Brene Brown and Me by Debra Mugnani Monroe

French bull dog not walking

Hello! Wondering how you’re doing these days. Here’s what is happening for me after six weeks of sheltering in place. One day last week, my body and mind behaved like the French bulldog my neighbor takes out for walks. He often just stops in his tracks and refuses to budge. My mind was just done, tired of pushing through no matter what to get things done, to figure out what the best things to get done are, and to keep the wheels turning. I decided to pay attention and took a mental health day. Once I made the decision, I was able to get a few emails answered and the day was not a complete loss but it seems that respecting the French bull dog in me is wise. The next day I woke up and wasn’t feeling 100% but better so when 9 am rolled around, I hesitated to follow through and watch a webinar I’d registered for earlier in the week. It was featuring Brene Brown, an author I’ve long admired. I hesitated to attend because over the past six weeks of Covid-19 captivity, I have lost track of the number of webinars I’ve attended and I sometimes question if my time would be better spent on other things. I was also still feeling some French bulldog resistance. However, I remembered that inevitably when I do attend a webinar, there will be a really useful nugget or a veritable treasure trove of new and useful information waiting for me there.

I am learning as much as I can about the employer’s responsibilities and best practices during a pandemic so that we do what we need to do and so I can also offer our clients and employees helpful information. Many times I also leave with renewed hope about the future and a reminder that I’m not the only small business owner dealing with all this uncertainty and that we all really are in this together.

I decided to join the webinar. There was a Q and A area on the website and the audience of 30,000 was encourages to ask their questions for Brene and to include your name, title, company name and city. Because of yesterday’s experience, the question that was top of mind was this: Could you ask Brene to speak to stamina? As a small business owner I have a lot of experience dealing with crises but this crisis is going on for a much longer duration. Close to the end of the seminar, the moderator said she wanted to ask just one or two more questions and asked mine! It was so exciting to hear my name, company name and question asked and then to see Brene looking right at me through zoom and say, “I am a CEO too and I know what you mean. You’ve got to understand this isn’t a crisis, this is a marathon. What I recommend is a soccer term, which is taking time to ‘settle the ball.” The idea is sometimes in a game or in life or in business it’s important to pause, look at the field and reassess or decide what the next sensible move is. Not all moves will lead to a point scored but your odds are much better if you take a minute to settle the ball and make a calculated play. This reframe is an important one to remember. We’re in a marathon, and for some of us, probably more of an Spartan or Big Mudder, so we need those days where we put on the brakes and take a pause, regroup, settle the ball and charge forward again with renewed gusto. I’m sharing a link to a recent episode of Brene’s podcast where she speaks about our collective weariness and expands on the idea of settling the ball.

So after listening to Brene’s wisdom, now I see that my French Bull Dog self was telling me to stop and take a pause. I’m glad I listened and I’m glad I watched the webinar too.

Please take good care of yourselves and pay attention to your self care needs. None of us have been through a pandemic before and we are all doing the best we can. Let’s take it one day at a time and remember, today, we are one day closer to the end of this thing.

Here’s the link: https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-on-comparative-suffering-the-50-50-myth-and-settling-the-ball/

5 fun new ideas for virtual meetups!

Article-Online-Virtual-Happy-Hour-Quarantine
As we’ve started to figure out a new normal in the time of social distancing, we’ve been enjoying virtual happy hours and catch-up chats with friends and family members. But after a few weeks, we’re getting fatigued by days spent staring at a screen. Given that, people started to get creative and mix up our virtual social lives with themed events!! Check out these ideas to refresh your virtual meetups:
Cookie club: Invite a few friends to make cookies together (but separately!). Choose a fairly simple recipe and follow the steps together, then catch up on life while your cookies bake. Finish with a glass of cold milk and enjoying the fruits of your labor.
Tea party: Invite your family members to join you for a virtual tea party. Wear hats, make yourselves a cup of tea, and settle in for a cozy chat about the good old days.
Beer night: Crack open a cold beer with a few buddies and talk about anything except coronavirus.
Smells like teen spirit: Gather some old friends and ask them to join you for a middle school dance-themed virtual get-together. Wear something your 13-year-old self would’ve considered the peak of fashion and queue up a vintage playlist on Spotify. Come prepared to share a heartwarming (or mortifying) memory.
Bust a move: Grab a few up-for-anything friends and try out a dance-inspired workout together. Getting your blood pumping is great for your mental and physical health–and now’s the perfect time to finally take all those ballet, hip hop, or Latin classes you always wanted to try.
Written by Sarah for Team Moment

Stressed About COVID-19? Here’s What Can Help

As the new coronavirus continues to spread, so do anxieties about COVID-19, the illness it causes.

