Culture Couch: State of the American Workplace

Todd McDonald

Culture Couch: State of the American Workplace

Link to webinar: State of the American Workplace

What to employees really want in the American workplace and how can organizations and leaders provide it? Auzmor’s latest edition of Culture Couch explores the effectiveness of proper training and how businesses can encourage and hone the talent and development of their employees.

Host: Sean O’Brien (Principal, Business Development Executive at Auzmor, Inc.)

Speaker: Todd McDonald (A community and business leader for over 30 years, owner of two successful businesses focused on talent and development, currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, Iowa Entrepreneurs Association, Waukee Betterment Foundation, Urbandale Chamber of Commerce, and on the Advisory Committee of the Ken Blanchard Companies.


Sean O’Brien: Welcome to Auzmor’s Culture Couch. I’m Sean O’Brien. Today my guest is Todd McDonald of ATW Training Solutions and New Horizons Computer Learning Center of Des Moines.

Todd, I call you the human Google of talent development statistics and trends. However, I don’t think anyone can figure out as much as you know on Google. For the audience, we went through a rundown of the podcast the other day, and I had to stop Todd because he was giving so many incredible statistics in a five minute period. I told him that we need to get it on film. 

Todd McDonald: Statistics is data. I love data. It’s one of those things that I’m kind of obsessive about, but I have to turn it down a little bit every once in a while. I think it’s that whole database decision making that organizations have to look at, so always play around with it and try to figure out some things. 

Sean O’Brien: ATW and the Association of Talent Development (ATD) does this incredible survey every year. I want to talk a little bit about the survey results for this year. What trends are you seeing? Anything stand out to you as far as big changes? 

Todd McDonald: Let me back up and do a level set as far as the surveys are concerned to make sure that everybody understands in case they want to look up some of these things. I come from a human resources and training background. When I was in training positions and HR positions, one of the things that I always looked forward to every year was getting the end of the year statistics from what is formerly known as the Society for Training and Development, but is now ATD. They would provide the results and say “here’s where training was last year.” You could really use it as a benchmark within your function of, “Where should I be, or How do I measure up?” 

I started my business a little bit over 20 years ago, and one of the things that I wanted to do at that time was use the ATD survey, but it is more of a national survey. I said, “Iowa doesn’t always relate directly to national.” We always used to joke around that ATD would say that the average training salary is this and how we don’t get paid that. I wanted to find out more about what’s happening here because while we do business on a national basis, a lot is here in Iowa. 

I wanted to find out what’s going on in Iowa as far as that survey is concerned. We have done an annual survey with our customers now for 14 years. We’ve also partnered with The Society for Human Resource Management and the local ATD chapter and, and sent this out. We’ll send it out every year to about 1500 to 2000 organizations asking them for their feedback. What we’re doing then is we’re looking at it and we’re getting the information from them. That way we look at what’s going on in the state of Iowa, but then we can also compare it to how we stack up on a national basis. 

That’s kind of the level set on all of that. When you look at some of the things going on in Iowa, we put together an infographic. (I know we’re going to make that available to everybody.) The thing that jumps out, the first questions that we always ask is, “What is the basis for, and what are the budgets for, talent development and organizations?” How strongly do organizations feel like talent and development is important? What we found this year as we finished the survey in September was that 53% of organizations said that their budget was not going to go down. It was going to remain flat. 

Then 41% said it was actually going to go up. I look at that as a positive. I look at that as 90-95% of organizations say it’s going to stay the same or continue to go up. That’s a positive sign for business. If you look at where the economy is right now it’s an economy that is as stable as you can say with all the political things that are going on. I don’t want to get into that conversation, but, at the same time, it’s an economy that is a little bit risk averse right now. They’re not going to go out and try a lot of crazy things with it. I was very happy to look at that and to see that the companies that we’re working with and the companies that others are working with are still committed to that budget. Now, when you compare that and you look at a national level, I think that Iowa was probably a little bit stronger than what you might see on a national level standpoint as far as where those budgets are. 

