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  • January 16, 2023 10:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Daniel Stewart - President & Executive Consultant

    No one steps into a leadership role with every skill necessary to lead a team successfully. In fact, no one steps into any role completely prepared to excel in the position. Part of becoming excellent is learning, growing, and maturing over time.

    An Individual Action Plan can make the difference between struggling to fully develop and thriving through the process while preparing to take on roles of greater responsibility. When creating your Individual Action Plan (IAP) with your boss, make sure your plan includes three kinds of learning: experiential, relationship, and formal.

    1. EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

    Experiential learning is precisely what it sounds like—learning through experience and practice. It will include the obvious forms of learning, such as on-the-job practice, but it can also involve rotational and special assignments, such as projects or committee roles. This kind of learning should constitute about 70% of development.

    Just because it’s experience-based doesn’t mean your experiential learning should be haphazard or disorganized. You should track your experiential learning in tandem with other types of learning so that you approach it intentionally and with a focus on holistic development. With the help of your boss, mentor, coach, or colleagues, identify and target specific areas for improvement. Identify metrics that can be tracked and measured to guide your progress and evaluate the overall effort at the end of a defined period. 

    Types of experiential learning could include:

    • On-the-job learning
    • Special projects
    • Continuous improvement work
    • Rotational assignments or jobs
    • Developing others
    • Stretch assignments
    • Committee assignments
    • Additional tasks

    2. RELATIONSHIP LEARNING

    Approximately 20% of your development should be focused around relationships. This type of learning falls into one of two groups. The first type of learning involves personal, one-on-one development through coaching, mentoring, advising, or relationships with colleagues, peers, or associates. Those personal connections might involve formal or informal feedback, but they’ll also involve ample opportunities for connection, discussion, and real-time problem-solving.

    The second type of relationship-based learning comes through assessments and formal feedback tools such as 360° Feedback, Personality, EQ, leadership, or work-style assessments. This kind of learning is still based in relationships, but assessments provide the framework for feedback. Once information is collected, the assessment or feedback can be applied to the IAP for specific areas of development. Assessments can also be used as part of a mentoring or coaching arrangement.

    Relationship learning can include:

    • Coaching, advising, mentoring
    • Feedback from colleagues, peers, associates
    • 360° Feedback Assessment
    • Personality, EQ, leadership, or work styles assessment
    • External volunteer activities
    • Personal “Board of Directors”
    • Shadowing other leaders
    • Observing practices in other industries

    3. FORMAL LEARNING

    Formal learning can include obvious avenues such as college coursework, technical certifications, or continuing education, but it may also include the kind of pursuits that don’t result in a degree or certificate. Reading books or articles relevant to one’s profession, writing and publishing thought leadership pieces, or attending or presenting at a conference can all be considered formal learning.

    For many people who have spent years advancing their education and keeping relevant certifications current, it may be tempting to pursue only formal learning options for development. After all, formal learning is comfortable and familiar, and when it’s passive, as in reading or consuming webinars or conference speeches, it doesn’t require a lot of interaction or measurement.

    Professionals who want to develop their leadership skills fully should limit formal learning to only about 10% of development. This doesn’t mean limiting one’s reading or postponing continuing education. Instead, when designing an Individual Action Plan, ensure that the overall goals are weighted heavily in favor of experiential learning, with only 10% of the formal plan focused on formal education. Learning of this type should be designed to support your long-term goals.

    Formal learning includes:

    • Classroom training
    • Webinars/CBTs/Podcasts
    • Books and articles
    • Conference attendance
    • Continuing education/certification
    • Educational degree
    • Writing articles, white papers, or blogs
    • Presenting at a conference

    Learning to develop oneself and others is key to thriving in a leadership role. By taking control of your personal development with an Individual Action Plan that includes the three key types of learning, you will be able to deliver excellence in your current role and prepare yourself for the next one—and thrive through the process.

    Stewart Leadership offers a variety of assessments and coaching options to help you reach your leadership goals. To learn more, contact us.

    SELF-CHECK:

    1)     Do you currently have an Individual Action Plan? If not, what would it take to develop one?

    2)     What is one kind of experiential learning that you have not pursued? Can you identify an opportunity to pursue that in your current role?

    3)     What is one assessment that you would like to add to your IAP?