Joseph McGuire, Ph.D., M.A., a child psychologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine, shares some tips for you and your family on how to manage coronavirus-related stress.

 

main-qimg-b80574709a36203da4f2a06ee639ff8d

Prepare, don’t panic.

From the news to social media, a lot of information is circulating about the new coronavirus. Some is true, but much of it may be misinformed or only partly correct, especially as information rapidly changes.

McGuire recommends using credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization to obtain up-to-date, scientific information about the illness and how to prevent it.

“Knowledge and preparation can help reduce feelings of panic,” says McGuire. “Individuals can use information from trusted resources to develop personal plans of action.”

 

Talk to your children.

Children may feel afraid or anxious about the new coronavirus. It’s important to validate feelings of worry and not dismiss them outright, advises McGuire. He offers the following tips:

  • Listen. After hearing their children out, parents can fill them in with correct information to calm their worries.
  • Provide accurate information. Determine what your children already know about the virus and give them accurate information to reduce their risk of catching it. “This might include asking children about specific concerns or what they know about the coronavirus, and providing practical solutions to help them minimize any risk,” explains McGuire.
  • Focus on prevention. Keep discussions focused on preventive actions. Set up and praise healthy hand-washing habits, and maintain regular routines for playtime, meals and other activities.

If someone in your family is sick with COVID-19 or another illness, it can be hard for children to understand. “This is where it is important to have an established plan to minimize the worries and keep focused on proactive solutions,” says McGuire. “You know your child and how they learn best — make sure that your explanations are clear and helpful.”

Be mindful.

Stress can affect the immune system, but it is uncertain whether short-term stress makes someone more likely to catch the new coronavirus, says McGuire. Taking steps to reduce your stress in a healthy way is important.

One way to lessen worry is to ground yourself in the present moment through mindfulness. “Mindfulness is a great technique that can help reduce stress during challenging times,” says McGuire. You can practice mindfulness by sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing and senses.

Another way to manage stress is by limiting computer screen time and media exposure. “While keeping informed about current events is important, too much attention can cause problems,” explains McGuire. “Setting boundaries can prevent feeling overwhelmed by the situation.

“It is important to not let fear control your life.”

 

Written by Joseph F McGuire, M.A., Ph.D. for hopkinsmedicine.org

Working Remotely for the First Time? These Seasoned Experts Have Advice for You to Follow

upRUfcW9z5KV4oAVtnheze-650-80

By now, your entire office is probably working remotely because of the coronavirus. And if you’ve never done this before, it’s almost certainly an adjustment–for you, your employees, and your organization at large.

How’s it going so far?

In the past few years, I’ve talked to a $2 billion company that is entirely remote, collected tips on how to build great remote leadership habits, explored the challenges of maintaining strong data security when you have people working from home, and gathered tips from founders who manage their productivity and sanity by drawing clearer lines between when they’re “in” and “out” of the office. Still, there’s a difference between talking about remote work and actually doing it.

 

So earlier this week, I took an informal poll of my Inc. co-workers, now that we’ve all been working from home for several days. I asked folks with extensive work-from-home experience for their advice, and relative newcomers for their biggest surprises so far. Their responses generally fell into three categories:

Staying productive

Struggles:

  • “Bewilderingly–even though I have fewer distractions now–it feels like there are fewer hours in the day. It could just be that routine tasks like answering emails are taking a bit longer since all my tools aren’t quite as streamlined in my work-from-home setup, and a minute or two per task adds up. I feel like I’m having to be more diligent about writing down and following my daily to-do list, because otherwise I’ll fall behind.”
  • “I find myself wanting to make small comments throughout the day about work and what’s in the news. Instead, I turn to social media and immediately get sucked into a distracting loop. Before, I could just make the joke, hear a chuckle, and move on. Now, I find myself saying, ‘Oh, shoot, how did I just spend 15 minutes checking Twitter?'”

Advice:

  • “The one thing I do when working from home: I get dressed for work. I’m not one of the pajama people. Getting dressed and going to my desk–as opposed to sitting on a sofa with a laptop–gives me the sense of a workplace, of punching in, if you will.”
  • “Replicate your office experience as closely as you can at home. Structure your day exactly as you would a workday, starting, taking lunch/breaks, and signing off around the same time you normally would. Set up your workspace in a similar fashion, eat the same kinds of snacks, and check your email after hours the same way you would on office days. Also, don’t have children.”
  • “No TV, no matter what. You cannot get anything done with CNN on in the background. This goes double for Mad Men on auto-play. Save TV for later.”

