Power of stories in business

Power of stories in business

Stories have been told ever since humanity developed a language. As long as there have been campfires, humans have gathered around them and conveyed their view of the world using stories. Stories are memorable and powerfully connect us to our listeners. The use of stories properly conveyed, is actually how we prefer to receive communications.

Telling stories is one of the most powerful means that leaders and organizations have, to influence, teach, and inspire. Stories can be used to sprinkle some magic on businesses, corporate cultures, services, and products. It is advisable to write and tell stories to stand out in the market, engage people, and make an impression. In the business world stories help solidify relationships in a way that factual statements encapsulated in bullet points or numbers don’t.

Storytelling also helps with learning because stories are more engaging than a dry recitation of data points or a discussion of abstract ideas. The subject is easier to adopt if it is linked to one’s work with an identifiable case-example. Good stories can contain multiple meanings so they’re surprisingly economical in conveying complex ideas in graspable ways so that they are easier to understand, remember, and apply. Stories are unforgettable, and things learned through stories are easier to bring back to the active memory from the recesses of your mind. Another storytelling aspect that makes it so effective is that it works for all types of learners.

Every business tells a story. It’s important to make sure your company is telling the right one. A strategy tells a story of why the company exists and what its purpose is. The entire strategy process can be storified, if the business so desires. The visions of the business are based on well-told stories about the company’s development prospects in the next five or ten years. In turn, the mission tells a story of why the company exists. A beautifully written and narrated story is both entertaining and interesting. Strategy stories create a sense of belonging for employees and help to form a common outlook.

What about the brand of the business? It is pure storytelling! Storytelling is a critical component in the building of the brand, as a good story encapsulates and addresses consumers. Each of us remembers a good brand story, right?

The story of the Halloween pumpkin

Have you ever heard the story of the Halloween pumpkin?

A hollowed, grinning pumpkin with a candle shining inside is a symbol of Halloween that is increasingly seen also at the doorways of Finnish homes during All Saint’s Day. Around the world, the pumpkin is called Jack O’ Lantern. The story of the pumpkin lantern is quite a grim one and tells about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack”. Jack tricked the Devil and made a pact with him with the promise that his soul would not end up in hell after his death. As you might guess, Jack’s soul never made it to heaven either. The devil kept his word not to claim his soul, but instead he sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack had taken a turnip as a snack in the afterlife. He put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. To frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits, people began to make their versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors. Over the time the turnip turned into a pumpkin, which symbolizes Jack still trying to find his place and peace for his soul.

 

Behind every satisfied customer there is a satisfied employee

Behind every satisfied customer there is a satisfied employee

Creating satisfying customer interactions should be a priority for all businesses. It all begins with satisfied and happy employees who are more likely to have an energetic, enthusiastic and customer oriented approach to the employer and their own tasks. They are more likely to have a positive disposition when interacting with your customers.

One of your customer’s first experience with your brand is interacting with your employees. If this interaction is positive, your customer will associate this positive experience with your brand. If the customers have a positive experience at your business, you are more likely to have higher levels of customer satisfaction which leads to higher levels of customer and brand loyalty. It can also contribute to your business by word of mouth referral. When customers have a good experience with your brand, they will tell other people about your excellent service.

 Your frontline staff members that have direct and daily contact and interactions with your customers, should be seen as valuable assets. When you’re employees are valued, the customers’ experience of your business improves and it forms the basis for customer loyalty.

 According to Forbes, when employees feel emotionally committed to their organisation and its goals, they have higher levels of discretionary effort. They do their best at their job, because they value their job and the commitments and obligations as set out in their roles and responsibilities. Engaged employees are loyal and have higher effect of customer ratings, profitability, productivity, turnover and quality. They also contribute to the reputation of the brand.

 Customers who trust your brand are repeat shoppers, they support your business and love doing so. When you have proven to be reliable to your customers, whenever they hear of a friend of theirs having an issue that your business helped them solve, they will tell their friends about you. We live in a digital age and websites exist with the sole purpose of rating businesses by having consumers leave a review of the business. When your customers trust you, they will leave a positive review. This will boost your business.