  • January 16, 2023 10:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by: Kristin Derwinski and Susan Davies

    As the great resignation marches on, with an average of four million people leaving their jobs per month for over a year and a half, many organizations are finding that, as talent leaves, so does the institutional knowledge of business processes, systems, products, as well as best practices. The resulting skill gap is unprecedented.

    The Southeast Wisconsin chapter of ATD held their annual Talent Development Forum panel on October 28, 2022 at Kohl’s Innovation Center, focusing on the impact of this skills gap to those of us in the Learning and Development (L&D) field.

    For background, according to the ATD 2022 Skills Gap1 report, 83% of organizations report a skills gap, with 78% reporting that they expect to face such a skills gap in the future.

    A skills gap is a significant difference between an organization’s current capabilities and the skills it needs to achieve its goals and meet customer demand. When an organization has a large skills gap in its workforce, it risks not meeting customer expectations and demands.

    “This isn’t a training problem,” said CARA President and CEO Michelle Reid-Powell, “It’s a business problem. And there has never been a better time for Talent Development professionals to establish our relevance and make a significant difference in the success of our companies.”

    Not only does Talent Development address the skills gap, it plays a significant role in retention. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index Special Report2 released in September discusses the connection between learning and retention. Per their data:

    ● 76% of employees say they would stay at their company longer if they received

    development support. Numbers rise even higher for business decision makers (+7).

    ● Employees consider opportunities to learn and grow as the #1 driver of great work culture, a jump from 2019 when it was ranked #9.

    Taken as a whole, prioritizing employee learning and growth presents a winning retention formula for organizations—or, alternately, if neglected, could pose a threat.

    1 ATD 2022 Skills Gap Report : https://www.td.org/research-report/bridging-the-skills-gap-workforce-development-in-changing-times-pdf-download

    2 Microsoft Work Trend Index Special Report September 22, 2022: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work-is-just-work

    RESEARCH AND INSIGHTS

    Michelle Reid-Powell, President and CEO of The CARA Group, led the discussion with some insights into how to keep L&D relevant and impactful in a changing world. Based on their research and expertise, CARA recommends the following solutions to combat these challenges:

    1. Learning and Development teams should join forces with those associated with Workforce Planning and Talent Acquisition. Sometimes, the best way to fill a role is to recruit internal talent before they look elsewhere for career mobility. Working together, these teams can align approaches and metrics and partner to optimize talent initiatives.

    2. Review your course offerings and ensure you focus on value over volume. Rather than an endless database of possible courses, create learning paths to support specific roles in upskilling (especially those most in-demand by the organization).

    3. Support and develop your managers. The role of Manager is more challenging than ever. They need to build their skill sets around creating emotional safety, career and skills development, coaching, managing a remote workforce, and how to support diversity, equity and inclusion more fully. They also need a playbook for how to support their employees in training (many whom are new to both the organization and the role.)

    4. Connection is more important than ever. Learning strategies need to consider all stakeholders for learning – and ensure they have a role in supporting the success of the organization and the learner in applying the skills post-training.

    5. Metrics are still important, but organizations are focusing on only a few critical formal measures. Instead, more frequent stakeholder feedback from learning sessions is being reviewed. Focus groups, surveys and performance check-ins are important for all learning sessions.

    PANEL DISCUSSION HIGHLIGHTS

    After Michelle set the stage, she turned to the panel for their insights. We were fortunate to have four key leaders from SE-WI to share their experience:

    • Yolonda Evans, Organization and Change Effectiveness Consultant at American Family Insurance

    ● Guillermo Gutierrez, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity at Manpower Group

    ● Allison Peschel, Vice President of Client Services at JB Training Solutions

    ● Mike Tack, Director of Talent Development at Kohl’s

    Some highlights of the discussion:

    How is the world of work changing?

    Given the level of volatility in the business environment, we need to prioritize HOW to equip people managers to lead change and create a safe work environment where people can share their ideas and viewpoints.

    Mike Tack emphasized the importance of walking in the manager’s shoes. He stressed the need to know the daily challenges managers face in performing their jobs and aligning that with learning solutions.

    “There has never been a more critical time for hard skills – what I mean by that are people skills. Those are most important now,” stated Guillermo Gutierrez.