Maintaining communication and connection

Struggles:

  • “I miss making small jokes to my co-workers sitting immediately around me to help break up the day, tedious tasks, work anxiety, etc. Slack doesn’t have the same feel, unfortunately. I took that casual workplace back-and-forth for granted!”

Advice:

  • “Take short breaks and call friends who are also stuck at home. They’re bored and isolated too, and they’d like to hear from you, even briefly.”
  • “If you take 15 minutes to reply to an email in-office, no one notices. The same delay out-of-office sets off a chain reaction of pings and where-are-you’s. Successfully working remotely requires a high level of attentiveness to communication, much more than in a face-to-face environment.”

Taking care of yourself

Struggles:

  • “I didn’t expect to have ergonomic issues. I’ve got my laptop placed at eye-level height atop of a Scrabble collector’s edition box.”
  • “I’m surprised by how easy it is to just not wear pants. I’m starting to rethink my wardrobe around the fact that I’m just no longer wearing them.”
  • “At the office, I’m good about having a salad for lunch every day and limiting snacks to fruit, granola, etc. At home, it feels like every day is the weekend and the usual rules don’t apply. I’ve found myself making big sandwiches or going through the cabinets for something unhealthy to munch on. Kind of crazy that it takes just a few days at home for something that’s been a habit for years to go out the window.”

Advice:

  • “Do something physical every day, preferably something that also improves your posture, because you’re likely sitting a heck of a lot more than you were before.”​
  • “Take a real lunch break. Set work aside for a little while to eat food away from your computer. A break is good for your eyes, your sense of how to do is going, and for your sanity. You should also set aside your phone and stop looking at Twitter. This time is called a lunch break for a reason.”
  • “Because you’re not commuting, you ought to adjust your working schedule to reflect that you’re probably getting more done in less time. This goes back to avoiding burnout. I get online at the same time every morning and log out at the same time every evening.”

Written by Cameron Albert-Deitch for Inc.com

Working from home can benefit employers as much as employees

Work-From-Home-64-Expert-Tips-to-Stay-Healthy-Happy.jpg (770×578)

 

There are two camps when it comes to working from home. One group usually thinks that people will get nothing done, and the other group believes workers will be happier and more productive. Chances are, your answer greatly depends on how you personally fare when working from home. While some people swear by 40 hours a week in the office, there is growing support for the second camp of workers who find they are more productive working from home.

Recent studies have supported the idea that working from home—for the right people—can increase productivity and decrease stress. Research also suggests companies that encourage and support a work-from-home protocol actually save money in the long run—an added bonus on the employer side.

The tech industry is well known for its flexible schedules and telecommuting opportunities, which makes sense, considering most tech companies are web-based and technology is the greatest resource when working from home. With video chats, conference calls, VPN networks, and wireless Internet, we can constantly stay connected as though we were sitting in our office, rather than at home.

Tech is also experiencing a shortage of talent for a number of jobs, and hiring remote workers opens the talent pool for companies seeking STEM workers. Boris Kontsevoi, founder and president of Intetics Co says, “In the tech sphere, the majority of the work happens on the computer and online. As a result, the location of the person is no longer as important, as long as they have a reliable Internet connection.”

Nature of tech

While remote workers can be found in a number of different industries, it’s more prevalent in the tech-sphere. It could be due to the nature of most tech jobs—especially jobs for developers and programmers—that require a strong attention to detail and long hours of focus. Working from home can reduce the amount of distractions these workers face, allowing them to get more done during work hours.

“As a programmer, I need large chunks of time to really make progress on a project,” states Ann Gaffigan, CTO of Land Pros Systems, Inc., “In an office, there are so many potential distractions, with people knocking on the door or customers stopping in. This way I can control when I answer calls and emails and when I ‘go silent’ to get some work done.”

For employees who can’t afford to be distracted a number of times a day, having a controlled environment can be key to their productivity. Working from home can allow workers to minimize distractions and increase the time they spend focused on a project. It stands to reason that, in the end, companies benefit from these remote employees by getting projects completed faster with fewer mistakes.

Employer benefits

Employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from working from home; a company can benefit just as greatly from a remote employee. “For employers telecommuting can limit absences, increase productivity, and save money. This is most common in the tech sphere because tech companies have the infrastructure to maintain remote workers. With telecommuting the idea of the office space is changing but many are saying that it is for the better,” says Ari Zoldan CEO, Quantum Networks, LLC.