 By treating your employees right, you show them how to treat your customers right. By increasing employee engagement, you will increase the value your employees attach to their job, which in turn, will make them perform better. What many businesses do not release is that in truth, their employees are their first customer and that satisfied employees not only contribute to satisfied customers, in some instances, satisfied employees cause satisfied customers.

Future Skills and their Impact

Future Skills and their Impact

World is evolving around us with technological developments. Machines and technology are an undeniable part of our world and will continue to be for the near and far future. In this context, it is important to see and understand how humans benefit from these developments and how we can develop ourselves to remain grounded, resourceful and capable within these changing environments.

The Institute For The Future (IFTF) (2011) explained what skills will be needed to be successful in the 21st century. A range of diverse answers was found, those were further narrowed down to the following ten competencies or areas of development. These are the future skills humans can embrace to equip themselves for the undeniable change that we are constantly living in. Similarly, Ehlers created The Future Skills Report (2019). The time difference between these two reports enables us to draw critical conclusions not only on how accurate the predictions were but also how substantial the constant flux and change we are living in is.

By developing these ten skills, you will not only grow as an individual but chances are that you will remain successful in our wonderfully interesting world.
1. Sensemaking

Sensemaking is defined as “the ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed” (IFTF, 2011 p. 8). Sensemaking skills are skills that help us create unique insights critical for decision making. These innate human capabilities cannot yet be replicated by machines. With regards to future skills in general, we as humans need to identify what makes us unique and work on those abilities as well as embrace them in our work and personal lives.The future driver connected to this future skill is smart machines and systems.

2. Social intelligence

Social intelligence is defined as the “ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way to sense and stimulate reaction and desired interaction” (IFTF, 2011  p. 8). The experience of emotions, how we feel them and how they interact with our physical state and behaviour is just as complex as critical thinking.When someone is socially intelligent they are not only aware of their own emotional state but also that of others. This relates to emotional intelligence. Socially intelligent employees are aware of the emotions of the people around them and can change their demeanour, words and tone as well as gestures accordingly and accurately. Our social IQ has developed over millennia as we have evolved as social beings. Being able to collaborate in meaningful ways is a big advantage for humans.The future drivers related to this future skill are globally connected world and the rise of machines and systems (IFTF, 2011).

3. Novel and adaptive thinking

Novel and adaptive thinking is the “proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is role- or rule-based” (IFTF, 2011 p. 9).Situational adaptability is the ability to respond to unexpected circumstances positively and productively. As our world is everchanging, the ability to be open to change is very important. Human characteristics such as creativity, ingenuity, adaptability and agility are important here.

4. Cross-cultural competency

Cross-cultural competency is the ability to operate in different cultural settings (IFTF, 2011 p. 9). This requires specific content and linguistic skills and also adaptability to changing circumstances and cultural sensitivity. It relates to the ability to sense and respond adequately to new contexts and environments.Diversity is seen as a driver of innovation in organisations. A combination of different skills, ages, working and thinking styles and disciplines make a group intelligent and innovative (IFTF, 2011). Progress depends not only on our individual IQ but also on our collective IQ.Diversity should be a core competency for organisations. Employees need to be able to identify and communicate points of connection such as shared goals and priorities or even values that surpass their differences and facilitates the building of relationships and enables them to work together efficiently.The future drivers involved with this future skill are globally connected world and superstructed organisations.

5. Computational thinking

Computational thinking is the “ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning” (IFTF, 2011 p. 10).The amount of data we have access to is increasing exponentially. Understanding data analysis and the programmes that are used to run these analyses will become more and more important. Entry-level and user-friendly coding language capability will be favoured. We need to keep in mind that we still need to be able to make decisions, even when there is a lack of actual data to support them. Take care not to become data-dependent.The future drivers involved with this future skill are new media ecology and computational world.

6. New media literacy

New media literacy is the “ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms and to leverage these media for persuasive communication” (IFTF, 2011 p. 10).New programmes exist to create presentations and present findings. Animations, Keynote and PowerPoint have become the norm in presenting.  Being able to create presentations that are immersive and visually stimulating presentations of information is a key skill. User-friendly tools and programmes for video creation as well as basic design skills such as what fonts and colours to use together will be greatly beneficial.We need to make sure that we are capable in these tools to communicate with our audiences engagingly.The future drivers involved in this future skill are new media literacy, superstructed organisations and extreme longevity.