    L&D is being embraced right now because managers are exhausted. We (L&D practitioners) must prioritize what our leaders truly need right now. Yolonda Evans chimed in, “Now they need us – for a long time we were the scapegoat. For the first time L&D is a first responder – double edged sword!” Yolonda exclaimed.

    An interesting observation shared by Allison: “we are also finding that what is challenging now are the informal conversations that were happening before the pandemic are now more formal conversations in the remote world.” There is a need to be more intentional about having those informal conversations.

    How do you make a business case for training?

    We are all going to have a moment when we have to sell training as an investment: tell a story - why the training matters, why is it important? Talk about money but also the time invested by managers. Talk about skills and well-being – think about internal and external customers. A manager’s stakeholders are their direct reports. If a manager attends a training, what impact is that having on the employees of the manager’s team? What does attrition/retention look like? How will your learning strategy impact people three layers removed?

    Mike outlined how Kohl’s has changed their approach in how they offer training. His group found that they were offering too many options for the same type of training. People signed up but did not attend the training session leading to inefficiencies in deploying their limited training resources.

    In response, the team tried a cohort model with a limited period to sign up for a limited number of seats. This created a sense of urgency around the training. They had four cohorts out of 50 people and all four filled up within 30 minutes. They did not change what they were offering but changed how they marketed it. A business case can be made by looking at how many people are clamoring for the training. This also required Mike’s team to be comfortable with having too many people interested.

    What metrics are you using?

    Allison noted that companies continue to track metrics including attendance, sign up vs. show up rate, net promoter scores, number of people reached, facilitator score, relevance to own job, tracking any barriers to application, etc. BUT – over the past year she has also seen a major shift to this idea of tracking sentiment, versus tracking skill. Michelle noted that this is something not traditionally done but could be a measure of engagement. Tracking sentiment can be a meaningful metric; if it goes well that is the business case for the training. If not, then the case can be made for why the training must happen.

    Adding to that, Guilermo emphasized “ Show me the value rather than show me the numbers. How are we going to figure out what training did to the culture? How will we add questions to measure that? How can you be innovative in culture – how will your learning strategy impact people three layers removed.”

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Lastly, panelists shared some final thoughts -

    • Design and solve for your business not trends.
    • Know your business, walk in your manger’s/coworker’s shoes.
    • Get a true sense of the business, what is happening, what is needed. Create, solve, and design from there.
    • We are all businesspeople in service of what the business needs.
    • Be your authentic self – don’t worry about pushing back on requests.
    • Talk about being remarkable. Is what we create remarkable? Aim to create something you want to tell your friends about.

    Our thanks to the panelists and attendees for this dynamic, engaging, and insightful discussion!

    Mark your calendars for this year’s Talent Development Forum scheduled for October 27, 2023 at Kohl’s Innovation Center!


  • December 19, 2022 2:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Nolan Godfrey
    Regional Director & Executive Consultant

    Professional man sitting at desk smiling at tablet

    One of the most challenging aspects of leadership is navigating the tension between achieving results and developing people. As leaders concerned with business outcomes, performance management is vital, and there is a constant need to drive improvement for better results. However, improving performance involves developing people; without skilled team members to drive business outcomes, performance can't improve. Leaders may hesitate to develop team members, sensing that taking the time to develop people may slow down results. How can you develop your people while also driving business outcomes?

    It's important to understand that performance and development are fundamentally very similar ideas. Performance management—"getting stuff done"—is one side of the coin, while development—the acquisition of skills, attitude, and knowledge to "get stuff done"—is the other side.

    Performance management is a four-step cycle that includes essential aspects of development. By integrating development into this performance management cycle, leaders can drive development and outcomes to maximize results.

    THE PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT CYCLE

     

    STEP 1: SET EXPECTATIONS AND GOALS

    At this stage of performance management, leaders and team members will engage in conversation about expectations and goals for the position, project, or assignment. The level and type of conversation will depend largely on the competence and experience of the team member. Someone who is newer, earlier in a career, or less experienced will need more structured guidance and interaction throughout the cycle than someone who has a higher level of competence. Setting these expectations and goals up front will give clear metrics to measure outcomes so that no one is left guessing.

    STEP 2: PROVIDE TOOLS, KNOWLEDGE, AND SKILLS

    Development primarily happens in steps two and three of the performance management cycle. Once expectations and goals are established, leaders and managers need to set up the tools, resources, or training required to accomplish the task. Again, the level of resources provided by a manager depends mainly on how skilled the employee is. However, even a skilled and experienced employee may have knowledge gaps, and an open and ongoing conversation about what development is needed can improve outcomes.