Simon Slade, CEO and co-founder of Affilorama has experienced first hand the benefits of having remote workers at his company, “By allowing employees to work remotely,” he says, “you can hire the best of the best while not limiting yourself by geographical restrictions. At Doubledot Media, 19 of our 28 employees work remotely, and I have seen no difference in job satisfaction or work performance. If anything, my remote employees’ production rate is higher because they are better equipped to avoid distractions.” The benefits also extend to his bottom line, “telecommuting saves me money because they pay for their own computer, electricity and other utilities.”

In fact, opening the talent pool seems to be one of the biggest employer benefits when it comes to a work from home policy. Jessica Greenwalt, Founder of Pixelkeet and Co-Founder of CrowdMed says, “Pixelkeet has been able to attract very talented designers and developers who want to live the freelance lifestyle without having to fish for work on their own. It’s also been easy for us to work with clients from around the globe because we have a team member in a timezone convenient for communicating with most clients.”

For some companies, working from home can be a matter of more hours in the day. This is especially true for small businesses and new companies where they can’t afford to waste even one minute of the workday. “Being a small startup, every hour of the day is important,” says Tim Segraves, co-founder and CTO of Revaluate, “If we all spent an hour of day commuting, that would be almost 20 hours a week that would go to commuting instead of building out our product and business.”

Companies might also retain more employees if they enact a work from home benefit. Stanford professor, Nick Bloom, conducted a study to evaluate the benefits of working from home. He found workers were more productive, got more done, worked longer hours, took less breaks, and used less sick time than their in-office counterparts. These employees were also happier and quit less than those who went into the office on a regular basis. He estimated that, on average, the company saved about $2,000 per every employee who worked from home.

Health benefits

People who work from home have an easier time eating healthy and striking a manageable work-life balance. Eating healthier and having more time to spend with your family can help you feel less stressed, which will make for a happier more productive workday.  A 2011 study from Staples found that employees who worked from home experienced 25 percent less stress. Employees also reported that they were able to maintain a better work-life balance, as well as eat healthier.

Cofounder of SimpleTexting, Felix Dubinksy, notes the health benefits of being at home, “It’s much easier to keep a healthy diet while eating at home. You save a lot of stressful hours that would have been spent commuting. You can construct a comfortable work environment for yourself. Spend more time with family.”

It’s a common answer when you ask people why they like to work from home. Most will respond that their flexible work environment relieves the amount of stress in their lives and gives them a healthier work-life balance. Today, our offices are constantly on, it isn’t the same as it was decades ago, when you left the office and work actually ended. Today, most of us can work at any hour wherever we are located, so it makes sense that the line is starting to blur between work and life. But it stands to reason that working from home can help redefine—or at the very least, rebalance—that line.

Alessandra Ceresa, Marketing Director of Greenrope, finds he can balance his work and life much easier when he works remote, “Because much of what we do is not constrained within the hours of 9-5, I am able to go to the gym in the middle of the day, take a walk, do errands. When I take these sorts of breaks, the moment I sit back down to work, I am focused. My life is balanced because I get all of my work done and have time to actually live my life.”

Maybe you have a commute that makes you frustrated before you even hit your desk, and all you can do while you drink your morning coffee is fantasize about what you could buy with all that gas money. For employees who work far from the office, cutting out the commute can make a world of difference for their stress and overall health. For Charlie Harary, CEO of H3 & Company and professor at the Syms School of Business at Yeshiva University, cutting down on how many days a week one of his employees needed to commute allowed one employee to get more done in her working hours. “I have an employee that has a two-hour commute to the office each way. Once day, she mentioned to me that she had to leave early to get home in time to make a family obligation. I asked her why and she detailed out her daily commute. I was shocked by the sheer difficulty it was for her to get to the office each day.”

He immediately proposed a work-from-home option. At first, the employee wasn’t sure how well working remote would work for her or her boss, but after coming up with a suitable arrangement, both Harary and his employee were happy to see how well it worked. So happy, in fact, that she now works from home twice a week.

 

Article written by Sarah White for Monster.com

 

 

 

 

Here Are The Top 7 Websites For Free Online Education

Image result for Free Online Education

You don’t need an Ivy League education to get a world-class education.

There are many online education websites that offer academic courses for a fraction of the cost of traditional colleges and universities, making them ideal for lifelong learners.

Here are 7 outstanding websites to access tons of academic courses – for free.

Top 7 Online Education Websites

The following online education websites offer thousands of online courses for students and life-long learners alike. While many are fee-based courses, you can also find many free courses as well.

1. Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a non-profit whose missions is “to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” Khan Academy is free for both learners and teachers, and offers lessons for students from kindergarten through early college, with topic including math, grammar, science, history, AP® exams, SAT® and more. Khan Academy’s founding partners include, among others, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, Ann & Jon Doerr and Reed Hastings.

