Trending ideas in professionalization and workforce development

A guest post from LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx

“We need to build the 21st century workforce.”

Variations on this quote are currently uttered daily by politicians, CEOs of major corporations, local economic development advocates and NGO leaders and others in the social sector. When you probe a ittle more deeply, you realize that not everyone means the same thing. Politicians and advocates may be concerned with the chronic and growing un- and under-employment of certain demographics and sectors of the economy—many of whom lack the skills and expertise that are increasingly in demand by the knowledge economy. However, organizational leaders from all sectors more often are lamenting that the skills of their existing employees are no longer suited to the disruptive changes facing their organziations and/or their sector-at-large. In reality, in both cases, the pace of change in the economy is outpacing the ability of many people to re-skill and re-tool.
Setting aside the discussion of specific skills and competencies, which may vary from industry to industry, we can look at some of the trends and current approaches for addressing this problem.

 

Co-creation among networks and collaborators

The task of creating the new workforce is larger than any one entity can take on alone. Increasingly networks of organizations and in some cases, networks of networks are coming togteher to create new programs and frameworks. The models vary depending on the sector, but the theme of collaboration is the same. In some cases, these may be content-development and program delivery initiatives, and in other cases they may be an effort to agree on future competencies and credentials for which any employer or training provider may align their programing to ensure a workforce with the appropriate skills.

The Africa Skills Initiative, a project of the World Economic Forum Africa, is bringing together several multi-national corporations as well as government and education providers to build the workforce to sustain the economic growth of Africa. The large multi-nationals that are involved all have come to realize that they alone cannot solve the complex challenges that contributing to the lack of skilled workers that are slowing their economic growth.

Several organizations in the humanitarian and relief sector are about to embark on the creation of a Humanitarian Passport. The goal is to define the set of competencies for tomorrow’s humanitarian worker and emergency responder. With the size, number, and frequency of disaster (natural and man-made) increasing, the availability and skills of existing responders can’t keep up—and is outstretching what any one NGO or governmental agency can train on their own. The Humanitarian Passport will provide a map to employers, employees, and training providers for where to put their emphasis in terms of future skill development.

Micro-sized and skills-based credential formats

Another, and well-documented, trend is the move toward newer credentials that are designed around specific skill sets and most often provide recognition upon completion of shorter programs of learning. Employers are looking for more concrete evidence that an employee will be able to perform a specific skill on-the-job rather than having completed a come comprehensive course of study. The trend toward more micro credentials is growing despite continued evidence that completion of at least one college degree is still critical for career advancement and upward income mobility. There is not yet enough evidence of the impact of these micro credentials on employability and incomes.

The “nanodegree” from Udacity provides targeted training and credentials around specific software development skills. The program acknowledges that employers in the tech industry needed more people with skills in specific and emerging development languages and frameworks. The program combined content expertise from many different employers, who like the examples above recognized the need to to pool their efforts at training the next workforce while acknowledging that traditional universities were not always getting the job done.

The TechBac project by City and Guilds in the UK is another example where a new approach to credentials and qualifications is blending traditional training with proven skills, all backed by new digital technologies. It uses Digital Badges, provides for an online CV of skills and qualifications, and uses rich analytics to track performance and effectiveness.

Certifications like PMD Pro are an example of an example of the aligning of targeted functional skills (in this case project management) with development and humanitarian sector-specific concepts, language, and tools (in this case, development and humanitarian work.) By aligning these two, the result is a more targeted and relevant credential that be provide opportunities to quickly up skill existing employees in the sector or create pathways for new sector entrants.

Tools for employee-driven control

Technology is now providing more tools for employees to demonstrate the full spectrum of their learning and professional development and its alignment with specific competency development goals. Until just a few years ago, the tracking of education and training was the domain of the employer or an academic institution; and it usually tracked only the most formal learning experiences. For the employee, there were few tools to set goals, select and track certain learning, and then promote it to potential new employers—across their entire career with portability.

