key risk areas (e.g., stress reduction, negative thinking, burnout, etc.) Equipped with best practices in instructional design, performance consulting, and training technology, employee development teams can target motivational factors, build knowledge, and shape behaviors around mental health awareness, advocacy, and treatment seeking.  

    Building a World that Works Better 

    Mental illness isn’t a challenge that we can overcome with training alone. There will certainly be limitations to the impact corporations and their leaders can have on their employees; however, each seemingly small step taken can make bounds of difference in the lives of individual. Even in the case that organizations can’t reshape treatment seeking behaviors or provide more mental health services through company benefits, the effort shown in communicating awareness and advocacy does matter. Research suggests that simply showing care can help to buffer people against stress, increase positive emotions, and promote resilience.  

    So, as we close out the year by celebrating our cherished holidays, consider what you can do – as an individual or organization – to support and care for your friends, family, businesses, and community.  


    1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression 
    2. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression 
    3. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression 

  • Wednesday, December 09, 2020 2:57 PM | Angela Dawson (Administrator)

    Thank you to Abby Christensen for submitting our December Spotlight Blog post!

    How Learning Bursts Support Attention and Memory

    Decades of research into cognitive and educational psychology have taught us quite a bit about the mechanisms driving employee training and development. It gives learning and development teams valuable insights into the types of microlearning activities that drive employee performance. Research shows that in the past two decades, the average human attention span has decreased by over four seconds. Our limited attention span leads to distraction and forgetfulness. Moreover, the amount of information the brain can encode or store from a single sitting is also reduced. Besides the convenience of condensed training content and shortened course time, this fact has certainly contributed to the increase in the use of learning bursts. Still, you have to use microlearning activities strategically to reap the benefits of this training modality to improve attention and memory.


    Though far from a corporate training company, the TED organization (host of TED Talks) offers educational materials in a virtual instructor-led training modality. Their content library features presentations from professionals that span nearly every topic, but each presentation is strictly limited to 18-minutes. But, why 18 minutes? Curator Chris Anderson says this amount of time is “short enough to hold people’s attention…and precise enough to be taken seriously. But it’s also long enough to say something that matters.” This should sound quite familiar to the content development strategies behind creating different types of microlearning activities. With too much information delivered in a single training, the risk of the learner encoding peripheral or irrelevant information increases.


    To combat the limitations of attention and memory, learning bursts are an invaluable training method. By focusing on delivering training content in a short amount of time, learning bursts meet the training content consumption needs of the average learner. But what is a learning burst exactly?

    Generally, any training content tailored to meet a learning objective in a short amount of time can be considered a learning burst. However, best practices in microlearning avoid merely chopping lengthy content, but rather emphasizes creating concise learning activities that focus in critical knowledge and behaviors. The final product should be a collection of intuitive and interactive bite-sized learning activities. Condensing training content to its most vital components enables employees to learn more quickly and apply that information immediately.

    Determining how much training content is “too much” can be a challenge, but insights from educational psychology offer a few hints. For instance, the mechanism in our brains that allows us to manipulate information in the moment, working memory, has some general limits. Only three to four pieces of information can be processed at one time, and it’s extremely susceptible to overload. That’s part of why learning bursts manage to have such an impact on learning outcomes. They reduce the cognitive overload by limiting the amount of novel information given to the learner at one time – focusing on primary learning objectives.


    Learning bursts can be very diverse in their delivery. Microlearning strategies typical utilize several training modalities. For example, gamification, video training, and motion graphics are all effective training modalities for delivering bite-sized learning. Whatever type of microlearning activity you’re designing, there are a few best practices to keep in mind.


    Learning bursts can be delivered in a variety of mediums and should not be limited to just short videos. Different modalities can be used to convey different learning objectives, so learning bursts should be tailored to the objective and the learner. Infographics, reading summaries, short podcasts, games, and interactive quizzes are all great ways to help the learner work towards gaining new knowledge.


    Having more condensed content can certainly help with engagement, but that will still depend heavily on the training activity design. Rather than passively receiving information, microlearning activities should prompt the learning to actively participate in the learning experience. Short interactive videos are a common low-tech training solution that many employee development teams are already implementing.


