Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Employee Development

“Employee development activities help in the growth and development of employees, who are the true assets of an organization. You need to respect your employees for them to feel motivated and develop a sense of loyalty and attachment towards the organization” (MSG Experts, 2013).

Employee_Development

This week’s primary focus is on Employee Development and its importance in the workplace. There are several benefits for both the employee and employer including more effective time management, increased skills and experience, greater employee retention and greater profit. This week’s assignment includes two parts: 1) A PowerPoint presentation for my organization that includes development approaches that I would like to see implemented, and 2) My own personal Employee Development Plan. Please click on the links below to access the documents.

Employee Development

Employee Development Plan

 

References:

MSG Experts. (2013). Importance of employee development. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from http://www.managementstudyguide.com: http://www.managementstudyguide.com/employee-development-importance.htm

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Planning for a Needs Assessment

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For this week’s assignment, students were asked to choose a company and learn about that company’s customers, services, products, mission, and objectives. Based on that information, we were to prepare for completing a needs assessment. “Needs assessment refers to the process used to determine whether training is necessary” (Noe, 2013). Throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, I have read many examples of excellent customer service portrayed by Southwest Airlines. Therefore, I was excited to choose Southwest Airlines as the company to use for this exercise.

Mission Statement for Customers

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The above mission statement is intended for the customers of Southwest Airlines, but there is also a mission statement intended for their employees. It shows the great consideration the company has by encouraging and retaining their staff.

Mission Statement for Employees

“We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected   to share externally with every Southwest customer” (Southwest Airlines Co., 2014).

 Products/ Service

“Southwest Airlines is now America’s largest low-fare carrier, serving more Customers domestically than any other airline with a unique combination of low fares with no annoying fees, friendly Customer Service delivered by outstanding People, safe and reliable operations, and an extraordinary corporate Culture that extends into the communities we serve” (Southwest Airlines Co., 2014).

Consumers

“Dallas-based Southwest Airlines continues to differentiate itself from other carriers with exemplary Customer Service delivered by nearly 45,000 Employees to more than 100 million Customers annually” (Southwest Airlines Co., 2014).

Management Philosophy

“Not only were Southwest employees trained to give excellent customer service, they were also empowered to do so. When people with the right attitude are hired and trained according to the company’s customer service standards, they can be confident that the employee will make the right decisions” (Campbell, 2010). This is just one of many examples of the corporate philosophies illustrated at Southwest Airlines. The article found at http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/customer-support-software/articles/87080-how-southwest-airlines-became-model-customer-loyalty.htm provides several more examples.

 Strategic Objectives

“Southwest Airlines’ number one priority is to ensure the personal Safety of each Southwest Customer and Employee. Beyond this, we follow “The Golden Rule,” which means we treat each other the way we want to be treated, which is why doing the right thing by our Employees and Customers is so inherent to who we are” (Southwest Airlines Co., 2008). More information about Southwest’s dedication to their customers, employees, communities, and planet can be found at http://www.southwest.com/assets/pdfs/corporate-commitments/southwestcares.pdf.

Stakeholders

Upper-level managers, mid-level managers, and trainers should all be involved in the needs assessment process. Upper-level managers would include CEO Gary Kelly and company directors that would be able to give broad company views of how training would benefit the strategic objectives. Mid-level managers such as department managers would be able to help determine who should receive training and how many resources would be used to develop and deliver the training. Trainers would be able to determine how training programs should be designed, developed, and delivered to best reach participants. It is important for trainers to determine how supportive upper-level and mid-level managers are in the training process. In addition, employees can give a great indication of what should be included in training and how they best learn and use the material to transfer to their position.

Organizational Analysis

Upper-Level Managers: Is training needed to successfully meet the business objectives? Will training benefit employees in relation to retention and job growth? Will training benefit customers by improving service and production? What resources is the company willing to utilize for training?

Mid-Level Managers: How many resources from your department are you willing to utilize for training? What needs do you hope to benefit from training? Will training help hire, retain, and grow employees? How active are you willing to be before, during, and after the training program to ensure proper design, development, presentation, and utilization?

Trainers: How supportive are managers in the training program? Do I have the resources needed to properly integrate the training program? Do we have SMEs that can help with training program content and development?

Person Analysis

Upper-Level Managers: Do specific employees in certain positions or departments need training? What needs to be accomplished to meet business objectives?

Mid-Level Managers: Do specific employees in certain positions or departments need training?

Trainers: How do I determine which specific employees in what positions or departments need training? Do some employees within these positions or departments need more specialized training than others?

Task Analysis

Upper-Level Managers: “Does the company have people with the knowledge, skills, and abilities or competencies needed to compete in the workplace?” (Noe, 2013).

