Describing “leadership” is not an easy task, and definitions can vary depending on who is asked. Is leadership a quality, an attribute, an attitude, a job title? A lot of the trouble we face in finding the best definition arises from confusion. It’s essential to distinguish between holding a leadership position and demonstrating leadership skills. Making this fundamental distinction can help clarify what we truly mean by leadership.

Organizations assign leadership positions to selected individuals: this means that they receive a mandate from the company to lead others and are recognized as such. Only a small percentage of employees can hold a leadership position.

However, any employee can demonstrate leadership skills, regardless of seniority, job title, place in the hierarchy, or even management experience. To understand this, we need to start looking at leadership as a daily practice, not a job title. In the words of Chris Worley, it’s essential to think of leadership “as an organization capability, rather than as an individual trait or position in the hierarchy.”

For an organization, it is both essential and beneficial to have as many employees as possible demonstrate leadership skills; it is a key driver for increased performance. Employees with leadership skills will be more engaged in their work and will actively contribute to the organization’s bottom line. They will also demonstrate more vision, more adaptability and increased innovation capabilities. It’s obvious that organizations have everything to gain from having employees with strong leadership skills; this is why they must strive to foster and develop this capability in all employees, from the bottom up and across every department.

It’s also important to keep developing employees that currently hold leadership positions, to make sure they are growing and that they will keep bringing more value to the organization.


Countless studies, both empirical and statistical, show the correlation between successful organizations and powerful leadership. As we’ve seen, there is just as much opportunity in developing employees that currently hold a leadership position as there is in creating leadership capabilities in every employee. This mission will never be over — and this is why L&D departments play such a crucial role. They have to bring their expertise to make sure that leadership development remains a priority and that leadership training is accessible for everyone in the organization.

However, they can’t do it alone. In order to stay relevant, L&D teams need to engage with all departments across the organization, to make sure that the training they provide aligns with the bottom line.

Our business environment and the way people learn are both changing at an unprecedented pace. This heightens the need to increase communication between L&D departments and the rest of the organization, including business leaders and learners. L&D programs must aim at developing the right skills at the right time, in ways that modern learners will relate to. This can’t be done without ongoing discussions with representatives of relevant departments. This approach will also help the L&D function to demonstrate its contribution to organizational results, something that continues to be an issue in large corporations today.

These fresh, innovative learning strategies will be co-designed for leaders of today and tomorrow. This virtuous circle will enable all employees to think about the leadership practices they can adopt and convince them that they don’t need a specific job title to lead.

Published in Ideas

Sierra-Cedar released the 20th HR Technology Study this month. Three macro-trends were revealed:

Data security and IT risks are hot topics in the news this year. We see that 70% of the organizations with the highest HR Talent and business outcomes have a risk and security strategy that includes HR system.

As employees and leaders come of age in the world of big data, they expect a level of personalization and customization which HR Technology is beginning to address. 30% of organizations are increasing learning, recruiting, and HR data analytics roles to meet this need.

Next generation technology is designed to inform our decisions and simplify our activities; it’s meant to be invisible and ubiquitous in our lives. The line between what organizations want and what they can do may come down to Intelligent platforms.

The top HR technology initiative was business process improvement followed by HR systems strategy. The study queried 1320 organizations across 28 countries. Fifty-four percent were SMEs.

Published in Trends

Josh Bersin, principle, Bersin by Deloitte revealed 10 disruptions that will transform the HR technology field. They are:

New focus on tools for workforce productivity like mobile and social

ERP and HCM move to the cloud as the talent market reinvents itself as “team management”

Continuous performance management has arrived following talent from project to project, data driven and in real-time.

Explosion of feedback, pulse survey & analytics tools going beyond employee performance to well being

Reinvention of corporate learning is here to keep pace with new technologies, A.I., machine learning and the like

Recruiting market is rapidly changing and focused on smart recruiting

Well being market is exploding to focus on the whole person vs solely on productivity

People analytics market has grown and matured with embedded analytics, A.I. and organizational network analytics

Intelligent self-service, communications and employee experience tools to facilitate decision-making

10 HR departments are becoming digital and innovative,  team-centric and intelligent

Published in Trends

The 2017/2018 Learning & Talent Platforms Buyer Study conducted by Elearning! Media Group via an online survey of learning professionals reveals the current trends and purchase plans for 2018. These findings were tabulated from approximately 300 responses across corporate, government, education and non-profit organizations. The study was conducted industry wide and includes Elearning! subscribers and community members.