Where Iowa starts to lack a little bit is how much time are they willing to allow  their employees to spend going into that. I grew up in Iowa, and we’ve always been a work hard type of environment, whether it’s the agriculture background that we have, the manufacturing background, and everything else. We’re very “work hard,” and training can sometimes be set aside a little bit. 

Sean O’Brien: I would definitely agree with that. 

Iowa’s Slow Progress in Training Employees

Todd McDonald: On a national level, when they look at the average amount of hours that employees are spending in training, that typically is a lot higher on a national level than it is on an Iowa level. On one hand, Iowa may be committed to doing it, but on the other hand, they’re struggling getting there and finding the time. That’s the biggest issue that we’re finding. I’m sure that a lot of people that are watching this are saying, “We would love to do this, but we just can’t. We can’t give our people the time to leave.” If you work with a manufacturing facility that’s running three shifts, they’ll say, “We understand we need to do this training, but we don’t have enough guys to run the machines, so we can’t give others the time off.” 

Sean O’Brien: Right. A manufacturing tidbit is they have some rules that kind of hurts them more than helps. You can’t have a phone on the floor. You have to be paid for any and everything work-related. A lot of the time they’ll have the kiosks or the classroom where they’ll go while on the clock. 

Todd McDonald: You may even run into union issues as far as that. I’ve been on both sides. I’ve been a union member, I’ve been a union representative of an organization, but sometimes that makes it a little bit more difficult. The first thing that I always talk to people about is that Iowa is a great place that they’re putting their money and budgets into to get their employees and trained and developed. I think that’s a great thing. Now we just need to focus on how we deliver some of that. That’s one of the key issues that is going to be the big question. How do we continue to deliver good talent development in organizations? 

Sean O’Brien: Absolutely. Working smarter, not harder. Trying to condense information as quickly as possible and be able to get in and get out. 

Todd McDonald: I think to that extent, that’s where some of the things that Auzmor does fits right into it. I’ll go back to some survey information on a national level, but one of the things that the survey said was 50% of organizations see the adoption of technology as being a key thing that they want to do in their organization. They’re struggling a little bit so adoption of technologies when you look at what Auzmor is doing as far as related to the lifecycle of the employee. How does Auzmor help you to recruit the employee? How do they help you? How does it help you to onboard? How does it help you to provide coaching and feedback to them? How does it help with the career pathing and tracking and performance appraisals and everything? That’s the type of technology adoption that’s going to allow organizations to let technology take the place of some of the things that they’re doing and increase their efficiencies. This will open up time to do some of the things that they want to have done. 

Sean O’Brien: Thank you for your support. One of the things we have set out to do is to make sure we’re automating a lot of the time-consuming tasks and things that come with training and reporting and things like that. Then on the backend as well, we want to ensure whenever the employee has time to jump on the smartphone tablet or the kiosk, they can go in and get those compliance check-the-box courses done or those that can be repetitive. You know this since you arguably run of the most prolific training companies in Iowa. 

Todd McDonald: We actually work for a manufacturing organization right now that are already doing what I would call micro modules. It’s those little tidbits of almost Google how to do something, and they were talking about roofers. This happened to be a company that provided products for the roofing industry, and they needed to train some of the people that were applying the roofing on how to do certain things. 

They showed us a one minute video and then said, “How can you make it shorter?” What they were saying was the only way that they have the ability to be trained is really going to be on their phone. Their training classroom is basically the peak of a roof. They’re sitting there. They have a just-in-time need of “How do I do something for this application?” and “I don’t have 5 to 10 minutes to sit here and watch something because I’m on a roof.” 

Sean O’Brien: There’s no classroom up here. That’s one of the funny things too. We built the program to be as simplistic as possible, especially on the learner or user level and the employee side of things to make sure anyone with any type of technological background or no background at all would be able to have that be self explanatory. Once again, I think a lot of it is because we’re born here, and a lot of the folks perform blue collar work. We’re very proud of it, so we want to put the tools in their hands as well ensure they can do it just as much as a Fortune 500 Company in New York. 