Mid-Level Managers: “For what jobs can training make the biggest difference in product quality or customer service?” (Noe, 2013).

Trainers: How do I determine what tasks should be trained for which positions and/ or departments? How do I determine which skills and knowledge (prerequisites) are needed to completed the training?

Documents/Records

  • Current and past training modules, manuals, presentations
  • Training feedback through surveys and interviews
  • Department Turnover Reports
  • Customer Service Ratings
  • Flight Percentages

Techniques

Observation: This would allow the trainer to observe what is working and what is not working in current work duties. This would also allow me to gain a greater understanding of where there are opportunities for improvement.

Focus groups: A focus group consisting of new hires and experienced employees who can give insight to current and past training, what they would like to see in future training, and how they would like to see the training presented.

Online technology: Online training programs could help employees who do not meet prerequisites. This would allow these employees to complete tasks at their own pace and ensure they have needed knowledge before attending training. Online technology could also be used for confidential surveys. Some employees feel uncomfortable giving honest feedback in a group setting.

Interviews with SMEs: Interviews would allow the trainer to learn required skills and knowledge needed to complete the training, and determine how the SME could help with design and development of training material.

Conclusion

It was very important for me to identify company values when researching for this assignment, and it is clear that Southwest Airlines is determined to offer excellent service to their customers as well as their employees. Therefore, it is extremely important that ample time is put into the needs assessment for this company. They strive to make work fun and produce great results while saving money as much as possible. The more upper-level managers, mid-level managers, trainers, and subject matter experts can work together to clearly outline resources, determine the right participants, determine how the training will meet business objectives, and offer support throughout the training process, the more successful the outcome.

References

Campbell, S. J. (2010, June 2). How Southwest Airlines became a model for customer loyalty. Retrieved May 16, 2014, from http://www.tmcnet.com: http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/customer-support-software/articles/87080-how-southwest-airlines-became-model-customer-loyalty.htm

Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training and development (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Southwest Airlines Co. (2008). Southwest Cares: Doing the Right Thing.

Southwest Airlines Co. (2014). About Southwest. Retrieved May 16, 2014, from http://www.southwest.com: http://www.southwest.com/html/about-southwest/index.html?tab=5

Training and Development

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Benjamin Franklin

Training and Development Elevator Speech

It is hard to believe that so many of today’s organizations still do not see the ultimate potential that training and development can have on the success of a business. Training can impact motivation, employee performance, and can contribute to new development, production, and business growth. Imagine if your company were to produce the best new product on the market, however no one ever took the time to train employees or customers how to use that product. Your business might lose out on substantial profit because of this misstep.

Image In order to stay competitive in today’s market, organizations must realize that “Training is not a luxury; it is a necessity if companies are to participate in the global and electronic marketplaces by offering high quality products and services” (Noe, 2013). Many companies believe that training must be time-consuming and costly in order to be effective, however this is not always the case. Simply incorporating informal training such as employee mentoring, a company blog, or on-the-job training can offer benefits that will support the business strategy, including hiring and retaining productive employees. The essential goal of training and development is learning, and learning can be achieved in a multitude of ways with a little time, motivation, and creativity!  References: Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training and development (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Scope Creep


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Scope Creep

“The natural tendency of the client, as well as the project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses” (Portny et al., 2008, p. 436)

Scope creep is defined as “the natural tendency of the client, as well as the project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses” (Portny et al., 2008, p. 436). I think the key words here are “natural tendency” as scope creep is something that is inevitable in almost any significant project. Perhaps this is due to projects not being thoroughly thought out before initiation or because team members and/or clients become more excited and actively involved as the project progresses. “Changes to the course may occur when course requirements are not properly defined, documented and controlled” (Lynch & Roecker, 2007, p. 96). Whatever the case, it is important for the project manager to stay focused on the goal as originally determined in order to not cause interruptions or delays.

I have had the “privilege” of working on a project that included a great amount of scope creep. I was asked to create a training presentation that would teach sales representatives how to promote a vacation package to a new resort in Myrtle Beach. The management team gave me brief details about the resort, qualifications, prices, dates the package was available, and deadlines. After asking a few questions, I began work on the design and development of the PowerPoint presentation. I worked diligently through the day and the next getting all of the slides to look uniform and to present the information clearly for the representatives. However, at the end of the second day, it was brought to my attention that we had added another resort and the available dates had been changed. I made the additions as quickly as possible and submitted the presentation to the manager for review. After showing the other members of the management team the work I had done, they had decided that they wanted all of the resorts at all of the locations presented in a similar fashion. A great time to give the presentation would be in two days when company executives would be visiting the call center. I was thrilled that my work was determined good enough to make such an important presentation, however it was never considered how much work would be involved. I worked day and night for the next two days ensuring that everything was perfect including the information, design, and handouts.

