Monday, January 23, 2017

Your LinkedIn Profile Is Who You Are - Until It's Not

Last year we employed well over one hundred consultants. In just about every case we reviewed the consultants' LinkedIn pages to try and gain more information or insight into their experience or skills. One of the beauties of LinkedIn from a recruiting standpoint is that it quickly and easily gives you a good idea about the persons' core skills, experience, education background, interests and involvement within their professions. I find that I am thrown to making quick assessments, both positive and negative, based on the persons' profile:

Positive assessments are generated from things like having an easily understood summary section,  a large number of professional recommendations, having a clear career progression, graduating from top-tier universities, and listing some of the tools that are in demand within my industry. When these items do not appear, I am thrown to making negative assessments.

What is important is that neither the positive assessments or negative assessments that are generated are necessarily true. In my industry having the ability to create an excellent LinkedIn profile is not one of the core competencies we look for. The fact that a number of professional recommendations does not appear on the page does not mean that the person is not highly qualified with a number of peers willing to rave about their skills and experience. But it is important to know that your LinkedIn profile will produce an assessment so you want to do whatever you can to generate a positive assessment as often as possible. There are a number of excellent resources out there for how to create a great, impactful LinkedIn profile and I will leave it to the experts to weigh in there.

For all intents and purposes, your LinkedIn profile becomes your public persona. That is until the information contained cannot be validated. We are all responsible for every word that appears on our LinkedIn profiles and every word needs to be factual and verifiable. We recently had two instances where the exact opposite occurred. 

In checking professional references we asked to speak with one of the people that had published a recommendation on the candidate's page. It turned out that the conversation was very different from the words that appeared on the LinkedIn page. It turned out that the person that left the positive comment had only worked with that person for 2 months and they were only peripherally working on the same project. I just don't know why you would want to publish a recommendation from someone in this kind of situation. Additionally, why would you have not mentioned the fact that you had only worked with that person for a couple of months and offered up another person that could speak in greater detail about your skills and experience? The entire experience left me wondering about who and what I was potentially hiring. This should never be the case after checking a professional reference.

The second instance came when we conducted a background verification on a consultant for one of our clients in Illinois. The consultant indicated that they had a bachelors degree and listed the year the degree was awarded. Our background verification company was not able to verify the degree and it turns out that the consultant had completed all the class work but not all of the graduation requirements. Had the LinkedIn profile listed "All coursework completed" or some other qualifier there would not have been an issue but that was not the case. None of this was an indication of the person's skills and experience. But it did raise questions about their judgment and integrity - questions that could have been easily avoided with more care in what appeared on their LinkedIn page.

So the big takeaway is that everything that appears on your LinkedIn page needs to be accurate and verifiable. You and only you are responsible for what appears on your page and also what it provokes. Many of us work in niche marketplaces and industries with broad networks of people that span a large number of companies. More and more employers are tapping into that network to gain insight on potential hires. When situations like those listed above occur, people remember. It makes absolutely no sense to include information on your LinkedIn page that can cause negative assessments, or in the worst case, sabotage your chances of landing a job or assignment in the future.

Friday, April 1, 2016

2016 eLearning Salary and Compensation Report - What Does It Tell Us?

The eLearning Guild recently released the 2016 US eLearning Salary and Compensation Report (Survey available for members here). The report summarizes the finding from 3,536 respondents living in the United States and presents analyses on salary and compensation broken out by a variety of criteria including location, gender, sector, and industry. 

I am not a statistician nor do I know the attributes required to have a compensation study be relevant, accurate, and sound. As I reviewed the findings, some of the analyses presented didn't ring true with my experience as a staffing professional with many years dedicated to the Learning space. In a number of cases I was left wanting more information on what went into the analyses and whether we were dealing with "apples and apples." 

For instance, while there may be some disparity in wages between male and female learning professionals, the report indicated that the US Average Salary by gender was $75,561 versus $88,347 for men. When I looked into this analysis it revealed a flaw that I believe effects most of the report. 