Sample Free Courses: Algebra, Geometry, Statistics & Probability

2. edX

Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX is a global non-profit that seeks to remove three barriers of traditional education: cost, location and access. edX has more than 20 million learners and 2,400 courses from a majority of the top-ranked universities in the world. Open edX is the open source platform behind edX, and it’s open to educators and technologists who want to develop new educational tools. In addition to free courses, edX also offers courses for a fee.

Sample Free Courses: The Architectural Imagination (Harvard), Financial Analysis for Decision Making (Babson), Omnichannel Strategy & Management (Dartmouth)

3. Coursera

Coursera has more than 35 million learners, 150 university partners, 2,700 courses, 250 specializations and four degrees. In addition to free courses, Coursera offers courses generally ranging from $29 – $99. Specializations and degrees are priced higher. Course instructors include experts from the world’s top colleges and universities, and courses include recorded video lectures, community discussion forums and both graded and peer-reviewed coursework. You can also receive a course certificate for each course you complete.

Sample Free Courses: Machine Learning (Stanford), The Science of Well-Being (Yale), Successful Negotiation (University of Michigan)

4. Udemy

Udemy, a global education marketplace, has 30 million students, 100,000 courses in 50 languages, 42,000 instructors and 22 million minutes of video instruction. Unlike other online education platforms driven by content from colleges and universities, Udemy allows content creators to curate their own courses and teach them online.

Sample Free Courses: Introduction to Python Programming

5. TED-Ed

TED-Ed is TED’s award-winning youth and education arm whose mission is to share and spread ideas from teachers and students. TED-Ed has a global network of more than 250,000 teachers that serves millions of teachers and students around the world every week. TED-Ed includes innovative content such as original animated videos and a platform for teachers to create interactive lessons.

Sample Free Courses: The Mysterious Science of Pain, How Do Self-Driving Cars See, What Causes Turbulence

6. Codeacademy

Codeacademy is an interactive platform that teaches you how to code in multiple different programming languages. Most free courses can be completed in less than 11 hours. Codeacademy has helped train more than 45 million learners in topics such as web development, programming, computer science and data science. Codeacademy alums work at Google, Facebook, IBM and Bloomberg, among other top companies. Codeacademy also offers a premium plan for a monthly fee.

Sample Free Courses: multiple programming languages

7. Stanford Online

Stanford Online, an education initiative at Stanford University, offers free online courses as well as professional certificates, advanced degrees and executive education. Stanford Online offers courses from Stanford’s undergraduate and graduate schools, including Stanford Law School, Stanford Business School and Stanford Medical School, among others.

Sample Free Courses: Introduction to Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship Through The Lens of Venture Capital, How To Learn Math

 

Article written by Zack Friedman for https://www.forbes.com/

4 Ways to Successfully Develop Employees Year-Round

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Successful performance management for individual employees and the organization involves activities that ensure goals are met efficiently and effectively. It’s an ongoing process essential to achieving the company mission that is much more than just an end-of-year performance review.

Develop Employees

picture thanks to insperity.com

In an effort to keep employees engaged in their work and help them grow into leaders within the company, invest in them (and they’ll invest in you). Here are four ways to successfully develop employees throughout the year:

1. Set (and update) quarterly goals.

The key to actively developing employees is to set relevant, achievable goals. Rather than setting and discussing employee goals on an annual basis, optimize the development and review process by creating quarterly goals. Not only are these goals easier to set, but the results of those goals are easier to see.

Quarterly goals are the quickest, easiest way for employees to derive meaning from what they do every day. As such, creating achievable goals and monitoring employee progress is crucial. With the rate at which we do business, some goals may no longer be relevant. Revisiting these goals every quarter highlights which goals need to be updated, ensuring that individual work goals are still applicable.

2. Offer opportunities for individual growth.

Employees want training. In fact, Glassdoor’s 2014 Employment Confidence Survey of nearly 1,000 U.S. employees found that 63 percent of employees believe learning new skills or receiving special training is most important to advancing their career. Providing coaching and development activities throughout the year is an employer’s best bet to create a culture of growth within the workplace. To ensure continuous growth and improve productivity, equip employees with the tools they need to function at peak performance.

For starters, consider creating a mentorship program in which new hires work closely with a seasoned employee within their department. Doing so will get new employees on the right track sooner. Additionally, develop current employees by offering regular training programs or bringing in industry professionals for “lunch and learns.”

Most importantly, encourage employees to seek professional development opportunities outside of the workplace. Employees that aim to advance their skills in their own time will likely become great leaders and should be recognized for their efforts.