The most obvious tool that has gained massive scale in LinkedIn. The ability to track not only your employment experiences but your educational experiences, certifications, and achievements and awards is changing how employees are able to track and promote their employability. While better than a resume—with the ability to find people with similar experiences and education—LinkedIn is still limited in its ability to help people map their education to potential new career paths.

Degreed is a new could-based platform for individuals and organizations that connects employees to a much broader range of formal and informal learning experiences. The system also ranks each provider and course experience which provides additional options for employees to choose and for employers to evaluate the relevance and validity of certain educational experiences.

Earlier this month, I also got an early peek at a new tool, Red Panda, that will take what Degreed is doing to the next level. Employees will be able to set specific career goals and/or even align their goals to published competency framework. It is built on the OKR model and extends the model to professional development with opportunities for peer assessment. With Red Panda, the employee will be able to find, access, and track relevant learning—from articles to videos to formal courses and more—all targeted and aligned to their professional goals.

How is your organization approaching the skills gap you may be facing? What types of collaborative efforts are you engaged in? What types of credentials are you recruiting for? or encouraging your employees to achieve? Do you feel that you have the right digital tools to take your efforts to a new level? No organization is immune from the challenges and can take a holistic approach on their own, so now’s time to find new ways to work together.

Learn more about our latest initiative in the NGO sector to set new skills standards and get involved.

3 Proven Strategies for Increasing Adoption of Online Courses at International NGOs

A guest post from LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx

Chris_ProulxAt the end of 2015, I was reviewing data from our 85 members in the LINGOs Learning Collaborative—looking for insight into which programs were generating more adoption and usage. What jumped out to me was that there was a marked difference between a small number of members who were seeing amazing utilization of their online courses (as measured as completions per employee) compared with the majority of organizations.

Online course engagement at any organization is difficult, but encouraging employees to focus on learning while they are working in challenging development and humanitarian contexts can be even more of an uphill battle. So, I dug a little deeper and spoke to some of the L&D managers at these over-performing organizations to find out what was working.

Strategy #1: Start on Day One

At each of the four organizations I interviewed, employees were introduced to the LMS during their new employee on-boarding process. When Relief International overhauled their orientation program last year, Diane Barish focused on creating an online on-boarding program that had most staff using the LMS within the first 48 hours of joining RI. For Diane, this has been about establishing—from day one—that learning and professional development is a critical part of the organizational culture—and access to the LMS is a primary tool for which everyone can access regardless of work location.  At Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Fund, Leigh Jenkins explained how they developed specific new course modules on EGPAF’s ethics policy that reached more experienced employees as well new employees and provided an opportunity to re-introduce the LMS to the company.

Requiring completion of online courses has given online learning and the LMS a black eye in many organizations. However, when used effectively and rolled out properly, these courses can provide staff with a window into the breadth of training that is available. Tamidra Marable of Heifer International confirmed that by exposing staff early on through on-boarding and compliance courses, you are essentially marketing the range of course options that are available for on-going professional development.

Strategy #2: Make it Sticky

At the conservation organization Rare, Teri Brezner explained how she had worked with her colleagues from the talent development group to launch five learning communities in 2015 around important topics at Rare. By aligning online courses with these communities, they were able to drive increased engagement. This is just one example of several where an organization aligned online courses with other organizational initiatives that resulted in increased adoption.

For example, Rare also rolled out new training programs mapped to the organization’s new Leadership Competencies that combined online courses in the LMS, in-house developed guides, and an online discuss. Relief International goes even further by encouraging use of the online courses as part of the performance management process—in fact 20% of an employee’s performance rating at RI is tied to meeting your training and professional development goals for the year.