How should Iowa companies approach training?

Todd McDonald: I think two big things that you bring up is anything that we’re doing has got to be simple to use, simple to do, and, in a lot of cases that we’re seeing, a lot more of being very purposeful about it being given to them at the time that they need it. One of the programs that we do is this six month program on leadership development. It’s planned out and people love it. It’s a blended learning approach, and we sold even more of that last year and we hope to sell more of it next year. So there’s still room for that, but we’re seeing the trend towards how we give them information on the job when they need it, how they can use it, and making it simple for them. 

Sean O’Brien: We have a webinar, and it’s funny how a lot of the folks we bring on, such as yourself, know exactly what the heck they’re talking about. You start to see a trend of Nile Nickel and yourself saying the same thing, such as micro learning, small consumption, little bits of info because people remember at the beginning and end. So let’s cut out the middle and make it as short as possible. 

Todd McDonald: Or, how can you combine some of those types of things? We have an advisory council at our organization, and we love them. We invite them in once a quarter and we pound them with our ideas and thoughts. One of the questions that we asked a little bit over a year ago was, “What are you not getting from people in our industry that you wish you were getting?’ They responded and said, “Your products are good. Your services are good. Your trainers are fantastic, but what we’re missing is that application. How can you help us take it from being an event to a process?” 

That’s where I also see that the technology side of things and the LMS service that you provide can be part of that application process. For example, when we do a coaching and feedback program, we all know that when you’re trying to teach something like how to provide feedback and how to coach people, it’s much better to do it in a classroom than the technology side, at least to learn the concepts and do some of the practice. 

Sean O’Brien: The strategic, not the static. You can take the bloodborne pathogens, lockout/tagout type courses. Just automate it, get it over with. But you have to take the time in the classroom to be focusing on the strategic type of things. 

Todd McDonald: What we have done and with the guidance of the advisory council is we’ve created six micro videos to be used one a week each for the next six weeks. That feeds them a little bit more information. They say, “Remember in the classroom when we talked about the difference between feedback and coaching? Feedback is this, coaching is this, what are you doing?” Each video challenges them to do something, so the next week they get something else and so on. Now all of a sudden they’re learning by using some of that technology-based type training. Then, at the end, there’s a 20 to 30 minute e-learning program where they have to practice some of those skills. Now you’ve taken it from a three hour or full day one-time event to an eight or nine week process helping them with their application of some of the things. I think that the whole side of how we use technology is not an either/or situation. It’s not the classroom or e-learning. It’s how we combine the two of them to make it a better learning experience for the individuals. 

Sean O’Brien: I want to give a background of our two companies because it might come across as if we’re competitors. Auzmor is the solution to help create your own launch, track, report, administer any type of training. What ATW and Todd has done so incredibly well is create not only custom training but also job specific training. A company might come in off of the street and say, “We need this for this employee in this industry.” ATW can do it. 

Todd McDonald: We’ve been doing that for a number of years, probably 7 to 10 years. People love the ability to go home at night. If somebody has a question they Google it or find a YouTube video with it. The other night I had to change the water filter on my refrigerator. I couldn’t find even where the filter was by just looking at it. So I Googled it and it gave me an answer. That’s the type of society that we have, so if they’re doing that at home they want that ability at the office. I can’t figure out anything else. I want to be out. I want to be able to Google. 

Sean O’Brien: I can’t tell you the amount of times I can relate to that exact story there. That’s why I’m chuckling. We are a lot alike. This is kind of leading us into the next point. I wanted to pick your brain on that workforce shift of the classroom to e-learning. We’re already talking about the just-in-time information. Instantly being able to just search real quick and find the info that you need. With the survey and the stats and your industry expertise, have you seen that shift happening more rapidly as we progress here? 

Is e-learning becoming more mainstream?