    Especially when custom microlearning activities are integrated into the flow of work, learning bursts enable more flexibility for the learner. The condensed format means employees take less time away from day-to-day business operations. Moreover, if you make your training content available as mobile learning or offline, then that gives employees the ability to access the material more easily and more often.

  • Monday, November 16, 2020 2:21 PM | Angela Dawson (Administrator)

    November's Spotlight is provided by Michelle Bodkin!

    We have heard it before; not everyone learns the same way. This can be a challenge when it comes to designing and developing corporate eLearning training, but incorporating multimodal training methods can solve that problem while also improving knowledge retention.

    Multi-modal learning takes into consideration the different ways people learn to stimulate better memory encoding and knowledge retention. This method has been used in traditional academic settings to stimulate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses in different combinations that work for each individual. However, it's also been applied in the corporate training sector through blended and hybrid learning modalities. The underlying theory is that more complex memories are easier to remember later. If an individual is presented with custom learning activities that target different memory types (semantic, procedural, emotional, etc.), then they become more engaged learners.

    Virtual Training Modalities

    Though recent changes in common employee training and development modalities have been accelerated, the shift in training methods has been shifting toward digital learning for the last several years. This presents an opportunity to expand upon the use of digital training modalities, but the sudden transition also presents some challenges for employee development teams that have been relying upon instructor-led training modalities.

    Creating Complex Learning Experiences

    Digital learning ecosystems present an opportunity for employee development teams to create more robust learning experiences with diverse training modalities. Most modern learning management systems can accommodate more than traditional text-based eLearning courses. For instance, the use of 3D models or AR/VR to recreate objects or environments has become increasingly common as a supplement to instructor-led training activities.

    Best practices in training design strategy recommend the careful combination of training assets to shape behaviors and form knowledge, but without being repetitive. Your training materials should be complementary in that each asset targets a different memory type or learning style in various combinations. For instance, you might use a 3D model of a medical device to introduce a learner to the process of using a new product, an infographic to emphasize technical specifications, and interactive video training simulations with branching scenarios to promote critical thinking around how to use the device in novel situations. While each activity centers around the subject, they approach it from different angles, contributing to a more in-depth understanding.

    Gamification as a Training Method

    One of the most effective ways to create a multi-modal learning experience is through serious games or gamification with custom eLearning activities. The complex nature of eLearning simulations can easily combine procedural, semantic, and episodic memories with motivating factors and emotional memories. Our gamification work with Lego, wherein learners navigate the operations of retail management and earn points based on their performance, offers a great example of using simulations to target procedural memory using visuospatial-based learning activities.


    There is enough variety in individual learning styles that a one-size-fits-all approach to corporate training programs simply doesn't make sense. Moreover, memory is a complex process. Using one training modality simply isn't as effective as a multi-modal training strategy. So, when you're designing (or redesigning) your next corporate training program, consider how different asset types can fit together within your digital learning ecosystem.

  • Tuesday, October 13, 2020 12:06 PM | Angela Dawson (Administrator)

    October's Spotlight is provided by Jonathan Thomas, at AllenComm!

    When we think of education and learning, often what comes to mind is a classroom with a teacher and a very structured syllabus. However, a lot of learning takes place in more informal settings. An enlightening conversation with a new hire, a quick Google search on business methodologies and best practices, or even navigating an assignment at work that is a little above your ability are all situations in which employee development happens naturally. Informal training is an organic way we all learn, and it often happens without a second thought.

    The question is: how do you go about bottling the serendipitous learning magic that happens every day into a more structured form of learning? Moreover, how do you enable and expand upon informal learning activities? 
    Corporate training can be brutal at times, but by using informal training methods you can help to ease the rigid beatdown of information overload and drive employee engagement.

    Informal Training Methods

    Stretch Assignments - This is where you assign your employees tasks that are a bit beyond their current knowledge, so they must expand their skill set and grow into a role. For instance, a new hire may be charged with managing an intern, or a manager can be moved into a failing department with the goal of turning it around. However, stretch assignments can also be integrated into the new hire training experience. For example, align stretch assignments with a structured 
    eLearning course to supplement capstone activities. This way you can determine whether your new hire can apply their skills to a novel challenge outside of a digital learning environment.

    Mentoring - When supporting stretch assignments, the role of mentors can be critical, but generally their role is to pass on tribal knowledge. Often, mentors teach by example or through the sharing of experiences. But educational theories have suggested that the act of teaching another also 
    reinforces knowledge for the mentor. So, adding structure to mentors' interactions can help to maintain the skills they've already acquired.