Discover Must Have Features, Brand Ownership & Awareness, Buying Process and Roles in 2018 Learning & Talent Platforms Buyer Study Full Report Available February 2018 at

Published in Trends

Learning Ovations, Digital Promise, UCI, and MDRC were awarded U.S. Department of Education EIR Grants to scale personalized literacy instruction for United2Read Project. The five-year expansion grant aims to have 90% or more of students reading at grade level by third grade, and to improve district, school, and teacher capacity.

Published in Latest News

Seven of the top 10 strategic corporate initiatives require HR involvement.  HR must play a strategic role in the future success of organizations in an increasingly competitive market for skills and talent, according to HR Realities 2017-18 Study.

“There is a great opportunity for HR to extend its influence right now. But, with a decrease in headcount and rise in HR technology spend, the need to innovate and be agile is vital,” says David Wilson, CEO of Fosway Group.

Forward thinking organizations are already looking at:

>>  Video based recruiting (84%),

>>  Continuous employee appreciation (82%)

>>  Social recruitment (77%).

Sadly, only 12% of organizations use artificial intelligence currently. But, the rate of innovation is only going to accelerate with increased adoption. “Those that are early adopters of technology will see the benefits,” concludes Wilson.

Download complimentary infographic summarizing findings of this U.K study at:

Published in Latest News

The CEO of Mastercard told an audience in Saudi Arabia that “data could be as effective as oil as a means of generating wealth.” Is he right?

“Companies today handle more data than ever before and it’s having a profound effect on the way governments, businesses and technologies evolve,” says data scientist Justhy Deva Prasad, author of “The Billion Dollar Byte: Turn Big Data into Good Profits, The Datapreneur Way.

Non-digital companies may be doomed. “You cannot halt the digital revolution and if companies don’t build a boat that embraces the coming data tsunami, they’re not going to be able to compete with those who do,” says Prasad.

Traditional legacy companies need a framework for making data strategy central to their business models in the same way that the newer Digital Native companies have. The framework should provide concrete models for creating smart data infrastructures, accurately weighing the value of data and data systems, investing in the right technologies, hiring entrepreneurial people with tech skills, leveraging the full value of data, and much more. It aims to help companies align their data strategy with their business model.

Published in Latest News

The buzz was all about artificial intelligence (A.I.) at this year’s HR Technology Conference. No surprise, as the size of the global market for artificial intelligence for enterprise applications is worth around $360 million according to statistics.

A.I. HR implementations are seen in talent, recruitment and succession planning.  IBM Talent showcased some applications.  Several other companies displayed Alexa-customized solutions like Paradox, which is a branded A.I. coach. It claims to “build human-powered A.I. to engage, empower and understand large groups of people.” Oracle will be infusing its Cloud applications with artificial intelligence. “A.I. should be an enabler,” says Gretchen Alarcon of Oracle.

Published in Latest News

"Great managers aren’t born — they’re trained.”

That’s the message Scott Blanchard, principal and EVP with The Ken Blanchard Companies, is sharing with audiences as he speaks to groups of leadership, learning and talent-development professionals.

Blanchard points to research that shows most managers don’t receive that necessary training, however, until they are about 10 years into their managerial career.

“The effects are damaging at both an individual and organizational level,” says Blanchard. “More than 60 percent of new managers underperform or fail in their first two years. And those who survive without managerial training often find themselves with negative habits that are hard to break — which can hold them back for years to come.”

With more than two million new people stepping up to leadership for the first time each year in the U.S. alone, Blanchard believes organizations need to take management training a lot more seriously.

“It is very important that those responsible for organizational training put together an effective curriculum for developing people into trusted professional managers. As a professional manager, you are responsible for what your direct reports do, and to some degree, how they feel — especially the emotional connection they establish with their job and the company.

While some people’s influence and communication skills come naturally, every manager can learn and develop the skills they need regardless of their starting point, says Blanchard.

“Some people naturally understand how to work with others collaboratively and how to build rapport, while others come to leadership from a less developed starting point. But you still need a system if you are going to succeed as a manager. It’s something everyone can benefit from."

According to Blanchard, all great managers do four things:

“Great managers begin by establishing clarity for their people through clear goals, accountability and personal responsibility. Second, they intervene appropriately when things are going well — and when things aren’t going well. Third, they adapt their leadership style to what is needed by appropriately identifying a direct report’s development level on a task and then modifying their style to best serve the direct report at that stage.

“Finally, great managers know how to create long-term, long-lasting relationships that are evidenced by trust and engagement over time. This results in people who stay with the organization, talk positively about the organization to others, and perform at high levels in a collaborative manner.”

Blanchard explains that effective managers connect the dots between the work of the person, the work of the unit, and the work of the organization as a whole. They understand the correlation of action, motivation and commitment. They successfully manage both performance and employee satisfaction.