Todd McDonald: I shared earlier where I was a human resource person and then I went to work for a media company. We produced training videos and those types of things. I remember doing a presentation in Kansas city probably 25 years ago talking about e-learning. I made the mistake of standing up there saying, “E-learning is a foregone conclusion. It’s going to happen. You better get ready for it because it’s coming fast.” I’m still sitting here 25 years later saying, “E-learning is a foregone conclusion. You better get on board. It’s going to happen fast.” But it’s happening. 

I will tell you that I do think that technology has caught up with the desire to do it. Twenty-Five years ago we did not have the bandwidth that we have today. We can do things today from a technology standpoint that were in people’s minds 25 years ago. We just didn’t have the technology to do it. You can go all the way back, and it’s not just in the state of Iowa. We know more here, but the workforce, the fact is that there are more jobs out there than people. So how do we deal with that issue? That’s causing us to look at technology in different ways. Whether you want to talk about virtual employees, how we train and develop them, how technology helps us to deal with some of those issues, we have to evaluate it. We now have the bandwidth to be able to do some of the things that we want to do. So I do see that e-learning is rapidly growing. 

You talked about me being the stats guy. The classroom training from an Iowa standpoint has stayed pretty steady while e-learning has gone up quite a bit. Sixty-Four percent of companies that responded to our survey said that they are doing online training. So almost two-thirds of companies are doing some kind of online training. 

Sean O’Brien: I’ll tell you the truth. That’s a little higher than I would have guessed and I’m in the online training industry. 

Todd McDonald: What you have to really look at is what do people consider online training? If you’re on, and you’re looking up something, is that online training? If you just Google something and watch a YouTube video on how to set up a pivot table in Microsoft Excel, is that online learning? To a point, I think that a lot of people see that as something that they can do. 

Sean O’Brien: That’s one of the big things we’ve done at Auzmor is to try to incorporate as much of the media as we can to create training on the YouTube videos, PDFs, word documents, anything of that nature. We’ve seen a big jump in that as well where it used to be, “I want this course. Send it to me with a test at the end, and we’ll get it over with.” I’ve seen a big shift to there’s tons of free training on YouTube. How do we link out to that? Call our development team and say, “Hey guys, we need to be able to link to YouTube.” And now we can. 

Todd McDonald: I know there’s going to be people watching this that are in roles like ourselves, but also in roles where they are using people like ourselves. We’ve had organizations come to us and say, “Here’s our core values. Here’s some of our job descriptions. Help us go through everything that is out there.” The problem isn’t that there is no online learning out there. The problem is that there’s almost too much out there. When you go online and search for diversity and inclusion, you come up with a thousand different titles… 

Sean O’Brien: That’s funny you say that. I just had a conversation similar earlier today. 

Todd McDonald: It’s that idea of do I have to watch all thousand to pick the one that’s going to be right for me? That’s part of that issue of trying to find out what’s right, and then in a service like what you provide or others provide is let’s not put a thousand titles into the LMS. We don’t need a thousand titles. We probably need about 20 good ones that fit our culture, the core values, and the strategic imperatives that we have for our company. Let’s make it simple. Again, back to simple. 

Sean O’Brien: That’s where you and ATW have strength is to be able to go in and flip the company inside out and ask, “What are their core values? What are they doing? What are their successful people in X role doing? Let’s take that and magnify it.”

Todd McDonald: Every company is a little bit different. There are certain programs that we tailor for organizations, and then there are certain organizations that need something very custom to what they want to do. Let’s take providing a program like coaching and feedback as an example. The way that you coach your employees and the way that I coach my employees, there’s going to be a lot of things that are very similar. When it comes to a lot of the job specific things, such as how do you transition or how to do this load out or how to do this, that’s going to be very specific. Those are some things that we can get in. I think that’s where organizations and individuals are going to see the real value of those things that really help them to do their job better when they need it. 

Todd McDonald: I always use the example of training on how to conduct a good performance appraisal. Half of organizations aren’t doing performance appraisals anymore. They’re doing one-on-one conversations, which is fantastic. But, I always used to joke that we train them once a year about how to do performance appraisals and then they don’t do one for eight or nine months, and they forget everything they learn. So, how do we connect that learning? 