7. Transdisciplinarity

Transdisciplinarity refers to “literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines. The problems we face today are multifaceted and complex and can often not be solved when approached from one specific discipline. We need to look at problems holistically and be aware of what we know, what is needed and where we can find the information as well as who will be best to collaborate with to solve the challenge or problem. The ideal worker in the future will be T-shaped. With a depth of knowledge in at least one field but a broad understanding of other areas as well.To be like this, we need a great sense of curiosity and drive to go beyond the traditional years of formal education. Extended lifespans will create the opportunity for multiple careers and exposure to multiple disciplines and industries. This relates to adaptability.The future drivers involved with this future skill is extreme longevity and computational world. However, it can also be new media literacy.

8. Design mindset

A design mindset is the “ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes” (IFTF, 2011 p.11). We can create our environments to be most conducive to desired outcomes. The more neuroscience develops, the better we are understanding the complexity of the human mind. Our physical environment shapes cognition. When we change our environment, our brains change and subsequently our behaviour changes as well.The future drivers associated with this future skill are superstructed organisations and computational world.

9. Cognitive load management/ Psychological space

Cognitive management is the “ability to discriminate and filter information for importance and to understand how to maximise cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques” (IFTF, 2011 p. 12).Information is coming at us from various streams and various devices in various formats. We need to be able to discern the important information from that which is not. This also relates to the concept of psychological space, what we spend our thoughts on and the importance of focus. The future drivers involved in this are computational world, superstructed organisations and new media ecology.

10. Virtual collaboration

Virtual collaboration is “the ability to work productively, drive engagement,  and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team” (IFTF, 2011 p.12)).Technology enables us to work remotely and across vast geographical distances. To be a successful leader in the virtual environment, leaders need to develop strategies for engaging, motivating and inspiring their virtual teams often a dispersed group.Gamification or techniques borrowed from gaming are extremely effective in engaging virtual communities. Tools such as Yammer can be used. Yammer is like twitter for businesses and only people who are registered in the business’ profile on Yammer can communicate with each other.

Impacts

The future drivers and future skills mentioned above will have several implications for us in the future. It will have different implications for individuals, educational institutions, businesses and governments.  These will be briefly discussed here.

Individual Impacts

Individuals need to navigate our rapidly changing landscape the diversity of organisational forms and the various skill requirements. Individuals need to continually assess and reassess and adapt the skills they have and need.

They also need to find resources to get the skills they need. There are various free or affordable online sources. The individual that will succeed in the future will be an adaptable lifelong learner.

Educational institutions impacts

Educational institutions will need emphasize on the development of these future skills, especially critical thinking and insight analysis. They should integrate new media literacy into their curriculum. They also need to include experiential learning like programmes that emphasise the development of soft skills such as the ability to collaborate, learning work in groups, to read social cues and to respond adequately and accurately. Educational institutions need to broaden their scope from teens and young adults to people of all ages. It is also important for educational institutions to integrate interdisciplinary training that allows students to develop a wider range of skills in a wider range of subjects.

Businesses Impact

Businesses need to adapt their workforce planning and developing strategies to ensure alignment with the future skills discussed. They need to use technology to ensure their employees have the skills they need and to enable their employees to renew these skills. Businesses that will be successful in the future need to be focussed on agility. They need to collaborate with universities to enable lifelong learning outcomes. Sustainability of business goals is also important.

Government and policymakers impact

Governments need to take a leadership role and should make education a national priority. If it is not done, the citizens will not be prepared for a healthy and sustainable future.

References: Davies, A., Fidler, D., Gorbis, M., 2011. Future work. Institute For The Future. http://hdl.voced.edu.au/10707/194830.

