HR Tech World San Francisco: Links and Resources

I couldn’t make it to the inaugural HR Tech World San Francisco this week. But despite the FOMO I have been able to keep up with the insights shared via social media. So for others that couldn’t get there, or those that are but couldn’t be in several places at once, I have curated as many useful links and resources as I can that have appeared in the live stream, including useful blogs, articles and book recommendations. Hopefully you’ll find it useful and if you have anything else to add then just let me know. Thanks to everyone tweeting from the event and keeping me (and thousands of others around the world) up to date with all the latest.

Official sites and research

The guys at HRN who are behind this event do a great job of involving the blogging community directly on their own site. Don’t miss all the different contributors and the wide range of insight you can find here on the HRN blog.

Copies of key presentations from recent events in London and Paris event can be accessed via this link.

Another heads up is to have a look at the HRN YouTube channel which has tons of archive interviews and footage, which will no doubt be updated with new content from London very shortly.

Fosway Group (full disclosure, this is the organisation I work for) partners with HRN to deliver targeted research on the realities of HR in Europe. San Francisco is clearly a US event but the data still makes for interesting reading wherever you are.

Pre show:

Links from the live feed:

Post Show:


I’ll be adding to this list as more reflections and post event blogs are published so stay tuned. And if you caught any useful links that I’ve missed please let me know and I will add them in.

Picture via Max Hsieh.


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Experiences (and engagement) are what matters in learning now

After reflecting on this year’s Learning Technologies Summer Forum I have distilled my key takeaway into one word: experiences. There, that was a quick post wasn’t it? See you later…

Seriously though, I will expand on that with reference to the sessions that I attended. In the opening keynote Dr Itiel Dror made some fantastic points in between being very genial and entertaining (and also passing on the notion that learning burns off calories – my dream come true?!) Real learning, posits Dror, is difficult. Like ‘nailing jelly to a tree’. In order to learn we must 1) Acquire 2) Memorise – or be able to retrieve the new information and 3) Apply it (see picture of slide above). He talked through some interesting research and examples but the two standout points for me are that he believes motivation affects how well someone will learn. How much they want to learn or change, will affect what they really take in. This comes back to the hot topic of learner engagement which came out as a strong theme in this year’s Digital Learning Realities research and also segues into what Dror discussed next.

He talked about the need to create emotional experiences which help the brain encode what to do. This isn’t new but he used some interesting examples about teaching doctors using scenarios where they ultimately fail so they can embrace the ‘terror of error’ during training. In itself, this raised some interesting questions on the backchannel about the need to prepare learners for failure when designing the learning, and making sure that the learners in question are emotionally equipped to deal with failure (and also to my mind, a cultural ‘permission’ that needs to be given by the organisation to make it OK to fail during the learning process). But the example of having his kids ignore him when telling them not to answer the door to strangers until he was blue in the face….then pretending to be a stranger at the door and scaring the life out of them in order to get his message across resonated with me. It isn’t about his kids ‘failing’ per se but he certainly created an emotional experience they wouldn’t forget. Dror then showed how play can be a kinder version of creating experiences which are a) engaging and b) memorable. Using geography as an example, he suggested playing a Twister style game with a map of the world where kids are placing their hands and feet on Africa or Australia rather than just on red or yellow circles. Again, this resonated with me and reflects the growing use of games in corporate learning as well as education.

In my colleague David Perring’s session on ‘what’s beyond the LMS’ we explored the next generation of learning systems and how they need to work differently in order to secure that all important learner engagement. We all know the LMS (rightly or wrongly) can have something of a bad reputation, but as these solutions evolve they need to incorporate all sorts of different learning elements beyond the traditional course.

Micro learning was then the topic of the session I attended with Clive Shepherd and Barry Sampson, and whilst creating smaller chunks of bite sized learning is undoubtedly a growing trend, the learner needs more from their content than it just being short, in my humble opinion.