3. Hold frequent review meetings.

Although performance management should be a continuous process, only 2 percent of employers provide ongoing feedback to their employees, a 2013 survey of 803 HR professionals by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed. How can we expect our employees to improve if we only offer them constructive feedback once or twice a year?

In place of the year-end performance review that employers and employees both tend to dread, opt for a more frequent, informal review process. The purpose of the review shouldn’t be to evaluate employees, as that is the aspect of performance reviews that causes the most anxiety. Rather, it should focus on developing employees.

Try asking employees questions that target where there is room for improvement, such as, “What skills would you most like to improve on?” or “What can I do to help you?” Reviewing employee progress more frequently not only makes the process less intimidating, but it can help employers and employees set better goals for the future.

4. Automate the review process.

Automating portions of the performance review process can help employers and employees alike by making more time for other aspects of employee reviews. Possibly the biggest advantage of implementing technology into the review process is making it so much easier for employees and their managers to track and measure performance year-round.

Say goodbye to the days of trying to scramble a year’s worth of necessary data for performance reviews. Automating the process makes for a more efficient performance review and fosters a comprehensive development process.

 

Source: written by Matt Straz

The skill of developing skills

The skill of developing skills

picture thanks to resumetarget.com

Skills have become one of the most important topics, if not the most, in the education arena, particularly when the world registers the highest education levels in history. Precisely because policymakers realized that more years of schooling did not necessarily translate into more learning, skills development, or economic growth, most countries began to progressively implement competency-based education reforms, mainly in the 2000s. Surprisingly, these reforms have not always succeeded in improving learning outcomes, or at least not at the expected pace. Thus, a relevant question is: how can we teach skills, in practice, in every classroom to make sure that what is crafted at the education authority level translates into measurable results in every student?

Even though there have never been as many reports available about skill development policies as there are now, most of them focus on recommendations to identify skills-shortages and implement skill development strategies, at the aggregate level. Unfortunately, the evidence about what policymakers can do to specifically enable the development of skills in schools is more limited. From my experience as a policymaker leading a large skill development program, a crucial step to facilitate this process, as simple and obvious as it may seem, is to invest enough time to define the skills that will be taught, as precisely as possible.

Wait, but what exactly are skills?
Skills are the ability to do something well. While knowledge alludes to the way we realize, understand, and remember information, skills refer to the way that we choose, use, and apply knowledge in different circumstances, facing diverse and frequently unpredictable challenges. Think about writing emails, for example: individuals may know how to write, and they may even know what emails are, but that doesn’t mean they know how to write emails well, much less how to write them in different contexts, and for different audiences and purposes. Thus, being able to write is different than having communication skills. In fact, a more technical definition of skills –or competencies– involves knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values, which means that, in the email example, individuals are not only expected to use their grammar well but to also show empathy and respect.

In addition, skills are:

  1. Multi-dimensional and interrelated: skills can be (1) cognitive, (2) social-emotional or non-cognitive, and/or (3) technical or job-relevant, but they can also be of basic order or high order. Different types of skills interact so much that it becomes complex to determine which skills beget the development of others, or to classify certain skills into only one category. For example, social-emotional skills are necessary to learn and develop cognitive skills, but at the same time developing cognitive abilities contributes to developing social-emotional ones.
  • Cross-disciplinary: the same skill can be taught across different disciplines with similar or different purposes –for example: problem solving.
  • Transversal: the same skill can be relevant to a broad range of occupations or sectors, not only to an individual’s current occupation –for example: communication.
  • Transferable: a core objective of skills is that they can be transferred to and applied in different occupations or contexts –for example: decision making.
  • Acquired during different developmental periods: skills can be acquired and developed during different age periods, according to individuals’ needs and maturity. Typically, cognitive skills are developed during early childhood and childhood and tend to plateau around adulthood, while job-relevant skills are usually acquired during late adolescence and adulthood.
  • Ultimately evaluated in the workplace and in life: even though individuals are supposed to acquire some of the most important skills in school, it is several years later, in the workplace and/or in life, that they will be able to assess whether they have acquired them or not.

So, why is it hard to teach them (in practice)?
To teach skills, teachers need clear, specific objectives that are measurable. This is particularly relevant for teaching social-emotional skills, since their assessment is more complex than that of cognitive skills. Since skills are multi-dimensional and cross-disciplinary, among other characteristics, teachers need to have a clear idea of what they are expected to teach, so that they can track progress in the classroom. This includes specific and simple definitions for every skill within a curriculum framework.