Everything in the training program ran smoothly and I was given many positive comments about my efforts. The presentation was incorporated into the new hire training program, was updated regularly, and was used for many years after its development. I was very proud of my work, however much of the stress I went through because of the various changes and additions to the project could have been alleviated. “Avoiding scope creep is not possible. However, monitoring it, controlling it, and thereby reducing some of the pain is possible” (Portny et al., 2008, p. 347). The project manager could have been more willing to add other resources such as additional trainers to help with the development of the presentation or perhaps been more willing to incorporate the training in stages to decrease the amount of work to be completed in such a short amount of time. Clients and project managers often get excited about the end product and simply look at the final goal. It is important though that they sometimes take a step back and determine if the changes and/or additions are beneficial to the success of the project. “The problem is that clients may not know what they want the finished product to look like until the design project is nearly over, so they make last minute changes and then you’re loaded with an extra day’s work, but not an extra day’s pay” (Cass, 2012). As the workers on a project, we must be willing to speak up to our clients or our project managers and explain how the extra work will affect the project.

References:

Cass, J. (2012, February 14). Scope creep-how to avoid, manage, and kill it. Retrieved June 13, 2013, from justcreative.com: http://justcreative.com/2012/02/14/how-to-deal-with-scope-creep/

Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery and management. London: Routledge.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., & Sutton, M. M. (2008). Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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Communicating Effectively

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“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people”    

~Jim Rohn                          

Communication must be “clear, concise and focused. It helps everyone stay on target” (Laureate Education, 2009). This week’s focus is on the importance of effective communication in the workplace. While this course emphasizes the role of the project manager, this week’s topic of communication spreads out to really include all of the members of the team. Without communication, a project can quickly become chaotic influencing deadlines, roles and responsibilities, budget, and ultimately the finished product. So what is effective communication?

Dr. Stolovitch notes that “Effective communication is affected by:

  • Spirit and attitude
  • Tonality and body language
  • Timing
  • The personality of the recipient” (Laureate Education, 2009).

To test our skills in communication, we were presented the same message in three very different formats-email, voicemail, and face-to-face conversation. The task was to read and/or listen to the message and note the characteristics of each format, interpret the message, and determine which message best conveyed the meaning or delivered the message most effectively. This is what I discovered:

  •  Email relies strictly on written communication; therefore it is often hard to read the tone, personality, and attitude of the sender. Dr. Stolovitch states, “Written communication should begin with a clear purpose, state the situations, include possible solutions, and specify the form that the response is required to take” (Laureate Education, 2009). In the email example provided in this week’s resources, communication is formal, and there is  a clear concise message of urgency presented with a requested action revealing that the situation is of great importance to the sender.
  • Voicemail is a better alternative when you are wanting to follow-up on a situation or if you want to ensure a quick response. Many people may not frequently check email or may have too many emails to respond in a timely manner. Voicemail allows the sender to use their tone to stress urgency and more effectively communicate in most cases. Spirit and attitude, tone, and personality can be presented more clearly in a spoken manner than in written correspondence.
  •  In most cases, face-to-face conversation is the most effective means of communication. The greatest reason for this is the use of body language. Body language represents the attitude of the speaker. “93% of communication is not in words” (Laureate Education, 2009) but rather in the accompanying factors such as tone, body language, and attitude that more effectively tell the true meaning of the situation.
  • This week’s task was a little hard to figure out in regards to the most effective message. Instinctively, I would almost always argue that face-to-face conversation is the most beneficial. However, the email and voicemail stressed importance and urgency in the message, whereas the face-to-face message was much more conversational than I would have thought. The speaker in the face-to-face conversation was very friendly and polite, and she seemed a little more nonchalant than in the previous messages. If the intention of the communication was to come across as urgent, then the email and the voicemail were more effectively communicated than the face-to-face conversation. However, we must keep in mind that in the face-to-face conversation, the recipient has the opportunity to ask questions for clarification, the speaker can assure objectives are clear, and an agreement can be reached all in one conversation without the various updates through correspondence required when communicating through email or voicemail. Live conversations should be documented in writing to ensure even better results.

“Communication is a skill that requires the exchange of information in a way that it creates a common understanding of an idea, expectation or an opinion. And good communication means one that has achieved its goal of making your audience understand what you have tried to convey.” (Velagapudi, 2012).

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References:

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009). Project management concerns: Communication strategies and organizational culture. [DVD]. Baltimore, MD.