And this got me thinking. The concept of creating learning resources (regardless of length) rather than courses, is now an established one. But what we need to be able to do is deliver these coherently to learners in a way that goes beyond traditional courses, to creating learning experiences (there’s that key word again). The PLASMA Learning Cycle is not the only way of achieving this, but it does provide a useful way of looking at how to hang different elements of learning together. In his session, Perring said that the challenge with the traditional LMS is that they rarely package learning experiences with much elegance or intelligence. There is an opportunity to do so much more! But a combination of all the PLASMA Learning Cycle elements being used together, with machine intelligence and behavioural science can support building more engaging learning based on actions, nudges, jeopardy, social pressure/support and personal motivation – thus creating the engagement that Dror insists is so important in learning effectively. This for me, starts to make concepts like micro learning make more sense as they become part of a bigger, ongoing learning experience.

Don Taylor, in my final session of the day, talked about the valuable lessons learnt from countless learning technology implementations, many of which are explored in his new book. The overwhelming point that came across was that the success of these projects is NOT about the technology itself, but about the people involved. From the learners themselves – who seemingly are almost never asked for their input or feedback into learning technology selections – to the L&D team, the organisational stakeholders and the external vendors and implementation partners. A common tale of woe is expecting technology to magically solve a problem, without any real strategy or support around its implementation. Taylor cited an example of how James Tyer visited and spoke to dozens of Yammer users and developed use cases around how it could best be used in his particular organisation before even beginning his technical implementation. Learning from other people’s experiences (there’s that word again) then applying it to your own context is going to help any tech implementation have a better chance of success.

What is digital learning anyway?

The other priciple point of discussion that came out of the day for me again arose on the backchannel, around how we define certain terms in learning. We all know there is a lot of buzzword bingo in L&D but how we define ‘digital learning’ as the profession transforms itself going forwards, seems to me to be worth discussing further. I’m mid-way through writing up my thoughts on that so will share those in a separate post.

Thanks as always to the team at Learning Technologies for a thought provoking event, and thanks in particular, to my social media team who did such a great job of sharing insights and their own opinions via the #LTSF17 backchannel. The next stop for LT this year will be Singapore in November – bring it on.

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7 people you need to know at the Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2017

Somehow is already time for the annual Learning Technologies Summer Forum. Hopefully since the main event in February, we’ve all been putting into practice what we heard at Learning Technologies 2017, but the Summer Forum offers a unique opportunity to catch some sessions you might have missed and to hear new content from a number of different speakers.

The commitment to sharing the best of all the action from both the conference and this exhibition remains as strong as ever. The backchannel will encompass all four tracks of the conference and the buzz of the exhibition and free seminars.

How the backchannel works

Many reading this not only know how the backchannel works but help make it what it is with your participation and enthusiasm. But just in case you are tuning in for the first time, here’s everything you need to know about how it works. Each session at the conference has an individual hashtag that will be used in addition to the main #LTSF17 hashtag. So if you’re following using Hootsuite or a similar application, you can search on the specific sessions to keep your focus on a particular topic. Below is a list of these hashtags and which of our tweeters is covering those sessions. The idea is that you can use this to filter the stream of tweets and hone in on any areas of interest during the event. Note, the keynote won’t have an individual hashtag. For the full conference programme, click here.

The 7 people you need to know

Prior to the beginning of each session, I’ll tweet which of our social team will be covering it, so you can make sure you’re following the topics of most interest to you. The team for this year’s event is:

Keynote: Learning, your brain and the implications for effective L&D

Returning to the stage at Olympia, cognitive scientist Dr Itiel Dror kicks off this year’s Summer Forum with a talk that explores how we in L&D can move away from just building up people’s knowledge, to affecting their long-term behaviour. I love this nuance away from purely focusing on how the brain learns. Driving behaviour change and impacting performance is what L&D should be about so I can’t wait for this opening address. Please remember, there isn’t be an individual hashtag for this session, just tune in via #LTSF17.