In my experience, salary is the compensation level placed on a candidates' value within the marketplace. This value is impacted by several factors: the candidates' breadth of skills and experience, their perceived ability to produce value for their employers, and supply and demand forces in the marketplace. While there are exceptions, the general rule is that candidates possessing more experience and skill will garner higher salaries and compensation. 

When you look at the analysis provided on Average Salary by Gender there is no indication on the average skill and experience level of the male and female respondents. To gain a valuable and insightful analysis of the differences in gender and pay you would need to evaluate male and female respondents with similar skills, experience, geographic location, etc. There is no indication given in the report on any of these very important factors. It would stand to reason that if, of the 3,536 US respondents, a larger percentage of the male respondents possessed more experience, their corresponding salaries would be higher. The report does not provide this vital data necessary to accurately evaluate any gender bias when it comes to salary.

This same issue and others exist in a large number of analyses reported. For example:
  •  US Average Salaries by State - How many respondents reported from each state and were the numbers sufficient to draw any conclusions? How did the average experience level of the respondents vary by state?
  • Average Salary by Industry, US Average Salary by Sector and Average Salary by State - What was the average experience level indicated by the respondents for each industry and sector cited? Where did these respondents live?
It is important to note that the report does include an analyses of salary by job level and gender. This analysis again leaves me wondering what went into the numbers - the number of people included in each job level, where they were located, and similar factors that could easily skew or validate the analysis.  

I do not doubt the accuracy of the analyses and numbers presented. The eLearning Guild should be commended for undertaking this survey and research. At the same time, I find myself lacking the grounding to know what to make of the analyses. Without knowing more about what went in to the source data it is impossible to know if any valuable conclusions can be drawn from many of the analyses presented.

 As always, your comments are welcomed.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Association for Talent Development: Is This the Right Move?

So the American Society for Training and Development's (ASTD) has been retired and in its place we now have the Association for Talent Development (ATD).  The re-branding of the association is intended to reflect the wider influence that learning and development professionals have within their organizations. I question how this will play out over time.

Clearly, the training and development profession has seen great changes over the past decade or so. The distinction of learning versus training has taken hold to the point where some shudder when they hear the function still referred to as training and development.

We have seen an epiphany of sorts where "progressive" learning and development professionals have come to realize that learning interventions need to be tied to the business drivers, challenges, and breakdowns an organization faces. This realization has led to an expansion of skill sets to now include business analysis and performance consulting. The validation of learning and development interventions has resulted in much more emphasis placed on measuring and evaluating the business impact than ever before. And this too, has required an expansion of the traditional learning and development skill set.

So what is my concern regarding the new branding of the ASTD? With Talent Development, the ASTD jumps into the Talent Management world which appears to me to be a re-branding of the traditional Human Resources and Personnel function. Check out any Talent Management department and you will see a Talent Development or Training / Learning function built into its design.

When I think about it, how can you develop talent effectively unless you understand what the ideal talent looks like, how to find them, how to motivate them, how to develop them, and how to promote them? Will the ATD seek to expand the core competencies and skill sets of their members. I don't see how it cannot. This would imply a new set of skills that would include:

**  competency modeling

**  organization development and organization effectiveness
**  recruitment and selection
**  professional development
**  compensation
**  leadership development
**  succession planning

A very small percentage of the ASTD members that I work with today have this skill set. This is much more of an HR skill set. So I am left wondering if the ATD understands the full ramifications of grabbing onto the Talent Development movement. How will the ATD distinguish Talent Development from Talent Management? How will they differentiate themselves from ODNET, SHRM, or other talent management associations and societies?

The other concern that I see is that Talent Development is primarily focused on internal staff. Corporations and organizations seek to develop their talent. But not all of us are focused on internal users. I guess in its most abstract definition, learning and development groups focused on external users are also interested in their client's talent development. But in fact, they are mostly focused on providing learning solutions that enable their customers to optimally benefit from their company's products or services. Talent development is not really the concern so the new branding misses the mark for that significant percentage of the ATD membership.