Sean O’Brien: You said it earlier, there’s more jobs than there are people to fill them. We’ve been talking about this in the HR world for as long as I can remember of when the baby boomers retire there’s not enough millennials and Gen Z to fill their place. I’ve been guilty of saying once in awhile, “We’ll deal with it when we get to it.” Now that we’re seeing that in full force starting to take effect and hurt companies, especially the small and medium-size companies. What are some trends in talent development and things you’ve seen that have helped attract the younger crowds? 

Todd McDonald: When you look at an individual as far as attracting and having somebody want to go to training, part of it is nobody really wants to go to training. Not everybody, but a lot of people look at us and think, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to go to training.” Part of it is because we’re so overworked to a point where almost every minute of the day is scheduled. That’s the efficiency and productivity and let’s go, go, go. We forget that sometimes we need to take a step back, recharge a little bit, and do some of it. 

Can you make training more engaging?

Todd McDonald: When you really look at it and say, “What can we do to attract those individuals?” We’ve really worked at figuring out what are we doing beyond just telling them information? How do we do it in an entertaining kind of way? Not a let’s stand up and dance kind of way, but what can we do to make it entertaining? Can we show clips of things? Can we relate good stories? Can we share case studies? Can we do some of the different things that make people interested? From a training classroom standpoint, the best compliment we can get is if somebody walks up at break time and says, “That time just went so fast. I can’t even believe it’s time for a break already.” 

We know that we’ve done it in a way that’s really engaged them. We’re using live polling, we’re doing things to engage people. We don’t want Death-by-PowerPoint. Let’s get away from some of that. We actually had an organization a number of years come in and say they wanted a two or three day workshop on leadership. Part of their direction was you could not use PowerPoints, and you could not have tables in the room. It was a bunch of chairs in a circle, couches, flip chart and marker. 

Sean O’Brien: I’m a communication major. I can get behind that. 

Todd McDonald: It was something different, and it caused them all to be very engaged in the process. I think it’s how you deliver it. Everybody talks about e-learning and gamification, and I think that is certainly something that we should all strive for. I will also tell you that that costs money to do. We talked about budgets earlier and organizations were saying that is great, but they can’t do those games on the training side of things for the cost. People just don’t have the budget to do some of those kinds of things. 

Sean O’Brien: Yes. It’s very expensive. I’ve actually chuckled a few times before when we have prospects. We have content providers that have games, but you have to understand. When you bought your kid’s Xbox game for $60 or $70, think about it. That’s one game for one person. Say you have 300 employees for that one course. Do the math. It’s just silly. Thank you for saying it. You’re the first person I’ve had on any of the webinars or podcasts that said, “Some courses just aren’t fun. People don’t like them.” 

Todd McDonald: There’s only so much you can do on lockout/tagout. 

Sean O’Brien: Exactly. I’ve told my buddies a lot of the times that we create a platform to help report, launch, track. They ask “What do you do?” I say, “Have you ever taken an online class, such as that annoying class you’ve had to for work? I’m the guy who sells that.” Then they go, “I don’t like you anymore.” That’s the fact of the matter in a lot of folks. We all love human resources, and we want it to be the best for our company. The fact of the matter is some courses just aren’t fun. No one’s going like them, but they’re compliance courses or something similar you have got to get done because you need to be compliant with the government. 

Todd McDonald: Our job from a talent development perspective is to do them in as engaging a way as you can with it while accomplishing the goals of whatever that course is. 

Sean O’Brien: Like lockout/tagout. I have the full version and I’ve only gotten about seven, eight minutes in before I’m like, “So there is the course.” 

Todd McDonald: We’ve done work with organizations where it’s CEUs, and they have to have a certain amount of seat time to do it, so they can’t skip through. We talked offline about different states that have different laws. California has certain laws as far as harassment and you have to have two hours of classroom training, and it has to be this, that, and all that kind of stuff. In some cases, that’s almost putting handcuffs on to how engaging you can be. 