Heifer has made an organization-wide commitment to PMD Pro as its project management methodology—for HQ as well as the field. As part of this commitment, all employees are required to complete LINGOs-authored Last Mile Learning PMD Pro courses before attending a more in-depth face to face PMD Pro training. The use of pre-requisites as part of a blended program is not uncommon, but Heifer goes a step further. The online PMD Pro courses are also included as part of one or more learning paths, where the project management courses are combined with other management and soft skills. Employees who complete the learning path are awarded an internal certificate of achievement—delivered by their manager at one of Heifer’s all-hands meetings.

Strategy #3: Don’t Go It Alone

It is nearly impossible for an L&D professional to drive significant adoption and engagement on their own. Each of the four people I spoke with joined forces across the organization to make learning a priority. Teri at Rare is using VPs and other senior leaders as visible experts in their in-house developed courses—generating demand among employees and also encouraging the leaders to advocate and promote the courses. At Relief International, Diane is working with in-country HR professionals—training them on how to help employees match training courses to their performance goals and how they can use LMS reporting features to track progress of their country’s staff. Continued professional development also had support from the top-down at RI which creates lots of energy and discussion around learning in the organization with even the VPs asking for their annual training records to ensure they are leading by example.

Tamidra explained that at Heifer, leaders are now competing against each other for the right to claim that their team has completed the most training and learning in the past year. Leigh at EGPAF works with in-country HR staff to hold brown bag lunch training sessions where teams complete an online course together and then discuss it in real time over lunch.

And, don’t forget that a little sizzle goes a long way. Tamidra’s colleagues at Heifer have been creating Pow-Toons to market learning and generating some excitement along the way.

And…Focus

The other key message I took away from these leaders was about focus. Most of them spoke about only three or four key initiatives last year where they invested significant time and energy to ensure success. So as you contemplate your 2016 strategy, choose a couple of important organizational needs and initiatives and work with other leaders to design a program that will allow you to start to build momentum for learning.

In addition to these strategies, there are some useful resources on the web to help you jump start your program in 2016. Chris Pappas’ blog post on effective blended learning strategies is a great start. The eLearning Guild also just released a new e-book on the role of Context not Content in your learning strategy. Fcousing on relevance and currency, similar to the learning communities at Rare or PMD Pro at Heifer, is far more important and effective for long-term sustainability of learning that relying on compliance mandates alone.

And finally, LINGOs and the Learning Collaborative are your partners in this journey:

  1. Making sense of the data from the LLP is a first step to planning ways to improve engagement. Are you signed up for the data and reporting webinar on Feb 11? Janet Humphries from GOAL is going to demo some of the dashboards she has created to stay on top of her learning program.
  2. The Marketing Your Learning co-creation group is kicking off on February 25. Make sure you email ross@lingos.org to sign up for this year-long working group designed to create and share tools and best practices in marketing.
  3. The Learning Collaborative team has also assembled more learning paths that can help you target specific job functions or learning objectives more easily. To learn more, contact your dedicated LINGOs account manager.

Partner Spotlight: Building Learning Libraries with Cegos

Since 2010, Cegos and LINGOs have partnered to offer high-quality training resources to individuals and organizations working in the development and social sectors.

LINGOs is a consortium of 80+ international NGOs, representing over 200,000 staff and local partners worldwide. Its mission is to help any organization working to improve lives in the developing world to affordably build its own capacity.

With over 80 years of experience, Cegos is a leading provider of multilingual training and development, reaching approximately 250,000 people in 50 countries each year. By partnering with LINGOs, Cegos can share its training resources with an ever-broader global audience. And over five years, the Cegos-LINGOs partnership has continued to grow in depth and reach, demonstrating Cegos’ founding values of commitment, agility, and sharing.

Commitment: Empowering NGO staff on a Global Scale

Through the partnership, Cegos provides LINGOs members with access to over 200 courses at greatly reduced cost. The multilingual curricula in subjects as varied as management and leadership, sales and marketing, and individual and collective effectiveness, have enabled thousands of development and humanitarian workers around the world to do their work more effectively.