I understand what the ATD is trying to do. They probably could have achieved the same goal by a more simple re-branding which replaced Training with Learning. Learning and development professionals provide a uniquely focused service to the communities and entities that they serve. Over the past decade or so the profession has made great strides in being seen as differentiators in the marketplace and not just an expense to an organization. I wonder if in the long run, this new re-branding will be counter-productive to the gains the profession has achieved. Time will tell how this all shakes out. What do you think?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2012: Emerging Trends, Roles and Responsibilities in Learning and Development

The following summarizes the comments received during an informal survey of Learning Leaders in the New York Metropolitan area on the anticipated changes and new developments in the Learning & Development and User Support fields.

The comments are presented in two categories (along with an indication on the level of consensus from the Learning Leaders surveyed):

  1. Roles and Responsibilities that will be in demand over the next 12 to 24 months, and
  2. Emerging Trends in the Learning and Development space over the same time period.

Emerging Roles and Responsibilities:

  1. Performance Consultants to ensure alignment between business goals, challenges and breakdowns, and learning and development initiatives. Most survey participants noted a critical need for learning and development professionals that can speak the language of business and understand profit and loss challenges, staff management and professional development concerns, and business operations. Are we better served to have L&D professionals with an MBA focus or MBA professionals with an L&D orientation? There was universal consensus on this role.
  2. Community Engagement Managers to promote, coordinate, organize, and manage user and subject matter involvement involved in social learning initiatives. Some survey participants indicated that this role and responsibility may be incorporated into the job description of existing L&D positions. There was broad consensus on this role.
  3. Project and Program Managers with the ability to oversee global and virtual team initiatives. Going forward, the concept of the team may include employees, subject matter experts, business partners, clients, business stakeholders, and third party vendors. These Project and Program Managers will manage team members with varying cultural perspectives and alternative work arrangements. There was broad consensus on this role.
  4. Talent Management / Human Capital Management Specialists to provide broader organizational design and organizational effectiveness to existing internal clients. These professionals will provide expertise in "hire to fire" strategies including topics encompassing competency modeling, recruitment and selection strategies, compensation, professional development, leadership development, and succession planning. There was broad consensus on this role.
  5. Knowledge Managers / Content Librarians to oversee, manage, update, and determine access of organizational knowledge and learning assets. This role is a morphing of the Knowledge Management discipline and the current Curriculum Manager role. There was some consensus on this role.

Additional roles and responsibilities noted included:

  • Learning Systems Integration Specialists to ensure seamless integration of learning systems and applications with enterprise systems. These specialists would serve as the primary liaison between Learning and Development and IT and third party vendors.
  • Learning Evaluation and ROI Specialists to assess the business impact of Learning and Development initiatives.
  • Online Learning Designers and Developers with expertise in rapid development tools.

Emerging Trends:

  1. Social Learning encompassing the utilization of social media tools to enhance learning and retention. Most survey participants are currently involved in the development or prototyping of social learning solutions. Some of the challenges mentioned included concerns over how information is shared and accessed, conformance to regulatory and compliance guidelines, productivity loss, and the reliability of the knowledge being shared. All survey participants saw social learning as a current and emerging trend.
  2. Greater reliance on User Generated Content: Most survey participants envision pushing more of the content creation responsibilities to the end-user and subject matter expert community. In this scenario, traditional Learning and Development departments would be responsible for: (a) the development of toolkits, templates, and training solutions to support the user community in the development quality content and learning deliverables; (b) serving as mentors and coaches to the user community on content and learning development activities; (c) quality control activities
  3. Mobile Learning: With the explosion in usage of smart phones and mobile computing devices, a great majority of survey participants see mobile computing as a significant emerging trend. With mobile learning (mLearning) come significant challenges including usability design concerns, security and compliance concerns, network reliability and speed, and the lack of an established mobile learning pedagogy and standards. Additional concerns were noted by David Wentworth of the Institute for Corporate Productivity who wrote, "Mobile learning is not without issues, though, most of which boil down to very tactical, practical application and the ever-present challenge of garnering the support of senior leaders. Do content owners now need to develop a mobile application for every piece of content they create? If so, does there need to be versions that can run on iPhones, an Android device, BlackBerrys and Windows phones? What about tablets? Are there authoring or content creation tools that make this easy? How do we manage all of this - through our existing Learning Management System (LMS)?" (
  4. Additional reliance on Outsourced Services: All survey participants indicated that they anticipated lean and mean times ahead. With continued economic uncertainty, staffing levels will be managed closely and Learning and Development departments will be pressed to continue to deliver quality solutions with limited funding. In order to meet these challenges, Learning and Development leaders will need to enhance their reliance on third party vendors and outsourcing partners. This will require (a) investigation of overseas or lower cost providers of quality services; (b) Learning and Development professionals skilled at managing outside vendors; (c) staff members skilled in managing overseas vendors and virtual teams