Velagapudi, M. (2012, June 26). 6 tips for good communication practices in projects. Retrieved May 23, 2013, from blog.bootstraptoday.com: http://blog.bootstraptoday.com/2012/06/26/6-tips-for-good-communication-practices-in-projects/

 

Project “Post Mortem”

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“It’s important for project managers and team members to take stock at the end of a project and develop a list of lessons learned so that they don’t repeat their mistakes in the next project” (Greer, 2010)

Reflecting back on my past experience, I think of a project where I was asked to develop materials for a training class for a new sales department. Looking back now I see that I was in an Instructional Design role being assigned a Project Manager task with absolutely no skills or education to guide me. My experience was in training and developing but I did not know the ADDIE model or any PM tools that would have made the project so much easier. Instead this is what I learned:

  1. “Every project must balance its functionality, staffing, cost, schedule, and quality objectives” (Wiegers, 1996), and the project manager is primarily responsible for keeping each of these tasks on track. The first step toward completing these tasks begins in the planning stage. However, even the best planning, even the most well thought-out tasks, can be affected by change. I sought the leadership of my management team. They gave me the information I was to include in the training, and I was to develop the materials. Simple? Not so much! Without planning for scheduling, the desired outcomes of the training, the budget, or others I could call on for help, the project was doomed for failure. “Scope creep” was a continuous factor in the project. Because the department was new, everyone who heard of the training had something to add until the project became more than could be achieved by deadline.
  2. It is important for the Project Manager to do a great deal of work to examine stakeholders before the project even begins. Useful tips such as “Talk to senior people whose names appear on your list of stakeholders and begin to figure out the key project roles and responsibilities, reporting relationships, etc., and complete a Responsibility/Accountability Matrix” will prepare for the PM for the kickoff meeting where he will be able to then clarify these roles and gain commitment (Greer, 2010, p. 10). In this project, stakeholders were not identified, tools and reports were not used, and a kickoff meeting never happened (at least not that I attended). If all of the parties involved had met, objectives had been discussed, responsibilities had been committed to, deadlines had been set, and everyone had a clear understanding of the goals of the project, the project might have succeeded. Without this step in the process, the project felt like chaos.
  3.  “Communicating effectively is probably the greatest challenge that people encounter during any project so it is imperative that instructional designers model and establish good communication techniques and patterns at the onset of a project” (Allen & Hardin, 2008, p. 79). Communication is a must when it comes to the success of a project. This is where I admit that I was so excited that I was given the responsibility of this project early in my career, that I did not question many of the steps in the process. I was asked to create training materials so I did so based on what I had created in the past. However, very much like Case Study 23 in our text, my objectives were not the same as those that were anticipated by the management team. The difference, though, is that the anticipated objectives were never clearly outlined verbally or otherwise.
  4.  I was a one (wo)man show—I was the project manager and instructional designer. Therefore, all final results were my responsibility, after all no one actually admits they failed to communicate the plan of action. Results are all that matter. The project did not have the desired outcome, at first. The materials were developed beautifully, however the content was not up to par. I was able to show my work to management early in the project so together we were able to change directions mid-way. In the article “The Human Factor: Making Your Process Transparent to Your Customers”, Arnold suggests, “As you present work products for approval, remind the customer of your current stage in the project, what the current work product is (and isn’t), and ask for a signature or other written approval of the work product. If, for some reason, the work product doesn’t match the customer’s expectations, the frequent checkpoints will help ensure that the project doesn’t get too far off track before the customer has the opportunity to request corrections” (Arnold, 2011).

Planning, communication, identifying stakeholders, scheduling, and accountability all play a great role in the success of a project. The better a project manager outlines each step of the plan, the better the results will be achieved. In the moment, I knew this project was not well organized. I was young in my experience with little formal education, but looking back I realize what a valuable lesson I learned. The greatest perhaps being that I do not ever want to be part of a disorganized project again. I want to know how to be better prepared for success.

“Trying to manage a project without project management is like trying to play a football game without a game plan.” ~K. Tate

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References:

Allen , S., & Hardin, P. C. (2008). Developing instructional technology using effective project management practices. Journal of computing in higher education, 19(2), 72-97.

Arnold, M. (2011, April 19). The human factor: making your process transparent to your customers. Retrieved May 9, 2013, from http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com: http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/665/the-human-factor-making-your-process-transparent-to-your-customers

Greer, M. (2010). The Project Management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! Laureate Education.

Wiegers, K. E. (1996). Creating a software engineering culture. New York: Dorset House Publishing.

Welcome

Project Management Terminology

Hello and Welcome to my Blog! This session I will shift my focus to the role of Project Manager and how this role affects Instructional Design projects. I hope everyone enjoys my posts, and I look forward to your comments and feedback.

 

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