Yap K, Tiang YL. Recommendations for health care educators on e-professionalism and student behavior on social networking sites. Medicolegal and Bioethics. 2014;4:25-36
https://doi.org/10.2147/MB.S60563

Using data and analytics in your people management process

Using data and analytics in your people management process

Data and analytics help aligning HR strategy with the organization’s business goals. It is widely recognized that the people within an organization are one of its most valuable assets. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are enabling human resource officers to use data and analytics to assist them in making decisions regarding the people they manage. Ideally, companies will use tech driven intelligence and data analytics in the sourcing and hiring process, all the way through the individual’s career journey within the business.

Using AI and data analytics enables companies to make decisions in real time. This is naturally more cost effective and contributes to the overall agility of the organization. When using AI, decisions regarding the performance of employees can be made immediately and organizations do not have to wait for quarter year progress and performance reviews.

According to Michigan State University there are five ways in which HR and management teams are using data and analytics to increase the performance of organizations.

  1. Measuring Performance

Businesses and organizations can use data and analytics as well as AI to determine performance targets for employees. These benchmarks can be used to train and encourage current, new and future employees to understand these requirements and the impact they have on their job role. The data collected not only serves to benefit the organization, but it can also be used to help guide the individual in question. Areas that are looked at include not only professional performance, but also all over wellness and energy. Data obtained from top performers can be used to understand the process better and establish what is needed in order to complete the job objectives more efficiently. This can also contribute to training processes and increasing the efficiency thereof.

  1. Informing salary decisions and promotions

By utilizing data, employers can observe and monitor the rate at which promotions and raises are given to employees. Using data also means that the key factors driving raises and promotions can be identified and observed. Is it more ethical to promote a junior that made a big sale recently, or the senior employee that consistently delivers quality performance? By using AI algorithms managers are supported in their decisions.

  1. Understanding Attrition and Increasing Retention

Performance based data and analytics can indicate and predict which employees might be at higher risk of leaving the company. It also serves to capture information that tells us what factors cause or contribute to attrition. Sometimes underlying factors like a manager’s interpersonal communication style can affect attrition more than money does. When you are aware of the variables impacting on your staff, you are able to adjust these to increase your staff’s performance, or to identify the problem areas. Understanding these variables also means that you are able to evaluate your recruitment and training processes.

  1. Examining Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a very important metric that businesses and organizations need to be aware of and use to their benefit. This data is often gathered by using external parties to conduct surveys. However, with the technologies available today, businesses and organizations can easily conduct these surveys in house. When this is done in house, the surveys can be shorter as well as more frequent. AI tools help gain immediate insights in these surveys. Gamification can also be used to get the required information from the employees.

  1. Measuring Employee Development and Learning Outcomes

Successful training programmes help businesses to reach their business goals. Rather than ask the participants what they thought of the training programme, a business should shift its focus to measure the employees understanding of the training programme. The employees’ whole training process should be observed, measured and tracked. By recording this data, the business can see how effective every part of the training process is, as well as how the training process can be improved in the right areas.

Insight

In the core of data analysis is defining the right questions. Only then can it be evaluated which kind of data is needed, and from which sources. The selected data can then be collected, combined, cleaned and analyzed. It is this process that eventually creates insight.

When you have insight into how your employees’ function and why they do what they do, you are able to provide them with a better work environment fit. Having a good work-environment fit will contribute to their employee satisfaction and this has only positive consequences.

E-Learning Trends Shaping The Workplace in 2020

E-Learning Trends Shaping The Workplace in 2020

We live in an age of rapid transformation. This means our current skillsets frequently get outdated. Learners of today are expected to continually learn and develop their skills.

Building a culture of continuous learning and development is at the forefront of a healthy corporate culture. This can be established by providing the learners with just-in-time learning opportunities.

Tailored everyday learning
Organizations are moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to learning and development. This includes creating personalized learning paths to help employees in their current as well as their future roles.

Learning is expected to be an integral part of the everyday work. Technology can aid employees to learn at their own pace. An e-learning course can easily be carried out in pieces or repeated if needed. With the help of data and artificial intelligence we can tailor and recommend trainings just according to the needs of the individual.

With the abundance of open online learning content, the practice of content curation and validation becomes all the more valuable and helps to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Gamification
Game-based learning can both educate and engage the users. What is important to note here is that the games need to be well structured and keep the player engaged in the learning process. They need to be challenging, rewarding, time efficient and mobile.