Sean O’Brien: They have to spend two hours for supervisors, one hour for employees. Take your best shot at it, but the layman employee is not going to love doing this every year. Back to the CEUs and everything. That’s where the specialists in that type of training would actually be more beneficial for it. The classroom times, things like that. With continuing education, we’ve actually just put some of those courses in a learning path and it automatically launches out. Once completed the next one launches and you have seven days to complete them for the HR director or manager. 

Todd McDonald: I think that’s where the technology is going to come into play down the road as those are ways to make it more efficient for organizations to do. You can use the LMS to track that. You can use the LMS to feed it out to people. When I talked earlier about the adoption of technology within organizations, it’s not just a new system in the loading area. It’s not a new system just for a county or for estimating or anything else. It’s in human resources as well. What are we doing on a human resources level that can be done better, faster, and ultimately cheaper than somebody doing it themselves? 

Sean O’Brien: The more people we can reach and focus on the strategic rather than the paperwork and making sure our focus, or the HR or employees’ focus is making the company better as a whole as opposed to pushing paper and sending email reminders. 

Todd McDonald: As an example of that, I think that one of the biggest things that organizations and human resource departments are having to deal with right now is the workforce. The lack of skilled workforce that we have is leading to the flexibility of organizations to allow virtual employees. It was interesting that just in the state of Iowa, our survey results said over 70% of organizations have someone working virtually. Seventy percent of organizations. In a lot of cases, a term that a lot of people are starting to use a little bit more is hybrid. 

I’ll go to organizations and say, “Do you have virtual employees?” They’ll say no. So I’ll ask, “Do you have employees that work at home? Some?” They’ll respond with, “They will work at home one day a week.” That’s a hybrid virtual employee. What we really have to look at as a strategic issue is how do we lead virtual employees? How do we help them to communicate and collaborate with others on their team? The issues that you have with employees that are sitting right across the hall from you are going to be the same issues that you typically have with a virtual employee. How do you set clear goals and expectations? How do you provide coaching and feedback when they need it? How do you continue to develop them, and how do you appraise their performance and help them to develop? 

It’s just that cycle with it. You still have the same issues with the virtual employee, but now you’re having to deal with: How do I deliver? How do I help that person to be self motivated? How do I make sure that they’re clear on expectations when I’m asking them to work with other departments within our organization? How do I foster that collaboration when one person is in San Francisco and another person is in North Carolina? How do you get them work? Back to the technology side, technology is now to a point where you can call up a person and talk with them. 

I travel a lot. If I desire, I can pick up my desk phone and take it with me, throw it in my suitcase. I can go to a hotel I’m going to be at three or four days. I can take that desk phone out and I can plug it into the internet. Anybody that calls my desk phone, it just rings. With teams, you can have meetings where you’re looking at the person and doing it, so we have to learn how we can best utilize the technology. 

Sean O’Brien: I have worked in HR software as a service almost my entire career. I’ve heard many companies, especially those in the skilled trades, say the excuse of “A lot of our employees don’t have cell phones or email.” My favorite one is email addresses. I actually have a good friend who works for a general contractor in the west. He is the HR Director. I had that conversation when he was a prospect of mine years ago and he said, “I’m telling you about 50% of our guys and gals, especially in the field and stuff, don’t have email addresses.” So I asked if most of them had a cell phone and he said yes. 

They probably have an email address if it’s a smartphone. Then he came through and said it’s mandatory and for everyone to send him their Gmail or whatever email address they had. All of a sudden there was only about three or four out of the hundreds that didn’t have an email address. It was funny because it was fuzzypenguins @ gmail or something similar they were embarrassed about. 

Todd McDonald: We probably all have one of those email addresses that we probably would never share with anybody. 

Sean O’Brien: Absolutely. Mine is sn_ob @ I was nine years old when I created it. People go “snob.” 

Saving Baby Boomer Knowledge After Retirement

Sean O’Brien: Anyway, with this whole shift in everything, we want to make sure we’re getting the information that these incredible baby boomers have that have been successful at these companies and putting it in a place where when John Smith retires, we’re in so much trouble as opposed to, “Okay John, we need to get all of what you know, right into a trainer’s hand or online for consumption.” 