Session 1: 11.15 – 12.15

#T1S1 – The now and the next of learning and technology, with David Kelly (Covered by Joan Keevill and Kim Edwards)

#T2S1 – Next gen learning platforms: What comes after the LMS? With David Perring (Covered by Patrick Mullarkey and Kate Graham)

#T3S1 – How to kick start your learner centric strategy with Laura Overton, Jane Daly and Teresa Rose (Covered by Krystyna Gadd and Barbara Thompson)

#T4S1 – Facilitation imaginarium with Julie Dryborough (Covered by Ollie Gardener)

Lunchtime session: 12.20 – 13.20

#RT1 – Finding your personal keys to success, Towards Maturity

#RT2 – Making sense of the digital learning market, Fosway Group

#RT3 – Your personal brand, careers and skills in L&D, Blue Eskimo

Session 2: 13.30 – 14.30

#T1S2 – Micro-learning: How it really works and who’s using it successfully with Barry Sampson and Clive Shepherd (Covered by Kate Graham)

#T2S2 – Mind shift: Moving people to a positive learning state with Stella Collins (Covered by Patrick Mullarkey)

#T3S2 – Enabling learning for greatest impact – at the point of need, with Nick Jubb, Nick Shackleton-Jones and Sharon Claffey Kaliouby (Covered by Joan Keevill, Krystyna Gadd and Kim Edwards)

#T4S2 – A model and method for practical social learning with James Tyer (Covered by Ollie Gardener and Barbara Thompson)

Session 3: 15.00 – 16.00

#T1S3 – Your learning technology implementation checklist with Donald H Taylor (Covered by Ollie Gardener)

#T2S3 – User experience, why it’s fundamental and how to make it work with Myles Runham (Covered by Kate Graham and Barbara Thompson)

#T3S3 – L&D professionals taking a 21st century approach with Jeff Kortenbosch, Sunder Ramachandran and Anca Iordache (Covered by Krystyna Gadd, Kim Edwards and Patrick Mullarkey)

#T4S3 – Making the most of your live online session with Jo Cook (Covered by Joan Keevill)

Closing address: Taking it forward – your next steps

Our conference Chair, Don Taylor, will wrap up the day’s proceedings and give us an important opportunity to reflect on what we’ve seen and heard during the event.

I’ll also be sharing a flavour of the exhibition throughout the day. On behalf of Don, Mark and the team, we look forward to seeing you in the stream next Tuesday and as always, let me know if you have any suggestions or feedback on how we can bring you the best in learning via the backchannel.

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Creativity, innovation and HR

So, day one at HR Tech World London has whizzed by. It’s late, I have my feet up and I am reflecting on what I saw and heard today. In fact, I have actually already had some time to reflect because many of the conversations I’ve had today have involved discussing the conference sessions and what stood out for myself and other attendees.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of this buzz centred on the opening keynote from Sir Ken Robinson. With a background in learning, I have heard much tale of Sir Ken but am one of the few not to have watched his TED talk (over 44 million views and counting) or seen him speak elsewhere. Not something I’ve achieved on purpose, it had just never happened for some reason. So I went with an open mind to his session on ‘leading a culture of innovation’. It’s immediately obvious why he is a popular speaker, he is very engaging and funny with only a small handful of slides to illustrate key points.

He began by talking about how people are infinitely creative and talented, even when they don’t think they really are. His aim is to understand the ‘depth of human talent’ and how cultural backdrops – like where we work – affect the ability of that talent to shine. He then discussed how organisations struggle to stay creative – therefore finding it hard to innovate – and therefore finding it hard, in the end, to stay going. The average lifespan of a company has halved to 30 years in the last four decades he says.

And here’s where the session could have taken a HR-specific turn but unfortunately for me, didn’t. The rest of his talk used some interesting examples to show creativity in action both in terms of art and problem solving. But as is often the case with keynotes, didn’t offer up any real practical advice for fostering a culture of innovation beyond the importance of leadership and a nice reframe of the traditional organisation chart (below).

For me though, the elephant in the room (full of HR professionals) was exploring what the role of HR is in creating a culture of creativity and innovation that helps organisations not just survive, but thrive. As Sir Ken stated, many individuals do not see themselves as creative. Some project that onto others as the art experiment demonstrates, where the Chinese couldn’t initially see disabled people as having creative ability. And to my mind, HR falls into this category. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that HR isn’t generally perceived as being a creative discipline. But is this doing HR a disservice? Has it in fact got potential to be far more creative and have a role in leading from the front when it comes to an organisational culture of creativity and innovation?