    Measuring & Tracking Informal Learning

    Taking different types of learning that happen so organically and implanting it into a structured education system is tricky but can be done with some careful learning design strategy. It all comes down to identifying skills and supporting knowledge along a learning path. Then, you have to determine which content would be better suited to informal learning activities. One approach is to keep the critical knowledge embedded within formal eLearning or instructor-led training formats and expand upon those skills using informal methods. However, it is also important to designate blocks of time to ensure employees can complete these informal activities. can track it and incorporate it into the lessons.

    Learning Portals and Technology

    Take advantage of training technology, like 
    learning portals, to push supporting assets and track progress as your learners navigate their learning path. For instance, create logs of mentoring sessions with highlights and lessons learned. You can also use a social sharing feature to enable learners to discuss assets they found helpful or insightful conversations. Beyond that, with the data you gather, you may find trends (i.e., preferred mediums and asset types) that help you design a better formal curriculum.


    Though formal learning tends to dominate the corporate training landscape, informal learning experiences account for much of the employee development that happens after new hire onboarding. By adding structure to these learning experiences, your employees will surely benefit. It just takes a bit of planning and some tech support.

  • Wednesday, September 16, 2020 2:53 PM | Angela Dawson (Administrator)

    Tech Solutions For The New World Of Sales

    Technology is present everywhere we go and in almost everything we do. The sales process is no different. Both consumers and corporations have adapted processes to new technology. Arguably, technology shapes industry. So, employee development teams must adapt sales enablement training to better equip employees with the knowledge and skills to grow into new sales environments. Generally, sales training addresses selling skills. But as the sales process relies more heavily on technology, everything from onboarding, to performance support and mentoring should also have an increased focus on sales technology.

    As time goes on, the ability to continue training and reinforcing sales enablement content becomes important for the overall success of a company. However, increases in sales technology make the job of performance consultants more challenging, particularly as employees continue to move toward remote work environments. This is where custom eLearning that aligns with your unique sales operations can be a worthwhile investment.

    A New Sales Process

    The “one size fits all” approach that worked for many years is now antiquated and no longer works for today’s potential buyer. In order to pique interest in a product in today’s market, it is important for you to note that potential customers are now used to being treated as individuals and they expect it. Gone are the days of sending out faceless email blasts that are a generalization of a group rather than a celebration of your target audience. Need a little more proof? One Forbes article on the importance of customer service noted 96% of customers [1] surveyed say customer service is important in their decision to stick with a brand. Learning to research your target and being mindful to personalize a pitch is more important than ever to land a sale or grow an account.

    Because of this change, the philosophy of content marketing has become much more prevalent in sales. One of the biggest benefits of content marketing is that it informs the decisions of potential buyers. The more helpful and tailored your message, the more likely you are to land the sale. But how do we enable our salespeople to make this change?

    Sales Enablement Training And Technology

    With technology rapidly changing how sales transactions are conducted, along with a society that values individualized efforts both in a sales pitch and company branding, old systems are having a hard time keeping up with skills gaps.

    Personalized eLearning

    Thankfully, emerging training technology has made customized sales enablement training that focuses more on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses easier to develop than ever before. For instance, several Learning Experience Platforms create personalized content paths based on real-time analysis performance data. Similarly, complex decision trees in scenario-based training, when paired with AI, offer personalized learning experiences.

    Mobile Learning

    At this point, most custom eLearning is designed with mobile access in mind—even if the design isn't mobile-first. Having access to training content on a phone or tablet also increases the amount of time that employees may have to engage with content. For instance, commuting to/from the office is the perfect time to listen to a selling skills podcast. Mobile learning enables salespeople more freedom to learn when it’s convenient for them. And this is especially beneficial for salespeople that travel for their role or retail employees.

    Sales Systems Training

    For both retail employees and corporate salespeople, sales processes are often built upon complex systems. For example, many organizations manage complex sales cycles through platforms like Salesforce. As for retail sales, most storefronts use mobile point-of-sale systems for inventory management and purchases. In either case, proficiency with those systems impacts employee performance and Customer Experience. So, systems training should be a key component of any sales enablement training initiative.