Think of the following real-life example: In 2008, Mexico’s competency-based Upper Secondary Reform (or RIEMS) introduced a common curriculum framework with 11 common competencies. One of these competencies was defined as “the student chooses and practices [a healthy life style]”. In practice, teaching this type of objective is tricky since teachers cannot necessarily force students to make healthy decisions, much less evaluate whether they made them or not.

Sometimes competencies tend to be defined as the outcome of a skill (in this case, choosing healthy life styles), not as a skill per se (responsible decision making for example), which makes them hard to teach and evaluate. In the context of the program that I led, we decided to work along with psychologists and teachers to set clear, understandable, and simple definitions for our 18 skills, including responsible decision-making. This step helped us to implement the program faster and helped teachers to carry out the program’s teaching activities.

The more specific we can be about what works, and what doesn’t, the better the outcomes.  I strongly encourage you to use your policy making skills for that purpose.

Source: written by Paula Villaseñor for world bank blog

How to Support Employee Growth and Professional Development

Employee retention is one of the biggest threats to businesses throughout the country. The tide has shifted in recent years, and the employees now have more power than ever in their relationships with employers. In fact, 65 percent of workers believe they can leverage this control to their advantage through salary and benefit negotiations.

One way for businesses to keep employees satisfied and committed is through employee growth and professional development initiatives. Udemy found that 42 percent of employees said that learning and development were the most important benefits when deciding where to work.

 

bruce-mars-xj8qrWvuOEs-unsplash

picture thanks to bruce mars on Unsplash

By taking a proactive approach to your employee growth and professional development strategies, you can mitigate employee turnover and drive more productivity. Here are six ways to support employee growth and professional development in the workplace.

Give Recognition and Rewards

If you want to support employee growth and professional development, you must first keep them happy and motivated. That starts by creating a company culture that rewards and recognizes exceptional work.

Giving recognition and rewards to your employees can motivate them, and it encourages loyalty — which are driving forces behind employee growth. When workers feel valued and their efforts recognized, performance levels increase. A study from Alight Solutions found that employees who felt their rewards were met are seven times more likely to be engaged with their work.

Recognition and rewards are excellent ways to incentivize your employees to grow with the organization. While monthly or annual awards are great, consider recognizing your employees spontaneously — as 47 percent of employees said they prefer unplanned rewards.

Provide Feedback in Real-time, Not Just During Annual Reviews

According to a study from Wakefield Research, more than 90 percent of employees would prefer that their manager address learning opportunities and mistakes in real-time, not during an annual review only. Organizations that do not provide continuous feedback cannot expect employees to grow or develop in the areas within which they struggle.

Knowing your weaknesses is an important step in personal and professional development. Organizations need to implement processes that help management organize and assess the strengths and weaknesses of their employees on an ongoing basis. These managers need to then communicate the results of those assessments throughout the year — either weekly, monthly or quarterly.

This ongoing evaluation and communication process provides a feedback loop that helps employees understand the areas they need more training in, as well as developmental areas to improve employee aptitude and performance.

Use a Learning Management System (LMS)

A learning management system (LMS) offers organizations a scalable solution to employee growth and professional development. As the name might suggest, learning management systems are applications that help businesses create, store, track, deliver and report educational resources, trainings and developmental programs.

LMS software offers businesses an alternative solution to creating, managing and delivering training materials and courses manually. Rather than investing valuable time training new hires or working one-on-one on redundant training programs, businesses can utilize LMS software to move that training into an eLearning platform. Not only does LMS software streamline the employee training, but it allows the organization to deliver consistent material and uphold their quality assurance.

Encourage Mentoring and Coaching

Another way for businesses to look internally to support employee growth and professional development is through mentoring and coaching programs. The modern workforce has changed, and employees no longer respond well to demands or orders. Rather, managers must learn to work in tandem with their employees, similar to a coach or mentor.

Organizations can support the growth of their employees by creating a management culture that encourages communication and training. Managers shouldn’t be afraid to ask employees if they need help, and they should relish in the opportunity to pass on skills or knowledge to their employees.

Professional development and training typically fall on one’s direct managers — so emphasizing a culture of coaching and mentoring is an excellent way to encourage employee growth.

Identify and Develop Soft Skills

Soft skills refer to the personal traits and non-technical attributes that help you succeed in your career. These skills can include areas like time management, delegation, active listening, and communication, among others. Organizations that offer training and educational resources for soft-skill development can increase the productivity of their entire team – not just the employee.

Surprisingly, soft-skill development is something that many of today’s managers lack. Most organizations promote their best-performing employees to managerial positions, even if they lack proper management skills, training, or experience. In fact, a 2016 study from Grovo found that 87 percent of managers wish they had more training before being asked to lead.