    STEP 3: MONITOR AND PROVIDE FEEDBACK

    Steps two and three are almost a short cycle within themselves in that there is a constant flow back and forth between providing resources and monitoring and giving feedback. Much of the interaction in this step will consist of informal coaching—a conversation between you and your team member about progress and any necessary adjustments toward completing a task.

    STEP 4: REWARD AND RECOGNIZE

    Don't forget this vital step in the performance management cycle—rewarding and recognizing people for their successes! Reward and recognition fuel ongoing enthusiasm and propel team members into the next task for continued high performance and comprehensive development.

    By understanding that performance management and development go hand-in-hand, you can take your performance management to the next level and upskill your people for long-term growth.

    Self-Check:

    1. What is the difference between managing performance and developing people?
    2. What do those differences mean for my role and the people who report to me?
    3. What is the one thing I can do to better align performance management and people development?
  • November 30, 2022 3:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Talent Development Forum Summary

    As the great resignation continues to march on, many organizations are finding that as talent leaves, so does all the business process, system, product, and best practices expertise.  Our Talent Forum on October 28, 2022, discussed the challenges we are facing from an L&D perspective. We had a record number attending the event this year!  Thank you to all our volunteers who helped make this event such a success, especially Rochelle Behling for producing the event and Kohl’s for hosting.

    Here are some highlights…..

    Michelle Reid-Powell from the CARA group led off the discussion with some insights into how to keep L&D relevant and impactful in a changing world. Based on their research and expertise, CARA recommends the following solutions to combat these challenges:

    1. Learning and Development teams should join forces with those associated with Workforce Planning and Talent Acquisition.  Together, these teams can align approaches and metrics and partner to optimize talent initiatives.
    2. Review your learnings and ensure you place value over volume.  Be careful to simplify your offerings and focus on a few great learnings versus 100s.
    3. Support and develop your managers. With all that is happening in the world, managers need to build their skill sets around creating emotional safety, career and skills development, coaching, managing a remote workforce, and how to support diversity, equity and inclusion more fully. Managers need a playbook to help them support learning paths.
    4. Learning strategies need to ensure connections for all participants before, during and after the learning.
    5. Metrics are important and more feedback from the sessions are even more important.  Focus groups, surveys and performance check-ins are important for all learning sessions.

    After Michelle set the stage, we turned to our panel for their insights.  We were fortunate to have four key leaders from SE-WI to share their experience:

    • Yolonda Evans, Org and Change Effectiveness Consultant at American Family Insurance
    • Guillermo Gutierrez, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity at ManpowerGroup
    • Allison Peschel, VP of Client Services at J&B Training Solutions
    • Mike Tack, Director of Talent Development at Kohl’s

    Some highlights of the discussion:

    How is the world of work changing?

    As there is so much volatility in the business, we need to prioritize HOW to equip people managers to lead change and create a safe work environment where people are able to share their ideas and viewpoints. Mike Tack emphasized the importance of walking in the managers’ shoes. He stressed the need to know the daily challenges managers face in performing their jobs and aligning that with learning solutions.

    “Never more critical time for hard skills – what I mean by that are people skills. Those are most important now,” stated Guillermo Gutierrez.

     L&D is being embraced right now because managers are exhausted.  We (L&D practitioners) have to prioritize what our leaders truly need right now.  Yolanda Evans chimed in, “Now they need us – for a long time we were the scapegoat.  For the first time you are a first responder – double edged sword!” Yolonda exclaimed.

    An interesting observation shared by Allison included, “we are also finding that what is challenging now are the informal conversations that were happening before the pandemic are now more formal conversations in the remote world.”

    Looking for more tips or solutions?  A detailed white paper will be coming in December.


  • November 14, 2022 8:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Taura Prosek, Director - Business Development & Executive Coach
    Stewart Leadership

    As companies have grappled with employee retention and a general worker shortage over the last two years, the circumstances around the pandemic have revealed several weaknesses around the talent wars. Some employees who were furloughed or let go when businesses shut down have simply retired or started their own businesses.