“While LINGOs offers our Members’ staff access to courses from many providers, the courses from Cegos cover an incredible range of topics and languages,” says Marian Abernathy, LINGOs’ Partnership Engagement Manager. “We find that people are interested especially in management training, which is available through Cegos in the first language of many development workers.”

At the American Refugee Committee (ARC), the soft skills training provided by Cegos supports humanitarian workers, some of whom have seen their educations interrupted by conflict.

Courses in management, negotiation, emotional self-assessment, and dealing with conflict “are of special value to our national staff who live and work in very harsh and insecure environments, and have survived some pretty horrific situations,” says Colleen Striegel, vice president of HR and Administration at ARC. “We are grateful that Cegos has been so generous with their courses because they are having a big impact on our staff.”

Agility: Adaptation for Impact

Above and beyond its provision of wide-ranging, multilingual learning to LINGOs members, Cegos has also played a vital role in helping LINGOs provide skills training for the entire NGO community.

In 2012, when LINGOs wanted to develop a catalog of courses in multiple skill areas that it could share broadly and freely with the sector, Cegos generously provided source materials. “By providing us with a foundation, Cegos made it possible to open a broad part of the LINGOs catalog to the sector,” says Mike Culligan, LINGOs Director of Learning Architecture.

Today, LINGOs offers over two dozen free courses in five languages, enabling the field staff of any NGO, including local partners, to quickly gain a common language and training in subjects as vital as project management, organizational development, and financial planning.

Sharing: Creating a Learning Community

Thanks to the generous support of volunteers and partners like Cegos, LINGOs is an ever-growing community of members and learners. “When Cegos donated course materials for us to share freely, a group of volunteers came together to tailor and translate the courses for a development context,” says Ross Coxon, LINGOs Director of the Learning Collaborative. “Cegos’ donation was one of the catalysts for collaboration within the community.”

Drawing on a shared pool of accessible, relevant courseware, development professionals are learning wherever they are in the world, enabling them to reach their potential within their roles and increase their impact for communities they serve. NGO staff can access free courses based on Cegos’ donated content in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, or Arabic at www.lastmilelearning.org.

 “The two courses I have completed so far have helped me to understand myself better. This has enabled me to interact much better with my colleagues and the people I serve.”

 – Hassan Ambe, American Refugee Committee

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

Today kicks off 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a campaign to educate citizens and lawmakers alike about gender-based violence, human rights, and “the intersections of political, economic, and social realities.”

The uncommon timespan is no accident. Beginning on November 25 (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women), and ending on December 10 (International Human Rights Day), the 16 Days campaign delivers gender equality to the doorstep of human rights – one inextricable from the other.

With thousands of organizations around the world participating in activities, sharing resources, and calling for change, the 16 Days campaign founds a sustained conversation about gender-based violence and human rights.

How are you joining in 16 Days?

Get the newly updated “Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action.” Explore the resources and community action supported by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and UN Women.

Take an online course from UNFPA on managing gender-based violence programs in emergencies. And LINGOs members, the following courses are available to you through the LINGOs Learning Platform:

Course Title LINGOs Learning Platform Course Code
Inter-Agency Standing Committee – Different Needs – Equal Opportunities (Gender Equality in Programming) IASC-IASC-GenderEquality
InterAction – Managing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Investigations IA00-managing-SEA
InterAction – SEA101: Introduction to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse IA00-SEA101
InterAction – SEA201: Mainstreaming of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse IA00-SEA201
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (EN) HI00-traumaticstress-EN-HI
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (ES) HI00-traumaticstress-SP-HI
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (FR) HI00-traumaticstress-FR-HI
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (PT) HI00-traumaticstress-PT-HI

 

LINGOs Global Learning Forum 2016: Can Your Organization Host?

A message from Ross Coxon, Director of the Learning Collaborative

Ross_CoxonI would like to thank Heifer for their generosity in providing us with such an amazing venue and such great hospitality, as well as thank all the other agencies who have hosted us in the past. We really appreciate a chance to see your working environments and learn a little bit more about your wonderful organizations.