While productivity is important, organizations need to take a proactive approach to assess and develop soft skills for employees and managers.

Implement Cross-Departmental Training Programs

Today’s businesses are becoming less and less siloed. Whether you work as a production manager or the front-line sales representative, there is value in understanding how every unit operates.

As such, organizations can support employee growth and professional development by implementing cross-departmental training programs. Moreover, breaking these departmental barriers can improve communication from one unit to the next — thus, increasing the efficiency of your entire organization.

For instance, your customer service department might notice a common theme in consumer complaints about a product. If there is a communication gap between them and the production team, that deficiency or issue might not be brought up as quickly as it should.

Cross-departmental training programs can educate your employees about different areas of your business, while also providing a better communication channel between different sectors of your organization.

Continue to Look for Developmental Opportunities

To mitigate employee turnover and decreased productivity, organizations must find creative ways to engage workers and increase their loyalty. Employee growth initiatives and skill-development programs are two long-term strategies that provide the foundation for improved employee experiences. If businesses want to invest in anything in 2019 and beyond, it should be their most valuable resource — their employees.

Article by Christine Soeun Choi for Glassdoor

5 Ways To Develop Your Skills On The Job

In today’s competitive job market, it is so important that you keep learning and growing. But, you know what, time is scarce. It is hard enough to get the job done each day let alone plan for the next step in your career. But, if your career is a priority, it is mission critical to find ways to learn and grow so that you can continue to advance your career and develop your skills. If you are looking for a promotion or raise, you’re going to have to prove you can add more value.

Innovative-Design

picture thanks to saintellectsolutions.com

5 Ways To Develop Your Skills On The Job

The best ways to do this is to continually feed your career with skills and knowledge that show you are worth the raise and promotion. And here’s the hack… you can do these things while you’re at work. Here’s how:

  1. Get a mentor & be a mentor.

Having a mentor at work is crucial to attaining new skills and knowledge. A good mentor will help you solve some of the challenges and roadblocks you face. The best mentors will help you figure out next steps that work for you and help guide you over hurdles that sit squarely in your blind spot. Amazing mentors will be the people who tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear. They will give you the real feedback you need to fill in your blind spots that put you in a position to advance. Mentors are important to advancing your career. They can expose you to new experiences and points of view. In addition to finding a good mentor, consider finding a good protégé as well. In many cases, taking that next step in your career means you may have to manage people. The best way to practice is to become a mentor to someone else. You pay your learnings forward to others to help them advance as well. You learn a lot about motivating people and teaching them new skills when you can also act as a mentor.

  1. Raise your hand for new challenges.

When you see new opportunities to learn new skills, go for it. If there is something in the company you want to learn to do and you see an opportunity to learn those skills in a special project or a new assignment, make the grab. Do a little extra when it’s required to learn those new skills that you need to advance. Remember, it’s not aggressive to reach for a new opportunity. It is helpful, useful, and valuable. People who progress in their careers find ways to elegantly make grabs for new opportunity and learning. When a new project comes up and it aligns with the skills you’re looking to obtain, raise that hand. Let your manager or HR team know that you want to learn some new skills or gain new, more advanced experience. Be clear on what you can offer to the project and get involved.

  1. Read, read, read and look for problems to solve.

Sometimes, there are not a lot of grabs to make. I understand that. In that case, I recommend that you start reading everything you can about your industry and your field. Study everything there is to know about your company and their competitors. Know the company goals and unique selling points of your company like the back of your hand. Become an expert in these things and be able to talk about it. Think about some solutions to the company’s chief challenges. Honestly, when someone on my team comes to me with a solution, they stand out. When there are not many special projects to make a grab for, you can develop and pitch your own special project by knowing what challenges you can solve for the company. This way, you learn new skills and stand out because you’ve taken the time to solve a company problem.

  1. Make friends in other departments.

Many times new skills are outside your department or area of influence and responsibility. To overcome this, think about networking internally. Get to know people in other divisions, other offices, and on other teams. Be curious about their department. Learn everything you can about their job and their skills. Find out how they got those skills and see how you might be able to chip in over there in your spare time to get those skills you want to use to advance.

  1. Find the learning opportunities internally.

The last one is one I always forget about. Many companies have some sort of internal learning system. Go talk to your benefits team. Find out about training opportunities available to you. Learn about any tuition re-imbursement benefits you may have. Talk with your HR team about what you want to learn and how it can help the company. Getting new skills doesn’t have to mean going back to school in the evenings. Sometimes, the skills you’re looking for are right in front of you. It’s a matter of knowing what you want to learn and finding ways to get those skills while you are actually at work already.

Source: written by Tracey Parsons for work in daily