    Other employees endured the struggles around working remotely only to burn out and decide to find a better work-life balance elsewhere. And as the talent shortage continues to grow, leaders are left trying to figure out where to hire talented people and how to keep the ones they have.

    While there is much necessary conversation around such factors as expanded hybrid and flexible work options, wellness and work-life balance, and DE&I initiatives, among other things, one area that can be overlooked is the role that career development plays in employee engagement and retention. It’s not just training for their current jobs that employees care about; rather, they want to know that their companies and leaders are willing to invest in their careers for the long term, whether they stay or not.

    Investing in employee career paths can be expensive, and for companies watching the bottom line, it may be tough to justify the cost of providing coaching and training. Some companies may fear that they will train and mentor talented people who will then take their skills elsewhere.

    Both lines of thinking, however, are rooted in short-term thinking. The truth is that replacing an employee can cost anywhere from 1.5 to 2 times the employee’s annual salary–possibly even more for high-level employees, and employees are more likely to leave a company that does not provide learning and career development opportunities. In fact, a survey from late 2021 showed that 72% of tech workers were thinking of leaving their jobs because of limited career development and learning opportunities.

    Given these realities, it’s clear that career development is a strategic retention choice. In fact, investing in the future careers of your employees may be the key to thriving during the ongoing talent shortage.

    Here are four ways that investing in the career development of your staff can help you thrive during the ongoing talent wars:

    1. IMPROVE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE

    Leaders intuitively understand that happy employees are more engaged and more likely to stay with the company, but they may struggle to know exactly how to give employees the experience they crave. While things like wellness programs or flexible work schedules are essential, it’s important not to neglect the value of career development across the employee population. One study found that employees who are given professional development opportunities are 15% more engaged in their jobs and had a 34% higher retention rate.

    2. UPSKILL EMPLOYEES TO MEET FUTURE DEMANDS

    No one knows exactly what the future holds, but when organizations such as the World Economic Forum predict that 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025, it’s a safe bet that educating and training current employees will pay off in more skilled people who can meet future demands. And this doesn’t just mean retraining employees to use different technologies; it may also mean upskilling employees who could benefit from academic instruction or management training.

    3. HELP EMPLOYEES FIND A NICHE WHERE THEY CAN THRIVE

    Companies that invest in the long-term careers of their current employees are giving those people the opportunities to explore interests, find new talents, and practice new skills. This endorsement of exploration and curiosity can unleash employee potential and help them find a niche where they can flourish It also communicates that leaders recognize their potential and want to develop it. Employees tend to rise to the occasion when given the opportunity to chart a career path with full support from their leaders.

    4. IMPROVE PERFORMANCE—AND REPUTATION

    Giving employees career development opportunities internally can only strengthen the performance of the company. An organization with a strong reputation for helping people grow their careers can attract other talented people, giving the organization an advantage in attracting and retaining talent.

    As the war for talent continues to heat up, companies will need every edge to stay competitive in an employee-driven market. Aside from the current “Great Resignation,” the ongoing and anticipated shortage of skilled workers will mean continued competition for high-quality employees. Helping everyone in your organization plan a career path and pursue development opportunities toward those goals could be the key to thriving and growing throughout whatever the future of work brings.


  • October 18, 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Daniel Stewart

    Making decisions is tough sometimes, even under the best of circumstances. And when people look to you to make the final call, it’s easy to feel like the future of your career, your team, or even the company is at stake. History is full of stories about bad business decisions, and no one wants to be the person who passed up a profitable acquisition or missed a major market shift.

    But someone must be the “go-to” decision-maker. After all, no decision IS a decision, and businesses cannot afford to sit still. So how can you improve your ability to make effective decisions?

    Start by assessing your own decision-making style. There are generally three approaches to making decisions:

    Consultative decision-making involves soliciting input from others before making a decision.

    Directive decision-making means making the decision on your own.

    Consensus decision-making is all about involving others and making a decision together.

    Of course, different decisions may require different methods, but every leader will naturally gravitate toward one or two of these styles more often. Identify how you make decisions, and then learn when to alter your decision-making strategy to boost the quality of the outcome.