At Intolead we have successfully implemented gamification into the learning solutions we have created together with our customers. One example is a new employee’s onboarding course that was created in a form of a game board. That way the information is well structured, and the learner proceeds the onboarding like playing a game by completing different tasks.

Social Learning
The majority of employees say that knowledge sharing with their team is critical for their learning. Peer-to-peer learning is increasingly gaining traction because it empowers people to share relevant content with their co-workers. Employees expect workplace technologies to enable social networking, online collaboration, video conferencing and instant messaging.

Micro learning
Micro learning enables an organization to implement learning in small sections (3-5 minutes) that are objective driven and are easy to utilize within organizations.  Learners are also able to repeat the modules, so retention of information is better.

Micro learning can be implemented in various forms (videos, quizzes, podcasts etc.). Its biggest advantage is that it can be implemented on any device.

Mobile Learning
This is not a new trend, but message from our customers is clear: mobile is becoming the preferred option to view content. Mobile friendly curated content will enable employees to do their training courses anywhere, anytime. Mobile-optimized learning platforms will include access to the above-mentioned gamification and employee-curated information as well as social learning and peer-to-peer interactions, video’s, blogs and the rest.

What are your workplace’s needs?
No workplace is the same and the needs of employees and companies vary.

Although learning is becoming more self-driven there is still need for managers to help promote learning at the workplace by providing the resources needed. Ideally, the employee’s own developmental needs and interests are in line with the organization’s targets.

Good learning solutions are not just e-learning courses, but overall solutions for the organization’s competence development that support the strategy execution of the company. We at Intolead take into account the needs of learners and businesses and design the learning solutions accordingly.

Visual management, what is it and why do we use it?

Visual management, what is it and why do we use it?

Visual management utilises instinctive visual cues to convey accurate information in a succinct way. This enables management, employees and customers to receive key information at a glance.

Studies show that people remember as much as 80% of the things they see and do but only remember 10% of the things they hear and only 20% of the things they have read.

Visuality is the process of seeing or looking, but has a clear purpose, is more critical and direction oriented than merely seeing. It applies to our sensory perception and how information can be communicated quickly and effortlessly by using mainly our human sense of sight as well as our other senses. An easy to understand example of visuality and how visual perception relates to the immediate understanding of certain concepts is the white or yellow lines on a road.

Visual Management is about communication
Signs and other visual cues are put in place to help employees and customers make sense of the organisational context or business by merely looking around. Visual Management in the workplace gives structure to the space and enables the easy flow of work processes.

All it takes to understand certain operations is to look around. It is a management system that tries to improve the performance of an organisation or business. Visual Management does this by connecting and aligning the vision of the organisation, its core values, culture and goals with other work place related elements such as management systems and work processes by using human sensory experiences. These stimuli directly engage one or more of our five human senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

Benefits of Visual Management
Using Visual Management can entice staff to be more creative thinkers. Using Visual Management also means that the environment is constantly communicating with the employees and customers. This can lead to bottom-line improvements as well as improved safety in the organisation. Visual Management also helps with company-wide alignment and unity.

By displaying the current progress of projects for all to see, top management is able to receive progress information every time they look at the display. Not only does this indicate what the progress on each project is, it also indicates to staff what the next steps are as well as how to go about achieving the rest of the project objectives.

Secondly, using Visual Management encourages employee engagement by allowing ownership of goals and creating or increasing motivation among the employees. Visual Management is non confronting in its approach, but it does demand authority and represents the real time factual status of projects. It embeds a culture of continual development and improvement in every aspect of the company.

Thirdly, Visual Management can be used to convey transparency in an organisation. By having it out in the open, no information is hidden. This means that the goals and progress of the project is shared openly and they company is united in achieving these goals.

Visual Management might seem like a foreign concept to grasp, but the application thereof is without a doubt incredibly practical. Visual Management is an easily applied practical concept that could improve everything in a business, from the bottom-line through to overall company morale, overall company safety and transparency.

References:
Tezel, A., Koskela, L. J., Tzortzopoulos. (2009). The Functions of Visual Management. Conference Paper.

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