Survey participants included learning leaders from corporations representing the Healthcare/Hospital, Aviation, Insurance, Financial Services, Professional Services, Education, Manufacturing, and Real Estate sectors.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Your primary objective for the first 30 days in your new job - BUILD TRUST

Congratulations on landing your new job! You have beaten out the competition and if you are like most you are filled with some mixed emotions:

  • Elation at finding and accepting a new position

  • Nervousness that accompanies any new job or assignment

  • Worry that the job and the people are as advertised

Believe me, your new employer has these very same emotions. Your first 30 days are very important. During this time initial impressions and judgments will be formed about your performance as an employee, your reliability, and the outlook for your long-term employment. If these initial assessments are negative, they can result in termination, being put on a performance plan, or at the very least serve as an obstacle to be overcome.

My recommendation to all professionals when beginning a new work endeavor is to consciously work to build TRUST during your first 30 days. This TRUST needs to extend to your management, co-workers, peers, internal clients, and vendors. Here are some tips and pointers:

  • Work with your manager to establish goals and objectives for your first 30-60-90 days. These goals and objectives should be tangible and measurable.

  • Establish a dedicated time every week for a one-on-one review with your manager. This is especially important during the first 30 days when you are both learning how best to work with each other.

  • Treat your manager as a customer that needs to be satisfied. Having this orientation will build your awareness and sensitivity to your manager's level of satisfaction. Besides your 30-60-90 day goals and objectives what other conditions of satisfaction does your manager have? Be sure to ask if there is anything else that you could be doing to have your manager more satisfied with your performance.

  • Follow a "No Surprises" policy during your first 30 days. If deadlines are in jeopardy, communicate them as soon as you know so that other actions can be considered.

  • Eliminate any potential car trouble, latenesses, bursting water pipes, illnesses, etc. Anything and everything that occurs in the first 30 days are magnified.

Each of these pointers will support you in building TRUST with your new employer and will help in validating their hiring decision. These pointers when implemented long-term will also support you in continually meeting your employers expectations and will help greatly in leading to a long and productive relationship.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hey...Wake Up!

I have written several times in the past about the importance of protecting your online identity. You have to assume that prospective employers will be searching the Internet and reviewing any results that show up. This pertains to both full-time employment and consulting opportunities and includes Twitter tweets, Facebook postings, personal/professional web site content, and the like.

I have come to realize that even well skilled and experienced professionals can be blind to the importance of protecting their public identity. Please note that I used the words well skilled and experienced and not top-tier or best.

There is no distinction between posts on the Internet that are business-related or ones that are personal or private. They are all reviewed and factored when assessments and judgments are formed and a decision is made to hire or to move on to another candidate. Most importantly, these online references can have a lasting impact for years to come and play a significant factor in your career growth and development.

This article needs to serve as a wake-up call and cause a moment of reflection.

  1. Do your online postings support your personal and professional identities?
  2. Are you considering how these postings may be viewed or interpreted by prospective employers or clients?
Here are some actual examples that we have uncovered over the years. My intention in citing these examples is not to make a judgment about the events that unfolded but instead to illustrate how the online posting could be factored into the hiring decision:

  1. We were recruiting for a position with a progressive e-learning development firm. The company has built an impressive reputation for the caliber of their elearning solutions and the high moral and ethical standards that they set for their business. After presenting a very impressive candidate, we were informed by the client that a Google search revealed that the candidate was involved in a home business that dealt in adult themed products. The client decided not to pursue this candidate.
  2. After interviewing a talented candidate, a review of their Facebook page revealed several inappropriate references to their partying days in college and excessive use of foul language.
  3. A recent Google search of a candidate revealed their personal Twitter page which showed numerous tweets every day throughout the day and raised real questions about the candidate's focus and dedication to their full-time employment. Were they working or tweeting?
  4. One client told me that they had decided not to offer a position to a candidate because their Facebook page indicated frequent illnesses and sick days.
  5. A Google search of another candidate uncovered the candidate’s political blog. The blog, while well written, was decidedly partisan. A prospective hiring manger with opposing political views could react negatively to the blog.
  6. Another candidate's Twitter page showed several references to drinking, beer and alcohol. How could this be interpreted by a prospective employer or client?

There is no way to know for sure how thorough prospective employers will be in their screening of potential employees or consultants. There is, however no question that more and more are using a simple Google search to see what they may be able to learn before they make the decision to interview or hire a candidate.

The strong advice here is to THINK before posting and consider: How might this posting be viewed by others - peers, current and future employers and clients?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time For Your Annual Career Tune-Up - 2010--->2011

I have been publishing the Annual Career Tune-Up since the company was formed in 2002. The tune-up gives a quick reflection of the current year and a forecast of what may be in store in the coming year. Included are also some recommendations that you may want to consider for 2011.

As we reach the end of 2010 and look forward to 2011, there are indications that brighter economic times may be ahead. The chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics below illustrates the cause for some of my conservative optimism:

Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National)

While we are far from a rosy job and employment market, we are seeing increased demand for consultants and full-time employees. Here are some quick stats:

* Year to date, the revenue at KnowledgeStaff have increased by over 60%

* Sales within the healthcare sector accounted for close to 61% of the total revenue; financial services accounted for 27%

* Consultant pay rates have
begun to creep upward

When the employment marketplace is uncertain but showing some signs of recovery, several things occur:

* Supply and demand forces cause salaries and consulting rates which have been depressed begin to show signs of improvement. My sense is that this will be a slow gradual improvement.

* Staffing cycle times slow; with more candidates in the marketplace, corporations are more likely to hold out for the “perfect’ candidate.

* Corporations will begin to ramp up their hiring. Traditionally we see an uptick in consulting requirements before full-time hiring although this recovery may be different as most companies needed to cut deeper within their full-time ranks.

Establish your Learning Budget
Resolve each year to acquire some new skill, tool, technology, or subject matter expertise that contributes to your ongoing career development. My recommendations for this year include:

* If you are a learning and development professional and you do not have some exposure to e-learning authoring tools, you are at a distinct competitive disadvantage. The tools that we see demanded most, in order of importance, are Adobe's Captivate, the suite of tools from Articulate, and Trivantis's Lectora ProSuite. Most if not all of these vendors offer free trial versions of their software.

* Begin to research DITA. The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an XML-based architecture for authoring, producing, and delivering information. This standard has been in use within the technical publications world and we are seeing it discussed with the L&D community more and more.

* Attend and/or participate in industry conferences.

* Research the impact of social media within the L&D space. If your organization is not discussing social media, they will be.

* Read Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd's book, The 2020 Workplace, published by HarperCollins. This book presents a forecast for the future that I believe is spot-on and is a must read.

* Consider enrolling in a certificate program to enhance your current skill set.

In some cases your employer will absorb these expenses but if not, an appropriate annual investment in your professional development would be $1,500 - $2,500 per year. You're worth it.

Take Time to Reflect
Many of us, so consumed with work and extracurricular activities, drift through our careers without being mindful of its direction. The answers to these questions will help in determining whether the time may be right to investigate new career opportunities:

* Is your current position consistent with your short and long-term career goals and objectives?

* What are the new trends in the learning marketplace and is your current position consistent with these trends?

* Is your career moving forward with acceptable velocity?

* What new roles and responsibilities do you need to assume to move your career forward?

* What conversations and actions are required to get your career back on track?

* How vulnerable are you to a future downturn in the marketplace?

If you have any questions or would like a "no-obligation" appraisal of your current situation, please contact us at 866-742-2410.