    Once you have a general idea of how you make decisions, follow these four steps to make the most effective decision possible:

    1. DEFINE THE PROBLEM OR NEED:

    Calvin Coolidge once said, “If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.” It’s easy to see a cascade of problems and turn them all into something that needs a decision, or to turn a decision into a bigger issue than it really is. To avoid making decisions for problems or needs you don’t have right now, take some time to clearly define the current issue. Make sure you know exactly what the problem or need is so that you don’t spend time on problems or needs that can wait—or that may never become problems at all.

    2. ANALYZE THE ISSUE AT HAND:

    This step is probably the one that causes the most “analysis paralysis.” It’s easy to overanalyze a problem or need. Try to confine your analysis to one issue. What is the importance of this issue? Who is impacted? If you can look at potential downstream impacts without getting stalled, that’s fine, but don’t let “what ifs” delay the decision too long. Ask others for input, if necessary.

    3. IMPLEMENT AND COMMUNICATE:

    Once you’ve made a decision, implement and communicate. Don’t let the time lag between decision and implementation any longer than necessary. A lack of action and transparency can lead to distrust and instability on your team or in the organization. Rather, share information as soon as possible, and implement your decisions at the earliest possible time. Be methodical about the communication, and invite questions or feedback as much as possible.

    4. LEARN FROM THE PROCESS AND THE OUTCOME:

    It’s tempting to crow about good decisions and sweep bad decisions under the rug. However, both can offer good learning opportunities about what decision style is best, what level of tolerance your team or company has for ambiguity, and so on. In addition, if the outcome of a decision is negative, assess it honestly and look for ways to redirect. Admitting and learning from mistakes can help grow trust among colleagues.

    Making decisions can be risky, and when other futures are on the line, it’s tempting to avoid them. But identifying your preferred process and then taking a step-by-step approach can make the process less risky and more likely to produce good outcomes.

    To learn more about effective decision-making and how to implement this into your everyday executive management, read through our LEAD NOW model or connect with us to find a consultant near you.


  • October 18, 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Jim Davis, Instructional Design Consultant

    Companies are committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion as they develop and design their learning and documentation. I have learned a great deal about accessibility in learning and documentation since my journey began a couple of years ago and it has been exciting for me. I have learned so much and wanted to share with you what I have learned. I also want to be clear that I do not know everything (not even close!), but I found these 10 tips most helpful and hope you do, too.

    Overview

    Working on my first client accessibility project presented a daunting challenge.

    The web is rich with guidelines, tools, and tips, but it is inundating without a roadmap and I could not find one. For example, there are dozens of features to resolve several types of issues related to disabilities in MSFT Office. I was truly overwhelmed. Fortunately, I worked with a knowledgeable and very patient client team that pointed me in the right direction.

    First, and without a doubt, THE most important tool is Microsoft Accessibility Checker. You will find Accessibility Checker in any MSFT Office Product. “Check Accessibility” is in the Review toolbar and will provide you with a list of issues and recommendations on how to fix them. To make the checking process easier, you can set Accessibility Checker to run in the background while you work on your files. You can learn more about Accessibility Checker by clicking here.

    “First, and without a doubt, THE most important tool is Microsoft Accessibility Checker. … [and] I found that starting at the task level worked best for me.”

    How to Begin – 10 Tips

    I found that starting at the task level worked best for me. Here are what I consider to be ten tips for those who do not know how to start when developing for accessibility in learning, documents, worksheets, and even email.