Alternatively, maybe the perception is right and HR isn’t inherently creative. But maybe that’s OK. Because HR’s role in this culture of innovation could be in hiring the right people, it might be in managing and nurturing their talent effectively, it might be incentivising creativity with the right rewards, or it might be providing learning opportunities to hone skills in creativity. Any or all of these could be the key to this Utopian organisation that Sir Ken referenced – one which is innovative, keeps reinventing itself and ultimately, stands the test of time.

I feel this could have been an interesting debate and whilst I appreciate that Sir Ken clearly isn’t a HR professional so probably just isn’t interested in that level of detail, I think that so many discussions could have been started from this point if it was made more explicitly in the opening session of the day. It was still an entertaining keynote and one which sparked lots of thinking and conversation throughout the day. Maybe that’s one for a panel discussion or for follow up at HR Tech World in Amsterdam in the Autumn.

I’ll be reflecting on other sessions in later posts but if you were there or following the live stream, what were your thoughts on Sir Ken’s session? And how do you feel about a) HR as a creative discipline and b) HR as a driver for organisational creativity and innovation? Let me know in the comments.

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What’s new in HR technology?

This week sees HR Tech World land in London, an event I’ll be attending for the third time on home turf. I’m looking forward to some interesting and challenging sessions to mirror the ‘interesting’ and certainly challenging times we find ourselves living and working in. Against a backdrop of so much political and economic turmoil, HR surely has a more important role than ever in terms of people’s working lives. Many of us are by turns concerned about our future at work, disillusioned or disengaged…and maybe some are excited about what’s to come too (here’s hoping).

The agenda though is optimistic and looks towards the new, and how technology can be a force for good that helps support HR and by extension our organisations and our people. There is talk of innovation (with a keynote from Sir Ken Robinson), driving change (closing keynote from Baroness Karren Brady), positive disruption and digitally-led transformation. There are case studies galore from the likes of Centrica, Sainsbury’s, BAE Systems, Novo Nordisk and Expedia. And even a brilliantly titled session on ‘making learning sexy’ – I am so going to that one. Again, I am encouraged to see a women in tech panel featured on the main stage so kudos to the organisers for that (interestingly there is a man involved on the panel too). I’ll also be stalking some of my favourite speakers/writers whilst they’re in town, so look out Heidi Spirgi, Euan Semple and Jason Averbook.

Unsurprisingly, the spectre of Brexit looms large as the UK and Europe wait with breath that is bated for Article 50 to be triggered. The excellent Dr. Daniel Thorniley will be exploring the implications of Brexit for HR in his session on the main stage. I saw him speak in Paris in 2016 and he was incredibly forthright and uncompromising so I’m looking forward to hearing his thoughts in the current climate. The analysts I work with at Fosway are also looking to get beyond the hype with new research into the impact of Brexit on HR. This short survey takes just a few minutes to complete and you can still take part here to share how the current situation is impacting your recruitment, retention, training and future investment.

disruptHR once again gives HR leaders the opportunity to rub shoulders with the next generation of HR technology solutions and entrepreneurs. Fellow blog squad member Faye Holland is in charge of proceedings and previews the action here.

The Fosway team will be on hand at Stand 414 to share more insights on our ongoing research with HRN and CEO David Wilson be delving into the (fairly shocking) data on customer experience of HR technology in practice in his session on day two. I’ll also be cramming in as many sessions as I can and bringing you the action via #HRTechWorld.

See you there or online.

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The punchline: learning for impact and performance

Last week, two things happened within a few hours of each other. (Well actually, an incredible number of things happened last week but Learning Technologies always means one of my busiest times of the year.) But the two things I refer to bear referencing in relation to each other because they form the punchline -for me – of what the event is really all about.