    Generally, platforms like Salesforce offer product training and onboarding for clients. But as an organization's business processes and operations become more unique, one-size-fits-all systems training becomes less effective. In that case, the best solution would likely consist of custom eLearning activities that provide a sandbox for salespeople to explore the system's features.


    With all the technology at our disposal, sales can certainly become more complicated. But, as with any performance challenges, it falls upon employee development teams and performance consultants to design corporate training solutions that drive organizational success. As technology continues to augment sales processes, also consider how training technology can improve your sales enablement training.


    [1] State of Global Customer Service Report

    Click here to access this post online and to listen to the audio version!

  • Tuesday, August 04, 2020 9:45 PM | Angela Dawson (Administrator)

    This month, our blog post by Leslie Kawai provides an in-depth look at best practices we can all implement as we continue building our teams in a COVID-19 world. This informative article can also be found on the RBL Group blog. To check out the on-line article, click here.

    Building Teams In A COVID-19 World:  What Can We Learn From Highly Agile Organizations?

    Valued at over $10 billion dollars only six years after its founding, Supercell (the Finnish mobile-gaming company) understands teamwork. Its very name speaks to how it achieves success: Supercell is made of “super cells” or highly effective, agile teams that are able to quickly pivot to respond to marketplace trends, leverage shared organizational resources, and create innovative products that successfully meet customer expectations.

    As organizations worldwide adapt to the changes required by COVID-19 and the proliferation of virtual teams in the “new normal” work environment, what can leaders learn from the success of highly agile teams at Supercell and other innovative organizations like Amazon, Google, and Alibaba?

    Based on more than three decades of research, The RBL Group has identified four characteristics and eight critical attributes of highly effective teams that drive business results:


    Effective teams have a shared purpose. Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas Smith researched hundreds of leaders across more than 30 organizations, from Hewlett-Packard to Operation Desert Storm, and more. They found that clear purpose distinguishes “work groups” that come together to share results and information from high-performance “teams” where individuals come together to collectively achieve more together than they can alone. Having a shared purpose—that team members agree on and commit to that connects their individual strengths, efforts, and skills beyond the general organizational charter—transforms “work groups” into “teams.”

    High-performance teams understand that to win in the marketplace they must have a shared understanding of the business outcomes they are trying to achieve. Agile teams are particularly characterized by a shared purpose that is clearly and specifically related to customer needs. They seek a strong understanding of their customers’ expectations and tie their outcome goals to customer-centric data metrics. Google, for example, frequently utilizes small, project teams to work on specific, customer-driven feature improvements. A clear, shared purpose enables organizations to efficiently resource experts in coming together with faster, better, customer-centric outcomes.

    Implications post-COVID-19:

    With the impact of COVID-19 still evolving across markets, workforces, geographies, and industries, leaders must be more deliberate and focused on ensuring teams have clear purpose. This clear purpose must be defined not only by a shared understanding of the outcomes, but more explicitly by a shared understanding of the customer-driven needs that the team delivers or supports. The link to how the team’s outcomes will help the organization meet customer expectations and win in the marketplace should also be made explicit in how the team’s performance goals will be measured.


    Governance is especially important as team leadership, role alignment, task competencies, and processes help agile teams drive business results. In one research study of more than 120 senior teams worldwide, fewer than 10 percent of the team members felt confident they understood who was on the teams and what their roles were. Role confusion further compounds ineffective decision-making protocols. Information sharing, accountability, feedback, and collaboration—all critical governance mechanisms for agile teams—can be achieved only when teams clarify and align roles, tasks, and processes to clear and specific outcomes.

    Implications post-COVID-19

    In a June 2020 survey of more than 300 of the US’s largest companies, justCapital reported that 70 percent of all companies it surveyed are adjusting work schedules and remote-work processes. Such unprecedented level of change to work processes and customer needs requires a reinvention of most teams. To best adapt to adjusted and remote work teams, team governance practices should include the following:

    • Keep teams small and nimble.

      Experts agree that highly agile teams must be small (a good rule is no double digits). Amazon uses a “two-pizza” team rule (teams can’t have more members than two pizzas can feed). Small teams can build trust, rapport, and communication more quickly—all characteristics important for innovation and the necessity to pivot quickly to rapidly changing external trends.

    • Create teams with the roles and competencies that support critical capabilities.

