Tag Archives: learning

Open Feedback Culture is important- what’s yours like?

When we consider athletes, dancers or other sportspeople today we know that they set goals, they train and they work hard to achieve optimum performance. After they perform, they often critique the performance and receive feedback from others. For instance a baseball pitcher might review video footage, they might seek out feedback from their coach or sports specialists. If they didn’t seek feedback, or weren’t provided with this feedback they would not be able to achieve or maintain the desired performance.


It’s no secret here that the culture at many organisations is one that shy’s away from having tough or difficult conversations with people. This includes peer-to-peer dialogue, upwards and downwards feedback or communication.

The best feedback for learning occurs in the moment, but I think it would be safe to say that many staff aren’t even receiving accurate feedback during appraisal time. It’s much easier for managers to tick the box and write a general comment about an employee than have an honest conversation about someone’s behaviour and performance. Sometimes it’s the threat of a grievance or investigation that put’s managers off.

We know feedback is crucial to improving performance so this is a culture we need to change.

The reason why people get scared and threatened by feedback is often because they aren’t used to receiving it. Often managers tippy toe around what they really need to say, whilst others blurt out loud and clear what’s on their mind in an inappropriate manner. Neither approaches are effective methods of providing feedback to employees, nor will they evoke a change in the individual’s behaviours. Balance is key.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you use the old hamburger approach (or shit sandwich as some people call it!) but it is about delivering a firm message in an appropriate way to other people in the workplace. We talk a lot about communication (yeah yeah we all know the model of giving and receiving a message)- so why don’t we think about this when giving feedback?

Some further thoughts: here’s a three-pronged approach I like (HT Evan Carmichael)

1. From an individual perspective, it is critical that people don’t take feedback personally. Take it as a means of learning.
2. From the team perspective, managers need to provide coaching in the spirit of improving performance, not naming flaws or faults or trying to change what makes someone who he/she is. Use it as a means of instruction.
3. From an organizational perspective, companies need to recognize and reward people who have the courage to remain open to giving and receiving constructive performance feedback. Exploit it as a way to develop talent and manage performance.

What is the feedback like in your workplace and how can we as HR professionals encourage it?


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Experiences are the key to career development

I was reading the CLC HR Quarterly trends report Q1 2009 this morning and it got me thinking again about ‘career experiences’. In an earlier post I wrote about career development and why it’s important that you promote development opportunities for your staff that involve learning from experiences and relationships in the workplace.

The CLC report says that “organizations must invest in increasing engagement levels of their high potential talent and focus on maximising on-the-job experiences for employee development. Council research highlights that on-the job, experience based development is the most effective when developing employees and signals commitment to their advancement.”

Similarly to my post they mention the provision of stretch opportunities as a great way to provide a career experience.

So why are these career experiences so important?

Experience can be seen as ‘the totality of ways in which humans sense the world and make sense of what they perceive’ (Miller and Boud. 1996). It has huge potential to assist people in transforming all they experience and perceive, into tacit learnings that they can practice and apply in real life.

I loved uni and other formal training programs that I’ve attended, but the key benefit about experience is that it links classroom lessons and theory, and applies it to the real world and it is for this reason that experiential learning is increasingly used in schools, workplaces and tertiary education institutions around the world.

A great model to clearly explain experiential learning is Kolb’s learning cycle.


Kolb says that experiential learning is a process which has the capacity to link education, work and personal development (Kolb. 1984). In using Experiential learning methods, he emphasizes the critical linkages that can be developed between the classroom and the ‘real world’ (Kolb. 1984). Rather than strictly using classroom techniques which involve illustrations, explanations or demonstrations, the focus in experiential learning is really on involving the participants in active experimentation for the learning to occur. This is adeptly highlighted in the quote from Confucius circa 450 BC “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand”

According to Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, there are two major ways in which we learn; namely how we perceive and then how we process the experience and information. With regards to our perception or in grasping the experience, individuals perceive new information through experiencing the “concrete, tangible, felt qualities of the world, relying on our senses and immersing ourselves in concrete reality”. This is known as apprehension.