“Great managers help people see the bigger picture from whatever seat they occupy,” says Blanchard, “and that can be a challenge. People’s careers rise and fall and managers need to be there with coaching skills to help people through the ups and downs — even when there isn’t a clear path forward.

“These powerful skills almost always have to be developed through training — and once learned, they can help people focus and find a way forward in any situation.”

Published in Insights

I recently had the privilege of training 25 companies on mindfulness practices. Part of our session was on corporate culture. It's a topic that I love to speak about, because most companies have a candy coating to their true corporate culture. My favorite definition of culture comes from the Harvard Business Review. It refers to culture as "consistent, observable patterns of behavior in organizations."

The problem with corporate culture is often the difference between internal public relations (P.R.) and reality. The P.R. view is usually consistent across big companies. It goes something like, "Working here is amazing, fun, a growth opportunity where everyone loves each other and treats each other wonderfully. Best. Place. Ever. Oh, and snacks."

The truth tends to be a different story. Most attendees share a list of common challenges in the corporate world including:

>>  Doing more with less (faster, cheaper)

>>  Disconnected management

>>  Offshoring

>>  Technology challenges

>>  Offshoring innovation (sending employees the wrong message)

>>  Risky competition

>>  Increasing injury rates

>>  Absenteeism and presenteeism on the rise

We had 12 industries in the room, including real estate, technology, automotive, banking, consulting and consumer products. All agreed the challenges were universal -- the norm. If this list is the norm, then by definition, it's part of your company culture; the consistent, observable patterns of behavior in your organization. You don't have to talk about it; it just happens.

We then turned our attention to disruption. Every company has normal challenges. But we also have disruptive forces that ebb and flow, making the challenges even more difficult to work with. We started with basic disruption, the kind of global phenomenon we're all sadly getting used to: terrorism, politics, technology espionage/theft.

I challenged the group to think about smaller disruptive forces. The ones we don't talk about, but are massively damaging in the aggregate. For most companies, this includes:

>>  One-third of your employees suffers from insomnia. They show up unable to perform at their best.

>>  Four generations of employees must work together for the first time ever. And guess what? They hate each other! But few companies address the language, expectation and cultural divides that cause daily tension.

>>  Employees aren't taught focus and awareness skills. Injury rates are on the rise, and 91 percent of work accidents are caused by human error. The average company has 3.2 injuries for every 100 employees, at a cost of $38,000 each. If you're in a 10-percent margin industry, you have to make $380,000 just to cover injuries for every 100 employees. Do the math.

>>  83 percent of employees name work as their biggest source of stress and anxiety.

>>  Gallup estimates 70 percent of employees are disengaged at work, and 18 percent are actively disengaged, including toxic employees intentionally looking to avoid work.

The group agreed that disruption is the norm. It's part of your company culture; the consistent, observable patterns of behavior in your organization.

When it comes to company culture, the big question is this: Do you recognize the challenges and disruptive forces in running your business? Do you feel they'll get worse in the next 10 to 15 years? Are you equipping your employees to be resilient in the face of increasing disruption and modern business requirements?

If you're not addressing these, you might more realistically describe your culture as, "We demand faster, cheaper and ignore systemic market forces in the face of increased evidence that people don’t like it here. And we have good snacks." If your culture is just taking disruption as the norm vs. actively working to address it, you may have a culture problem that a P.R. spin won't help.

Here are some ways to solve that problem:

>>  Invest in the stress resiliency, mental well-being and coping skills of your employees. Mindfulness training has the benefit of helping the individual, while also opening him or her up to having more empathy and compassion toward one another.

>>  Look for more opportunities for employees to come together to create community. Whether it's monthly happy hours, celebrating big wins with team karaoke or team "offsites," a team in with which the individuals bond with one another will build a culture that is imperative to the functioning of the company.

>>  Add mental well-being to your quarterly staff surveys. When in doubt, ask. Check in on the level of stress in an open and transparent way with the intention of opening up the conversation instead of ignoring it. Ignoring it is resulting in 46 percent turnover for the average company in the U.S.

>>  Start small. Rome wasn't built in a day. Find what the biggest issue is first, and focus on that for a quarter. Then move onto the next big thing. Just like habits, you need to focus on each aspect of a company's culture one at a time to make real change happen.

>>  Don't let employee well-being slip, no matter what. When things get busy, the first thing that goes is that we forget to take care of ourselves. The same happens in business. Little do a lot of companies understand how much work suffers at the hands of poor well-being.

No company is perfect. But there are a lot of ways and resources to improve the inner workings of any organization.

-- Joe Burton is CEO of Whil, Inc, a recognized authority on employee wellbeing, author and speaker.

Published in Insights
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