      Just as organizations should cut costs based on a logic that differentiates competitive capabilities from non-essential capabilities, teams should be created with a focus on what is needed to deliver on customer and stakeholder expectations. Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s CEO of consumer business, describes its collaboration philosophy as “separable single-threaded teams.” Each team focuses on optimizing the critical capabilities for its success. Market-oriented collaboration between teams or business units fosters more efficiently shared resources.

    • Optimize team processes.

      Teams aligned to critical work processes can be optimized to ensure the health of decision-making and other team processes. Tools like RACI, WorkOutteam coaching, and team-development programs empower teams to speed up effective decision making, clarify accountability, and reduce inefficiencies. Individual cognitive and psychometric self-analysis surveys like MENTOR are powerful team-dynamic aides that help leaders assess optimal team design and predict critical team performance capability.

    • Build leaders’ competency in managing virtual teams.

      Leading teams is challenging, and many leaders struggle even under normal circumstances. Innovative leaders like Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Jack Ma (Alibaba), and Ren Zhengfei (Huawei) implement practices to successfully “walk the talk.” All three publicly articulate their personal leadership virtues and operationalize them into behavioral expectations. Likewise, critical leadership competencies must be operationalized for virtual management.


    Agile teams require trust and communication. One critical key to team success and agile organizations is trust – both within and between teams. In May 2020, Ilkka Paananen, CEO of Supercell, offered 10 lessons to celebrate the company’s first highly successful decade and advises that trust must replace control. He warns against a “reporting culture” where teams spend excessive time writing too many reports and leaders spend too much time reading them. Developing social relationships, creating a sense of community, and building relationships effectively facilitate trust.

    Successful teams also invest in strengthening communication skills to improve understanding, get better inputs, and coach and give feedback from an outside-in perspective. Agile leaders intentionally build conflict-resolution skills with the understanding that team success will correlate with how effectively the team can debrief setbacks, failures, and challenges. Amazon’s idea-generation model encourages creative conflict through its PR&FAQ tool where new ideas are presented in the form of a hypothetical press release and customer FAQ. These are intensely and intentionally debated to help determine which ideas will undergo further development. Establishing protocols for productive feedback and idea deconstruction increases the speed with which teams innovate.

    Implications post-COVID-19

    Workplace relationships have changed but research in team collaboration holds true for virtual and geographically dispersed teams:

    • Face-to-face still matters.

      Face-to-face interactions influence team success. In a study of teams using sociometric data, researchers correlated the duration and frequency of face-to-face interactions with key performance metrics to show that face-to-face is the most valuable form of communication. Although the research took place with in-person interactions, making time for one-on-one conversations even in a virtual environment can help build stronger team relationships.

    • Social relationships create trust.

      Whether in person or virtually, team members need opportunities to create a sense of community and build informal relationships. Team “Zoom” lunch breaks, virtual “happy hours,” and team celebrations are being used to build a sense of community and foster collaboration and trust. In a recent RBL Group quarterly meeting, one company owner shared funny memes and family pictures submitted by employees to create a sense of unity. Several of our client companies have reported that connecting virtually has opened a wider network of company connections and in some cases fostered even stronger rapport because technology and virtual meetings simplify geographical and resource boundaries. In manager-team relationships, virtual-development conversations are often more focused and promote stronger active listening.

    • Team technological infrastructures should support information sharing.

      Effective teams share information upward, downward, and sideways for transparency. Google holds weekly “TGIF” sharing meetings. Alibaba involves customers in co-creation of new products and services. Huawei’s CEO frequently internally shares key issues and challenges. Technology solutions, meeting cadences, and team processes should facilitate information sharing.


    Agile teams foster a culture of individual and team learning. Teams progress as they learn and develop—both as individuals and as a team. Just like a sports team often experiences more success after identifying and improving both individual and team skills gaps (through watching past games to understand past failures and successes, scouting upcoming opponents, etc.), agile teams progress faster and improve their ability to innovate by identifying and improving skills gaps, evaluating and learning from outcomes, and processing feedback.

    Individual learning and strategic agility improve through individual and organizational (a) self-awareness; (b) cultivating a growth mindset; and (c) strengthening the ability to navigate paradox. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, challenges her teams to build a mindset of “We learn it all” (rather than “We know it all.”). This mindset has helped Microsoft outperform Google and triple its share price in the last four years.