    1. Use more than color to convey the message: Screen readers do not read color information aloud. Do not be afraid of color, but use text, symbols, and texture to represent the messages being conveyed.
    2. Use Alternative (Alt) Text: Using Alt Text provides screen readers with a description of an image you use in your document. In all Microsoft products, right-click any image, select Edit Alt Text from the drop-down and enter a brief description of your image in the text box provided.
    3. Use good contrast: Contrast is the measure of brightness between two colors placed on top of or next to each other. Strong contrast makes it much easier to distinguish text from background color. Use a contrast ratio of at least 5:1, including black or dark blue on white.
    4. Use captions with videos: Videos can be challenging for those with low vision or who are visually impaired. Captions for video are available in the Microsoft 365 apps. Due to specific formatting requirements, captions can be tricky and will likely take a few attempts before you get it just right. More information on creating and inserting captions can be found by clicking here.
    5. Use built-in Headings and Styles: Built-in headings and styles follow screen reader tab order and make it easier for screen reader users to go through your documents, as screen readers are programmed to read in the order of the numbered headings. Apply built-in headings, styles, and bulleted lists in most 365 products, and screen readers will read the files correctly.
    6. Clean up Excel worksheets: Screen readers read the tabs of the worksheets in Excel, letting the user know the contents of the tab. Make your tab names clear and unique so the user can distinguish between what can be many sheets in an Excel workbook. Remove blank tabs as screen readers stop on all tabs, blank or not, and the user will not know if it is an extra, a blank, or missing a label. By using unique names and removing blanks, the screen reader can better read the sheet names to the user.
    7. Use simple table structures in Excel: Design worksheets and tables so that information can be located and read properly by a screen reader. Screen readers use header information to identify rows and columns and identify their location in a table by counting table cells. If a table is nested within another table or if a cell is merged or split, the screen reader loses count and cannot provide helpful information about the table after that point.
    8. Ensure slide contents are read in order: In PowerPoint (PPT), screen readers read the elements of a slide in the order they were added to the slide, which might be different from the order in which things should be read or appear. Use the Accessibility Checker and the Reading Order pane to set the order in which the screen readers read the slide contents.
    9. Use accessible templates in PPT: If you are working in PPT, just type “Templates” in the search box on any PPT screen and you will be taken to the template screen. The Template Search bar will appear. Type “Accessible templates” in the new search box and dozens of accessible templates will appear. These are templates that are highly compatible with screen readers and other accessibility tools and contain fixed headings and other settings that you will not have to create from scratch.
    10. Make your meetings accessible: Ask the participants which type of accessibility they need. Share material in advance and include live captions in Teams meetings.

    I’m learning more each day and will leave you with your first assignment: open any Microsoft 365 app and familiarize yourself with Accessibility Checker. In my opinion, it is truly the best place to start!


  • September 19, 2022 7:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Daniel Stewart - President & Executive Consultant

    As leaders continue to balance DE&I initiatives with other business demands, it can be helpful to examine the successes of other organizations for lessons on how to achieve DE&I goals. The Forbes fifth annual America's Best Employers for Diversity list can give leaders some essential tips and inspiration for achieving their own goals—and what to do if they don't meet them.

    Here are four important lessons we can learn from some of the companies on the list:

    1. PROGRESS IS NOT ALWAYS LINEAR

    ChristianaCare, a 13,000-person healthcare provider in Delaware, set a goal to increase its percentage of non-white employees at the director level and above by 15% in three years. However, despite other improvements, the company fell short of that goal and actually decreased the number of non-white employees in leadership in that time. The organization still has managed to move up the Forbes list to number 40, though, and the chief diversity officer says she is "encouraged" by the system's progress.

    Companies setting DE&I metrics would do well to remember that despite the best efforts and intentions, progress may still be slower than hoped or even one of "two steps forward, one step back." Looking at metrics from year to year is helpful, but it may not tell the entire story or reveal all of the improvements made. Look at the big picture, celebrate wins, and reset to make more improvements.

    2. CONVERSATIONS ARE VITAL

    Progressive, the number one company on the list, has a robust collection of Employee Resource Groups and promotes a variety of workshops and speakers bureaus that encourage and facilitate conversation between different groups of people. Employees do not have to be members of the demographic to participate in ERGs, and in a video on the company's website, several employees talk about how much they've learned by participating in these groups.

    As important as it is to set hiring goals, it may be even more important to encourage connection and conversation within existing employee groups to create a culture where people can learn and even safely disagree with each other. These conversations support inclusion efforts across the organization by creating an organic human connection that allows everyone to look beyond stereotypes.

    3. REAL INCLUSION IS EXPANSIVE

    At VMware, the number two company on the Forbes list, DE&I includes a significant commitment to disability, wellness, and neurodiversity inclusion. As a software company, this commitment isn't just about ensuring accessibility in the workplace; it also means driving innovation that guarantees accessibility for end-users. The company recently joined the Valuable 500, an organization on a mission to "drive lasting change for the 1.3 billion people worldwide" who live with some disability.

    While all aspects of DE&I are important, VMware offers a powerful reminder that inclusion not only involves people with different physical, intellectual, or learning functionality within the organization. It also affects those outside the company who consume the products and services of an organization. By bringing those with disabilities into the conversation inside the firm, VMware is also improving the lives of those with disabilities outside the firm.