Todd McDonald: We were working with an organization a few months ago, and I think it was a good example of both the good and bad of that. The good side of it was they realized that they had a person that was leaving the organization that knew how to do some processes that frankly most people didn’t know. The good part was they realized that. The bad part of it is they realized it about a week before the person left. It was a mad scramble. We went in and recorded interviews. We did all kinds of stuff to capture that institutional knowledge that was going to be walking out the door the next week. As the baby boomers get to that point where they’re already starting to exit the organization, organizations have got to give themselves more than a week to capture some of this information. 

I’ll tell you what my plan is when I retire. I’m not coming back. We have to be thinking about that kind of stuff, and technology is the way to do that. We’ll come into play with that as well. As we captured that institutional knowledge, now we can take that and we can create e-learning programs, or we can create programs that will help individuals to learn some of those things. Content has always been and will always be king. We have to capture the content before it walks out the door. Then you can go back into it and ask what are we going to do with this? How do we structure something so that the next person that we hire, and the one that we hire a month after that and the one that we hire a month after that we have something that we can use to onboard them and get them up to speed a little bit faster. 

Sean O’Brien: You don’t have to go with the Auzmor Learn LMS. Give me a call, and I will tell you right away if I know something that might be a better fit for you. But make sure you have something that is taking all these pieces of media content and putting it in a centralized location for the consumption of your learners. I’ve seen on the flip side organizations that are incredible at using ATW services. Have you ever had that client who goes to you constantly and asks, “Do you have records of all these files because they’re scattered all over now and we have no idea where they are?” 

Todd McDonald: You’re absolutely right. You’re doing good things for your clients when you go back to them and say we may not be the best fit. We are the same thing. Come to us, let’s discuss it. There’s a number of organizations that we’ve gone back to and said, “We’re just not the best fit, but you know what? Over here they are. They can do some of those kinds of things.” The key thing is when you’re really looking out for the good of the client. 

What do employees want from managers and training?

Sean O’Brien: Just kind of a tidbit of info. That’s why I was so excited because we do have very similar philosophies on that. Help don’t sell. The sales will come as long as you’re actually helping. One of the other things I really wanted to speak with you about is the training shifts and things like that. What do employees really want from managers and/or from training? 

Todd McDonald: When you think about what is it that employees want from managers, there’s been a big shift in the last few years from a manager who’s a boss to a manager who’s a coach. I think that’s the biggest thing. I would tell you that employees are looking for someone that’s going to be willing to coach them, to help them understand the goals of the organization and how they fit into the goals of the organization while simultaneously helping them understand what their personal goals are. I’ve always said that if an organization can hit its goals by helping an individual hit their personal goals, then it’s a win win. We go after that. I’ve seen a shift in that.

Maybe it’s not been in the last year or two, but maybe in the last five to ten years. I’ve seen that shift go from “I don’t need a boss. I need a coach, somebody to show me the way. Someone to hold my feet to the fire, to sometimes to give me a pat on the back. Other times you give me a kick in the butt. I need that coach to go out and do those types of things.” That’s a big thing that I would say employees are looking for. 

The second part of your question was what are they looking for out of training? I don’t necessarily think that people are coming in and saying they want to be entertained. However, it’s the same thing. They don’t want it to be boring. They don’t want it to be below what they need with it. They’re really wanting the type of training that they need in an engaging way. Let’s not use the word entertainment. Let’s say an engaging way that helps them to consider it, learn it, and, most importantly, helps them to apply it. We always say that the most important part of the training process is not when you’re going through the class or when you’re doing the e-learning program. It’s what you do with it afterwards. The next week, the next two weeks, the next couple months because if you don’t do anything with it, it wasn’t effective. It really was a waste of time and you shouldn’t have come into it. 

I’m going to go back and correct myself on the Harvard Business Review. One that I recalled from Harvard Business Review was only 33% of individuals who went through a leadership development program really felt that it helped them to improve. That means that sixty-seven percent, or two thirds of the individuals really looked at it and said it wasn’t worth their time. That needs to be fixed. 