    Implications post-COVID-19

    Perhaps never before has a growth-mindset culture been as important. With stressors and challenges stretching every organization, leaders have the opportunity to facilitate a mindset that encourages optimism towards leveraging the challenges brought on by COVID-19 and offers a context for failures. Organizations can encourage a growth-mindset culture by:

    • Sharing stories about failures and learnings/successes that came from the failures
    • Implementing daily or weekly pulse surveys to receive and share feedback
    • Celebrating failures and learnings in organizational settings (Supercell celebrates game launches, even if they failed, with a bottle of champagne)
    • Creating a culture that encourages asking questions such as, What will we do next? What did we learn from this? How will we move beyond this?

    Agile high-performance teams must be the new normal. In many industries, remote work, steep cost-cutting, changed work structures, new products, altered supply chains, reduced travel, and heightened technological dependencies (among the many additional upsets of 2020) have created a new economy. This new economy demands agile teams that:

    1. align clear PURPOSE with differentiating organizational capabilities for adjusted marketplace positioning,
    2. achieve goals faster with stricter accountability and adherence to GOVERNANCE,
    3. build strong virtual RELATIONSHIPS, and
    4. facilitate agile individual and organizational virtual LEARNING.

    In today’s unique environment, team leaders must successfully build these domains to create teams that can successfully pivot to respond to marketplace trends, leverage shared organizational resources, and most importantly innovate to successfully meet customer expectations in the new normal COVID-19 world.

    RBL offers virtual and in-person development for “Leading Virtual Teams,” as well as “Remote Leadership Online Simulations.” Learn more here about RBL tools and services that can help you optimize and support your teams for success, or please contact us for more info.


    About the Author:

    Leslie is a principal with The RBL Group, a global consultancy focused on strategic HR, leadership development, and organizational design that builds capabilities that create sustainable advantage. Leslie combines cognitive-behavior research and leadership development to help leaders and organizations worldwide drive business results through high performance. Her past client list includes Walgreens-Boots-Alliance, Hyatt, American Express, Alcon, DOMO, Silicon Valley Bank, SaltStack,  Global Education Allies, Silicon Slopes, Charter Manufacturing, NuSkin, and Inside Sales.  Leslie has also worked extensively coaching high-level entrepreneurs and executives in developing and delivering high-stakes presentations. Before joining the RBL Group, Leslie co-founded Leverage Communications and was an adjunct faculty member and associate director for the management communications program in the department of Organizational Leadership and Strategy at Brigham Young University’s (BYU) Marriott School of Business.

  • Thursday, July 16, 2020 12:05 AM | Angela Dawson (Administrator)

    By Ron Zamir

    The new technology transforming the world today can make businesses more streamlined and simplified. In the corporate world, the concept of automation is picking up speed; 58% of executives indicated they were working toward more automation, more than doubling the number of executives making the shift to automation from the previous year. Marketing departments, in particular, are pioneering the growing use of automation. Marketing automation technology is expected to grow at a 14% compounded annual growth rate over the next five years.

    Disruptive Technology For Learning

    In the age of AI and automation, learning departments need to examine the ways employees are already learning on their own. For example, they might use Google or YouTube to learn something. Creating multiple touch points where employees can go for training is a great way to scale and offer on-the-job learning. To start using technology more, learning departments need to measure the data from their current training to determine the usage and effectiveness of the different touch points their learners have access to. Engagement and throughput data from current training can help them create persona-based approaches for onboarding: the first interaction any company has with the incoming new hires.

    Three Strategies For Embracing Digital Transformation Through Onboarding

    The technologies available to most learning organizations can be harnessed in onboarding new employees to adopt digital transformation. Using available tech in three specific, strategic ways can make an impact and close the gap between marketing and organizational learning.

    1.      Utilize different channels to connect and scale. Connect learning to the vision and values of the organization. Social or video platforms that are commonly used in many age groups for connecting in daily life, for instance, can help you connect employees’ values with that of the company. Increasing your connection to employees will also make it easier to increase the reach of your training.

    2.     Create systems to build confidence. Create ways for new hires to practice their new skills. When employees know they can perform a task or complete a vital process for the company, their confidence will grow, and so will their satisfaction.