In the last session of the conference, David Perring succeeded in rousing some tired attendees in his session on ‘showing the impact of learning, painlessly (almost!)’ He asked some challenging questions around who finds measuring learning impact painful (more than half the room), who thinks they are good at evaluation (one or two cautious hands in the hair) and should we resign Kirkpatrick to the dustbin (OK maybe that’s not a tough one, the answer was a resounding yes!) He argues that evaluation is not as important as making a measurable impact. ‘Learning should be a strategic investment to drive performance and to build business capability. But how do you measure the impact it really has or maximise that impact?’ One of the keys is to stop thinking of learning as a one-off event. Start considering longer – even ongoing – learning experiences and the picture shifts beyond Kirkpatrick levels 1 and 2. Start thinking about goals such as ensuring proper engagement with learners, improving the design of current learning solutions and even being able to demonstrate the value of learning investment to senior management. He encouraged us to put values against key measures like cost reduction, sales increases, productivity rises. Value isn’t about outputs, it’s about impact and supporting the winder goals of the organisation. You can view his slides here with some useful questions and models that will get you thinking about more than just happy sheets.

Demonstrating the impact of learning

Just a few short hours later, I found myself at The Dorchester for the 21st annual Learning Awards hosted by the Learning and Performance Institute. I was lucky enough to sit down with Managing Director, Ed Monk, before the event where we discussed the importance of recognising, not just clever or innovative learning initiatives – but actual business impact.

He believes that L&D is often an unsung hero in organisations, so the awards is about giving credit for what they do because ‘learning can change lives’. The awards have evolved since their inception in 1996 (originally the Institute of IT Training awards). As well as the obvious shift away from IT training, they are now much more focused on how learning affects the performance of individuals and their organisations. Anyone who wants to win an award is faced with a tough panel of judges – headed up by chairs Colin Steed and Nigel Paine – drilling into the detail on how learning has made an impact in this way.

Monk feels passionately about sharing stories of the winners through the LPI’s member network, its events like Learning Live and this year, with interviews from Learning Now TV. ‘A big part of our mission is about inspiring and motivating others. Every winner’s story has takeaways that can be used in different organisations to deliver learning that makes a difference. The affect on the winners themselves can be sensational – I’ve seen it transform careers and encourage even greater achievements as they continue on their own learning journeys’ he commented.

You can view the full list of the 2017 winners here. And I can report it was indeed an inspiring evening. From seeing the excellent work done by GoodPractice recognised in External Solution of the Year, the delighted team at Dell pile onto the stage as one, the demonstrable results delivered by Villeroy & Bosch with very little infrastructure and resources, to CLO of the year Naomi Lockwood thanking her team and crediting her colleagues with so much of her success, and seeing Nick Shackleton-Jones bestowed with the prestigious Colin Corder award. There is something for everyone in L&D to take inspiration from in the list of winners and finalists.

For me, this is why we all attend industry conferences and trade shows – to find out what we can potentially achieve and evaluate new ways of delivering that. Everyone in L&D is trying to make a difference and if their lens is focused on impacting the right areas as described by David Perring and as recognised by the LPI, then learning has the power to be truly transformational.

Footnote: The LPI also does a huge amount for the very worthwhile charity, Dreamflight. Seeing Paralympian Liz Johnson – previously a child who benefited from this incredible journey – talk about how it helped give her confidence and ultimately become a gold medallist, is still one of the most memorable speeches I’ve ever seen. Between a charity auction and countless generous donations from attendees, thousands of pounds were raised on the night. If you can spare a few bob, you can donate vis their website and if you’ve only got a tenner, brighten up your office with one of the excellent LPI charity calendars.  

All photos courtesy of olgamanzano via Flickr and the official photos of the Learning Awards 2017.

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Is the future of L&D already here?

Three days isn’t really long enough to reflect on everything that I saw and heard at Learning Technologies 2017 last week, but whilst things are fresh in my mind I wanted to capture some immediate takeaways.