GLF Attendees have asked LINGOs to set a date and location for next year’s GLF so they can start planning. Before we can do that, we need a host.

It is a long and proud tradition that a LINGOs Member hosts the Forum. Would your organization consider joining Heifer International, PATH, FHI360, MercyCorps, TNC, CRS and CARE as members who have hosted a LINGOs meeting?

Hosting the GLF can be a fun and rewarding experience! The LINGOS team does most of the heavy lifting, with help from the Planning Committee.

You are eligible to host the meeting in 2016 if:

-you would like to host the LINGOs family
-have access to a facility that can host up to 140 people
-have an amazing logistics person who can work with us

Please reach out to me directly if you are interested or need more information. I look forward to your responses, and we are already getting very excited about the coming year and the Global Learning Forum 2016!

Making Co-Creation Happen in 2016

A message from LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx about the 2016 LINGOs Co-Creation Agenda

Chris_ProulxTwo weeks ago at Heifer International, 100 learning professionals gathered at the LINGOs Global Learning Forum to engage, discuss, and share their ideas for how to continue to use learning to improve the effectiveness of organizations in the international development, humanitarian, conservation and social sectors.

As part of the conference, we facilitated an interactive brainstorming to identify the top priorities around which the LINGOs community could co-create new solutions in 2016. We invited participants to submit their ideas for projects that would make a difference to their organizations, make a difference to the sector, and have deliverables that could be created in 2016.

We are still looking for input from members of the community who could not join us the Global Learning Forum. You can provide us with your ideas for projects in the LINGOs Online Community.

So far, we have been reviewing and summarizing the input from the brainstorming session.  The top five priorities of the community so far are:

  1. Digital Badges: Credentials that transfer with employees from organization to organization mapped to a list of competencies with evidence the competencies have been retained.
  2. Professional Competency Frameworks: Shared competency model (80% solution) – with focus on tools/resources/guidance for implementation for your organization – for common key field positions.
  3. A Platform for Field Practitioners: Common knowledge/Tool/Sharing L&D platform with user-generated content and best practices organized around topics such as Environment, Economic, Poverty reduction, Health/public health, Agriculture, Food safety, Disaster relief, Gender, Civil society, Education, Water security, Sanitation, Technology.
  4. An Excellence in Leadership curriculum with certificate: Create a peer mentoring network among NGO senior leaders. Group existing courses into a cluster for organisation leadership (on and offline). Develop a learning path and a certificate aligned around core competencies.
  5. Marketing/Branding playbook for rolling out online learning: LMS marketing toolkit and do-it-yourself resources.

We are looking for your continued feedback, ideas, and suggestions for how your organization can contribute to any of these project priorities. The LINGOs staff is reviewing each of these highly ranked initiatives for which ones can be worked on in the coming year. We are considering factors such as: other related resources and initiatives in the sector, potential for reach and impact, existing resources within our member organizations, staff resources, and ability for quick wins. We will have more information before the end of the year on how to join working groups for 2016. Until then, keep sending us your ideas, feedback, and contributions.

LINGOs Announces its 2015 Global Learning Award Winners

cropped-smaller-2014-lingos-logo-white-with-tagline-website-size-smaller.jpgWinners of the 2015 Global Learning Awards were announced Wednesday at the Global Learning Forum in Little Rock, AR. The awards, presented annually, celebrate individuals and organizations that have significantly supported LINGOs’ mission: ensuring that its members and the NGO community at large have access to affordable, appropriate learning wherever they work.

Member of the Year: Heifer International

Partner of the Year: NetDimensions

Eric Berg LEAP Award: Vicki Aken, GOAL

Rising Star Award: Afia Asare, Opportunity International

Rising Star Award: Kimberli Jeter, PYXERA Global