    3.     Provide ways for new employees to contribute. Creating opportunities for employees to contribute early in the onboarding process is a great way to integrate them into the company culture and make them feel inspired and appreciated.

    Learning That Supports Business Transformation

    Many organizations have been disrupted by new technologies and their inability to keep up with all the changes. According to a study by Gartner, there are three capabilities that executives within fit organizations focus on to make this possible. First, they focus on the alignment of the employee vision and values with those of the business. They also train leaders to be more adaptable to changes for when, not if, they come. Lastly, they anticipate change by looking at trends in the data they are already measuring and by starting early in the onboarding process to create brand champions. The combination of these three capabilities helps fit companies close the technology gap between the marketing and organizational learning departments.

    The work of today’s learning organizations to stay adaptable is a little like trying to walk through raindrops. It’s necessary to find the time between the reactive needs to make a strategic and preemptive plan. Start early, either during or before onboarding, to stir the desire of new employees to be the best corporate citizens they can be.

  • Monday, June 08, 2020 9:01 PM | Angela Dawson (Administrator)

    Greetings! Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Ray deWolfe and I’m honored to serve as the VP of Professional Development for Utah ATD. My responsibility for our members and non-members alike is to organize engaging speakers to share insights and best practices during our monthly learning events.

    For my full-time career I work at Mountain America Credit Union as the AVP of Employee Experience. Before that, I managed our Talent Development department and oversaw a team of 6 trainers. Like many of you, I was put into a training role with very little training experience. I’ve learned much by being on the job. However, I’ve also learned a lot by joining ATD and reading content from industry experts.

    I love L&D because in enables me to bring out the best in people and the overall organization. Watching people grow, develop and perform are highlights of what I do. I love being a member of Utah ATD because it enables me to network, discuss challenges and solutions, share knowledge, and be a part of an industry that I love.

    The pandemic has created many obstacles for many of us. For years we’ve discussed the value of remote learning and training. Now, it’s almost unavoidable. At my organization, we’re working on partnering with leaders how to best manage performance when many of their teams are now remote. I’m curious to know what challenges you’re working on. Please share! It’s by sharing our challenges and our victories that strengthen us as L&D professionals and as a local chapter. Have an idea for a topic or want to speak? Contact me by emailing profdev@utahatd.org 

    Thank you for your time. I hope to see you at an upcoming learning event!


    Ray deWolfe

    VP of Professional Development | Utah ATD

  • Monday, May 11, 2020 12:37 PM | Angela Dawson (Administrator)

    Todd Davis is FranklinCovey’s Chief People Officer and the author and co-author, respectively, of The Wall Street Journal bestsellers Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work and Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. Todd is also an expert on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, which has sold more than 40 million copies in 50 languages. The 30th Anniversary Edition will be released on May 21, 2020 and will feature new insights from son, Sean Covey. Learn more about FranklinCovey’s 7 Habits solutions.

    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Life-Changing!

    While it’s a widely known fact that hiring the right people is critical to any company’s success, it’s actually the nature of the relationship between those people that is an organization’s true advantage. Because we all get results with and through others, our ability to develop and sustain sincere, meaningful, and effective relationships is not only a “nice to have” but is critical to executing on an organization’s most important goals and objectives.

    I’ve read many excellent books throughout my career that have had a meaningful impact on my personal and professional relationships, but none more than The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. To say it was and continues to be life-changing for me would be an understatement. 

    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was first published over 30 years ago and has sold more than 40 million copies in 50 plus languages. It is regarded as one of the most influential business books of all time and is as relevant today as it was when Stephen R. Covey first wrote it. Why? Because it is based on timeless principles of effectiveness−the effectiveness of our relationships with others.

    Stephen Covey didn’t title the book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, or Highly Efficient People, but rather, The 7 Habits Highly Effective People. Effective people are those who get things done now, in a way that provides for even better results in the future. One of the foundational principles for each of the habits is our paradigm, or how we see things. What we see influences everything we do. And we already know that what we do drives the results we get. For example, if I’m a micro-manager, how do I see my team members? They are incompetent. So, I see my team as incompetent and then what do I do? I criticize. And as I continually criticize them, what kind of results does this team get? They get results which are poor or mediocre at best? And as I see these poor results, what do I say to myself as the micro-manager? Wow, I’ve got to micro-manage even more. And it becomes this downward spiral and self-fulfilling prophecy all driven by the way I see my team. So, our paradigms are critical to our effectiveness.  