    4. GROWTH AND DEI CAN CO-EXIST

    IT consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, number three on the Forbes list, has prioritized diversity for some time. Under the leadership of CEO Horacio Rozanski, who took the company public in 2010, the company shifted its focus from counterterrorism to cyber threats, executed a strategic growth plan, and increased its emphasis on DEI initiatives and charitable endeavors. As of 2020, 31% of employees identified as Black, Indigenous, or people of color. At the same time, the company was setting record-high stock prices and reporting earnings that outpaced the competition.

    While there are many factors behind growth and earnings, Booz Allen Hamilton proves that companies don't have to sacrifice DEI to hit financial goals. Rozanski's own experience fuels his passion for diversity; as an immigrant from Argentina, he joined the company in 1991 as an intern and rose to the position of CEO. In a 2020 interview with Forbes, he said, "When I first joined my knowledge of English, this country or politics wasn't as good as it is now, but what mattered was 'Can you do the work?', 'Are you willing to work hard?'" The company values hard work and diverse voices, and it shows in the bottom line.

    While all of the organizations on the Forbes list are to be commended for their efforts, these lessons offer compelling arguments for the importance of DE&I efforts going forward. Steady progress is still progress, and organizations that pursue DE&I will reap countless benefits to company culture and the bottom line.

    Self-Check:

    1. Do our DE&I initiatives show progress, even if it's not as fast or as linear as I'd like?
    2. How can I improve conversations in the company to encourage diversity and inclusion?
    3. Are we missing any key groups with our efforts?


  • September 19, 2022 7:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    How Can I Manage Stress in the Current Work Environment? 

    By: Focus Training

    Managing stress is a skill set that all professionals need but one that very few have a firm grasp on. This week on the blog, Latrell Armstrong sits down with Andrew Goltra, Director of Merchandising at Uline, to talk about some of the strategies he uses to manage stress for himself and his team.

    Continue Reading


  • July 05, 2022 8:00 AM | Colin Hahn (Administrator)

    In April, members of the Milwaukee Tech Hub coalition shared with our chapter why their businesses see reskilling as a critical need.

    On June 28th, we continued that conversation. SEWI members Celeste Cuffie, Colin J. Hahn, and Camille Parham presented to the Reskilling Commitee of the Milwaukee Tech Hub on "Closing the Skills Gap": how their businesses can best leverage their talent professionals to address this pressing challenge.

    If you missed the conversation, we hope that these highlights can help you collaborate within your organization to close your skills gaps.

    • Colin shared research from Salesforce's Global Digital Skills Index that demonstrated the prevalence of skill needs: only 44% of US companies feel very prepared with their digital skill needs, and anticipated readiness drops six points over the next five years.
    • Given the statistics Colin covered, imagine what the cost of the status quo will be on your organization.  The magical thinking that the people with all of your required skillsets are out there might not be effective in the long run. 
    • Tech is unique because it is moving/changing so quickly.  It requires subject matter experts that are often much different than what exists in traditional talent development roles.
    • The collaboration between the business units and talent development (wherever it resides) is critical. 
    • Business leaders may need help understanding the reason why they may need to make a shift in their culture to foster the changes needed. This is so personal to their people.  Many feel vulnerable.  The need for psychological safety can not be overstated.
    • It is critical that managers are trained to identify the portable skills in others AND help them see those skills in themselves so that they believe they will find success in re/upskilling.
    • The concept of stretch goals includes a component about what you need your staff to DO but also how you expect them to GROW and why.
    • Reframe “feedback” as “feedforward” so that teams continue to grow. 
    • The timing of feedforward sessions is informed by the needs of the individual you are developing.  This looks different for everyone.  
    • The key learnings published by the MMAC as part of the MMAC Region of Choice Summit aligned well with the panel.  Keeping an eye on the metrics associated with the “employee journey” at your organization is critical if you want to retain the diverse talent you have been able to attract.  The presentation from Mercer does a deep dive into how to remove bias in your performance review and compensation process.

    Thank you to Milwaukee Tech Hub and Laura Schmidt for leading this collaborative series of conversations with the SEWI-ATD chapter, and to Celeste Cuffie and Camille Parham for sharing their experience with the Tech Hub coalition.

    This is a critical challenge for our organizations, so please reach out if you have suggestions for how to advance these discussions or resources to share!

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