Comprehension or abstract conceptualisation then refers to when individuals grasp information through “symbolic representation or abstract conceptualisation – thinking about, analysing, or systematically planning, rather than using sensation as a guide”.

Next, for learning to occur we also need to process what has happened and the data gathered from the experience. Intension or reflective observation occurs when a learner stands back to observe in order to transform and process the experience into learning and extension or active experimentation refers to when learners literally get involved in a hands on fashion and learns from that experience.

This model really clarifies for me how people can learn in the workplace, and makes me think of the different ways in HR that we can promote learning experiences for career development whether its reading a book or participating in a stretch experience.

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Did you know its National Career Development Week in Australia?

So as you know, its coming up to Performance Appraisal time at my organisation and my inner nerd wants to share with you that for me, its also kinda exciting for me planning what I’d like to achieve in the next year and spending some time to think about my career.

 Am I where I thought I’d be? Do I still know where I want to go? How am I going to get there?

 I was thinking about this when I came across an article on twitter and found out that this week (18th-24th May) is National Career Development week.


According to their website, “National Career Development Week (NCDW) celebrates all of the careers activities held in Australia throughout the year. It is a key initiative of the Career Industry Council of Australia (CICA) and is funded by the Federal Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).NCDW, through hundreds of careers events run during the year, encourages all Australians to actively engage in career development and develop the skills to manage their careers, learning, work and lives in order to get the life they love.”

The site is fantastic. It has so many resources for individuals, businesses and includes event details- you should definitely check it out.

 I have to say I absolutely love the concept that they are encouraging people to take control of their career development to achieve greater happiness in life. After all, we spend so much time at work in our lives- we may as well happy. Additionally, career development is becoming even more important with the current economy and a tight job market- it’s something everyone should be thinking about.

 When we talk about career development it’s important to not just consider the typical choices such as training by external providers or university courses.  Up to 80% of workplace learning occurs through informal means (Cross, J. 2007. Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance) so this is an area where organisations should be encouraging their staff to think about when they are drawing up their personal development plans.

 If your organisation promotes a wider range of activities under your career development umbrella- you are adding value to your EVP (key touch point and engagement area for staff) and saving your organisation money.

 For instance consider the learning evolves from career experiences and relationships in the workplace. 

 Experiences have a huge capacity for you to link what you have been taught, or what you might already know and really put it into practice. It gives you the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t work in a real-life situation.

  • Stretch experience- This could involve job enlargement, taking on new responsibilities and expanding your knowledge and skills
  • Secondments and Acting Roles- keep an eye out for opportunities to step up and show what you are capable of. Stand in for a team leader/supervisor in their absence or looking out for cross-divisional, interstate or international secondments that may be available. These opportunities can also help you expand your knowledge and skills across a range of roles, in different functions.
  • Project Experience- get involved in a project outside your normal role responsibilities. This will give you great exposure to people within the business that you may not ordinarily interact with, allow you to practice and refine your project management skills and get your hands dirty.

 Relationships are a fantastic way to grow and develop yourself. There are many instances where you can learn from those around you- you just have to be aware when it is happening and take note of what you’ve learned!

  • Feedback from your Manager- regular catch-ups with your Manager are a great indication of how you are performing and what you need to do to enhance your development. Also, remember to ask for feedback in the moment so that you learn at the time things happen.
  • Peer learning- be a sponge! Soak in what you can from those around you. Does the person sitting next to you have knowledge and skills that you could be learning? Also if you are new, a buddy is a great pool of resources at your fingertips for those first few weeks in your new role.
  • Comms Sessions- attending Comms sessions or road shows organized by your organization are an excellent way of keeping in touch with what is happening in the business and a channel where you can contribute thoughts and ideas. It’s also a great place to network.
  • Mentors and Coaches- these people can share their insights, experience and expertise with you to assist your learning and development. They may also ask you thought-provoking questions to help you reflect upon your own performance and what you can do to improve.
  • Networking and Social Groups- Extend your network by being a member of a project or social group.

 In this economic climate it’s important to get creative with your development plans for 2009/2010. Remember that there are loads of things that will help you develop your career- you just need to put your thinking cap on.

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