Sean O’Brien: We have to bridge that gap, or that ocean. It’s not much of a gap. It’s funny that you said understand what they want from a personal perspective as well. We’ve had a lot of gamification boom. The gamification, the badging, and things like that is so popular. It’s what millennials want. I see the benefit, but I don’t like it. I want to be the guy with the certification. It doesn’t matter if it’s a custom Auzmor leadership selling certification. 

I want to be able to print it off and put it on my desk as opposed to playing the hangman of badging. I’m different and we need to understand that everyone has those differences. That’s what ATW does an excellent job of as well is to make sure you fully understand instead of just saying, “I’ll try this on for size. Does it work? Let us know.” 

It’s funny the amount of clients we’ve spoken to that say, “We sent them out for certification at the New Horizons Computer Learning Center. How do we put these certifications in Auzmor?” It’s staggering, so obviously you know what you’re doing on that end as well. Do you ever bridge between e-learning and the classroom? For instance, if someone misses a class or is unable to attend because they are sick, how do you make sure that information still gets in their hands? Do you record it? What happens?

Todd McDonald: Our management development program is a six month program of blended learning. They come to class five times. We do live webinars a couple of times. We do a podcast. We have them read a couple books, do a couple of e-learning programs. It’s that blended learning approach. If they miss one of those classes, we can’t sit down and redo the class just for that one person who missed. What we can do though and what we have done is we’ve recorded and archived a webinar presentation on that class so if you miss it you’ll get the note that said, “Hey, I know you missed it. Here’s your opportunity to go out and watch this. It will give you the key content points so you don’t fall far behind.” 

What is Todd McDonald’s biggest takeaway from the podcast?

Sean O’Brien: The last question I really like to ask everyone that we have on the Culture Couch here is if there is one thing whatsoever that the viewer gets out of our chat here today, what should it be? 

Todd McDonald: You didn’t tell me this ahead of time so I could think about it. When it comes to talent development, one size doesn’t fit all. You can look at that in a microcosm and a macrocosm. One size doesn’t fit all from a macro level of this company to that company. The companies are different. They have different cultures, they have different core values, they have different things. That’s where we really impress upon our team to work with their team and to tailor to meet those specific needs. If you look at that in a microcosm, it’s one size doesn’t fit all when you look at the 15 to 25 people that might be in a class or the 1 person who’s taking the e-learning. 

How are we hitting the different learning styles of the individuals? How do we make sure that we’re taking and helping each individual learn as much as they can in the style that they like in the way that they need it when they need it. Those types of issues. While there will still be a call for classroom training off the shelf, just good solid stuff, I think we will continue to look at and start to evolve into more of that individual type learning. Very job applicable when that person needs it. If we can figure out how to combine those different things, some of that off the shelf with just-in-time training with the tailored type training, that’s when we’re really going to start making a difference. 

Sean O’Brien: Todd McDonald won’t say this here, but I haven’t heard anything other than five star reviews for this design service, job specific training that you guys are doing. I’ve spoken to your clients that will never go away from ATW because they are the best in the business at that. I’m sorry I’m catching you off guard once again, but what is that? 

Todd McDonald: Everything that we’ve been talking about as far as the real customized is really what we call design services. It’s because of that organization that comes to us and says, “Here’s our needs.” We may not be able to fit that need with something that is already developed, So let’s custom design something. When I talked with you about that roofer that needed something very specific to them, that’s a design service. We have manufacturing companies that will come to us with, “Hey, we’re starting this new process. How do we do that?” We’ll design everything from classroom to job aids to the kiosk on the floor where they don’t know how to do it. They can go over to the kiosk and hit it, and it will show them right then when they need it. That’s the design services side of things. 

Sean O’Brien: I can tell you from a third party partner here that doesn’t make any money off of telling you guys this, but this is apparently a gold star. Want to check it out? Visit ATW. Todd McDonald, thank you so much for being with us here today. 

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