    Habit 1 is Be Proactive. This is the habit of choice. We have the freedom to choose and are responsible for our choices. And the most empowering concept in Habit 1 is that while there are many things over which we have no control, we can choose our response to any situation. We can choose to be proactive rather than reactive. Rather than being a “victim,” blaming other people or circumstances for our situation. Habit 1 is the first habit for a reason because it helps us realize we can be in charge of our own lives.

    Habit 2 is Begin with the End in Mind. This is the habit of vision. Highly effective people shape their own future by creating a mental vision and purpose for their life, their week, and their day. Instead of just going on autopilot, responding to whatever crisis or situation comes their way, they map out what they want to accomplish based on their most important values and roles in life. They have clearly defined their purpose and they know where they’re going.  

    Habit 3 is Put First Things First. This is the habit of execution. Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you say you’re going to do.” Habit 3 is where the rubber meets the road.  In Habit 2, we created our vision or plan around what we value most and in Habit 3 we execute on that plan. We are driven by purpose and direction. We put people ahead of schedules. Getting things done in a timely manner is important, but we make sure we are getting the right things done. Before climbing the ladder, we make sure the ladder is leaning against the correct wall.

    These first three habits, Habits 1, 2, and 3 help us to master what is called the Private Victory or victory over self. These are the habits that help us become trustworthy, as we do what we say we are going to do. The next three habits, Habits 4, 5, and 6 help us master what is called the Public Victory. The Public Victory helps us build trust with others. And it’s clear that we must first be trustworthy before attempting to build trust with others.

    Habit 4 is Think Win-Win. This is the habit of mutual benefit. It’s not about you, or me; it’s about both of us. How do we win together? Habit 4 is an attitude. People who think win/win have what is called an abundance mentality (there is plenty for everyone and more) versus a scarcity mentality (the more you get the less there will be for me). This win/win attitude or mindset allows us successfully to move to Habits 5 and 6.

    Habit 5 is Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. This is the habit of mutual understanding. Do you listen with the intent to truly understand the other person’s feelings or point of view, or like most of us, do you listen with the intent to reply? Highly effective people suspend their thoughts and opinions long enough to truly understand the other person. Not to agree or disagree, but to empathize and relate to how the other person is feeling. Stephen Covey said, “the deepest need of the human heart is to feel understood.” Highly effective people understand that the key to influence is to first be influenced.

    Habit 6 is Synergize. This is the habit of creative cooperation. Highly effective people value differences instead of being threatened by them. They believe that their own strengths combined with the gifts and talents of others can lead to the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. They seek for 3rd alternative solutions that are better than what they or the other party had in mind to begin with. They don’t go for compromise (1 + 1 = 1½) or merely cooperation (1 + 1 = 2) but seek out creative cooperation (1 + 1 = 3 or more). This happens because they begin with an attitude of win/win (Habit 4) followed by taking the time to truly understand the others’ perspective (Habit 5). This is how Habits 4, 5, and 6 work together.

    Habit 7 is Sharpen the Saw. This is the habit of renewal. Highly effective people understand that they must invest in themselves so that they have the energy and resources to increase their effectiveness with others. The term ‘Sharpen the Saw’ comes from the story of the wood cutter who was so busy sawing logs with a dull saw blade, that he failed to see how much more effective he would be if he would take time to sharpen the blades of his saw. Many of us, like the woodcutter, are so busy that we don’t take time to renew ourselves in the four key areas of life: body (physical), mind (mental), heart (social/emotional), and spirit (spiritual - meaning purpose and contribution). By investing in these four areas on a regular basis, we dramatically increase our capacity and capabilities.

    By focusing on living the 7 habits, we can become highly effective in our most important relationships, contributing in ways that result in an extraordinarily meaningful and purposeful life.

    The 30th Anniversary Edition of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is launching on May 21, 2020. It includes the universal, timeless principles and safe wisdom and guidance in original form, as well as new insights from Stephen Covey’s son, Sean Covey. If you have never had the opportunity to read this book, I invite you to do so. And if you have read it before, I invite you to read it again. It is a book to read again and again, especially when life gets difficult. It changed my life for the better. And, I am sure it will do the same for you.

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