The stand out session for me was from the keynote speaker on day one, Thimon de Jong. You can hear my immediate thoughts in this interview with Martin Couzins straight afterwards. Even though the talk was not about L&D specifically there was so much that resonated with me, especially with reference to the Digital Learning Realities research that Fosway has been conducting in partnership with Learning Technologies. This isn’t a plug – it genuinely gave me lots of reasons to be cheerful. I often leave keynote talks from futurist type speakers, or look at the gap between what’s being talked about on the conference floor versus the exhibition, and feel a bit depressed. But this talk combined with the initial results from the research indicates, to me at least, that L&D knows where it needs to go.

‘You know me’

Thimon talked about a ‘you know me’ culture. One where we want companies to respect our privacy, but conversely to exploit the data they have on us to create tailored experiences based on our preferences that speak to us in a more personalised way. That might be as a customer of Vodafone, or it might be as a learner within your own organisation. Consumer-facing organisations are improving at this all the time and it’s a trend that needs to happen internally as well as externally. The digital realities research bears out an understanding from L&D professionals (1,060 at the time these particular numbers were crunched) that they key drivers for digital learning are increasing availability (87%), speed of learning (84%) and learner engagement (83%). All of which point to a need for creating ‘better’ learning experiences.

The numbers also demonstrate an increasing focus on the importance of analytics. And it is the artificial intelligence and algorithms which drive analytics that give us a realistic hope of being able to deliver personalised learning experiences en masse. Netflix is so often cited as an example of an experience that learning should aspire to that I now eye-roll whenever I hear it. But interestingly, Thimon told us that there are over 300 people working in the in AI department at Netflix….that’s a serious amount of human intervention in what’s purportedly ‘artificial’ intelligence right there! The average L&D team clearly can’t compete with that! However, if we continue this emerging trend of treating learners like consumers – much as Thimon referenced – then getting a grip of analytics, and learning how to apply the insights it provides us with, is a key step in getting the right content to the right people at the right time.

And the reason this made me cheerful (or at least not depressed) is that L&D seems to recognise this – and there is lots of decent technology out there that can help us act on it. This isn’t about looking ahead at how virtual reality might one day land in the average organisation. This is about something we can start doing now to improve what L&D does.

In L&D we trust

The second part of Thimon’s talk which also resonated, was a discussion on trust. The internet is so full of information, but he questions how we determine what’s fact and what’s opinion. In the current climate of ‘fake news’ this could hardly be more timely. But focusing back in on L&D again, we know that learners don’t just get their information from the learning department these days. Everyone has access to Google (even if it’s via their personal phones rather than company systems) but sifting through what’s fact and what’s opinion, which videos are worth watching and which sources are worth reading can be hard work. This is where the evolution of L&D’s role kicks in.

The excellent Lloyds TSB case study session from Richard Clayton and Angela Sweeney talked about how they successfully began surfacing relevant content to the right people at the right time based on internal ‘demand plans’ carefully crafted with each business department. They worked out what was needed and by whom, and how best to filter that content through to their learners (whilst making some incredible cost savings). Later on, Tobias Kiefer of EY went one step further and explored the concept of ‘Own Your Own Learning’. My tweet on where this leaves the L&D department seemed to strike a chord, because where does this leave L&D?

Kiefer believes L&D needs to become ‘challengers, storytellers, curators, eonomists and data analysts – a list to which Andrew Jacobs (quite rightly in my opinion) added engineers (there still needs to be some infrastructure). ‘By thinking of how we can make ourselves obsolete, we can generate the value the business has always been expecting from us’ Kiefer said. I’m not sure I agree with this 100% but changing the focus from trying to be the last word in where/how learn in an organisation, to one of providing access, filtering, tailoring and nudging is one I can get on board with.

Coming back to Thimon’s point, L&D has to establish itself as a trustworthy source. And coming back to the research, it’s not only about providing content and resources that are accurate and useful – but providing them in ways that are easily available, contextual and engaging are all part of building that trust with learners.

This all makes me feel optimistic because my sense is L&D has grasped that this is the direction of travel. And the technology needed to support it is already out there. It’s not about stuff that’s super expensive or out of reach (although I’m sure you could spend a lot if you have the budget). And that makes me think it’s eminently achievable in the not too far distant future.

More on Learning Technologies 2017 to follow…


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