Who Will Train Whom in HR?


Professional training for the HR professional has always been required, and traditionally, they’ve had to keep up their professional development on the following topics, which were always changing:

  • employment laws
  • leadership and organizational trends
  • economic trends around employee recruitment and retention

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as the digital and Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution, however, is here and transforming the workplace drastically. How much will workplaces change, and how fast? Many are afraid that AI, deep learning, and robotics will eliminate all human work. Although it is true that many jobs—and even whole industries—will change, and possibly even disappear, not all human workers will.

It is interesting to ponder what the role of the HR professional will be in this Fourth Industrial Revolution. Richard Baldwin, in his book The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work, outlines a key insight of what HR professionals could do: “Realize that humanity is a competitive edge, not a handicap.” This is a very powerful statement, which should inform the fundamental goal of all HR professionals and HR departments—seeing where workers can do their best work with the greatest impact.

Perhaps it is now time in the HR world to take the often-administrative tasks of job design and analysis and make them strategically important to ensure human skills are used to their full potential. Marty Neumeier, in his HR article, discusses key human skills and their innately human qualities, such as:

  • creativity
  • intuition
  • system thinking

Click here to read in greater detail about the human skills required in future workplaces.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will certainly disrupt current workplaces, jobs, and even entire industries, but by combining the thoughts of Richard Baldwin and Marty Neumeier, HR professionals may be able to create more engaging and meaningful work for the new workplace reality.

Discussion Questions:

1. Research and review a Job Analysis (JA) process. From that research, develop a process and create a JA form that takes into account the key human skills required in the future workplace, as outlined by Marty Neumeier and Richard Baldwin.

2. Once your new JA process is complete, prepare a five-minute presentation that would convince your VP of HR that they should adopt your new system of Job Analysis.

Silver Linings Learning

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When we look back at this time of pandemic crisis, it will, no doubt, be framed in the lens of ‘before’ and ‘after.’ ‘Before’ will be the time when we learned together in physical spaces, such as classrooms and lecture halls. ‘After’ will be the time when we adapted to learn in isolation through remote access and online technology.

If history has taught us anything, it is that crisis forces ingenuity and seismic shifts to get from ‘before’ to ‘after.’ This article from the Harvard Business Review provides us with a brief exploration of the future for post-secondary education. It also highlights the significant changes that are required to make technology-based learning sustainable in a post-pandemic world.

As noted in the article, faculty all over the country are scrambling to make their existing and future courses accessible through remote or online learning platforms. There is a collective push for academic learning in place. Faculty want to provide students with the means to achieve the credentials that they set out to earn. At the same time, faculty are trying to figure out how to provide effective learning to others in the midst of learning how to do so for themselves. To say that it is challenging is an understatement—made worse in this time of fear and uncertainty about health concerns for those whom we love.

The article also addresses the traditional notion of post-secondary education as a commodity. In order to receive accredited and institutional learning, one must “pay to play.” Now, we know that learning materials can be open and accessible to anyone with internet access. This means that the commodity of education is shifting in its value. Learning can be affordable—it may even be free!

In the ‘before,’ access to education was unattainable for some because the metaphorical door, representing the commodification of education, was closed. Through this crisis, that door has been forced open. It will be difficult to close in the future. Once we move into the ‘after,’ in the post-pandemic world, we may see that learning and education will become an egalitarian opportunity, accessible by and for, everyone.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you had to choose between in-class or online learning, which one would you prefer?
  2. Are there specific online courses that you think achieve the same learning results as those provided through an in-class environment?
  3. What type of classes or courses do you think still need to be offered through a physical (in-class) learning environment?

Credibility and Micro-credentials


The landscape for learning is shifting. In response to the need for filling an increasing skills gap, governments, post-secondary institutions, and employers are coming together to provide specific training and learning opportunities through online learning. The concept and practice of online learning is not new.

All post-secondary institutions provide online courses, which are typically linked to a designated program of study. These courses are credit-bearing, in order to meet the requirements for graduation from the program. What is new, is the recent announcement by the provincial government in Ontario to offer ‘micro-credentials’ through partnerships with post-secondary institutions and employers, which provide specific, short-term, skills-focused, credit-bearing courses in an online setting.

The announcement of this pilot project allows for the recognition of skills development through an online learning platform and treats credentials from online courses as assessable and valuable by both employers and employees. In order to upgrade specific skills, an employee does not have to go back to school for a set number of years. Instead, they can complete specific courses in a much shorter time frame that bear the credible authority of the post-secondary institution.

In the field of human resources, for example, a working HR practitioner may want to focus on developing a specific skill set in workplace negotiations. They could access a short-term, skills-targeted course that is recognized as a legitimate credential, instead of just a professional development refresher.

The competition for online learning is fierce. Anyone can access open-source learning sites, such as opensource.com or LinkedIn Learning, which offer free courses to all in an online setting. The challenge that comes with these sites is the lack of recognition in the form of an accredited credential. Employers continue to look for the formal ‘seal of approval’ that comes from paying for accreditation, and outdated standards set by industry and institutional requirements.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Based on your studies to date, do you see yourself continuing to learn through micro-skills development courses? Explain your rationale.
  2. Do you agree that skills development courses that provide a credential are beneficial in the current workforce? Explain your rationale.
  3. What types of industries would benefit from offering micro-credential programs to their employees for skills upgrading?

Lonely At The Top?

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It does not have to be!

One of the unspoken challenges that comes with the ascension into a senior leadership role is that there is no one to talk to.  When a leader takes on the role of the Chief Executive Officer, they are perceived as having the competencies and the abilities to enact all organizational decisions and strategies on their own.  As the leader of others, the CEO does not need to have a leader for themselves.  It is as if once the leader has assumed the role, they are fully formed and no longer need further development from others.

This view of a leadership practice flies in the face of the principles of life-long learning and the on-going development of a learning organization.  Leaders are human.  Humans are innately drawn to the need for constant development and continuous learning.  While the organizational leader may no longer need to have the same kind of formal professional development plans that they learned from as they moved into more senior leadership roles, once they are in the top position, the leader does need to continue learning and growing, just like everyone else.

Mentorship provides one of the most effective forms of leadership training and learning to those that move into the organizational leadership role.  The role of the leadership mentor is explored in a recent article in the Financial Post.

Click here to read the article.

The mentorship relationship can have a powerful effect, not only on the CEO, but on the organization as a whole.  When the leader is healthy, the organization is also healthy, as noted in the article.  A leader who has a mentor is able to shape and share ideas to problem solve in a safe environment that respects the leadership function and understands the challenges that come with the mantle of the organizational leader.  The mentor may be one of the few people who can hold the mirror up to the leader for healthy self-critique and continuation of personal and professional development.

We all need someone to talk to who understands and can support us, especially when we must face difficult or challenging decisions.  As with any type of relationship, the key to successful mentoring is to ensure that both the mentor and mentee understand their roles and respect each other’s boundaries.

The leader who keeps learning is a positive role model for the rest of us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As a Training and Development specialist, how would you develop a mentorship program for the CEO of your organization?
  2. Why would a CEO resist having a formal mentor as part of their personal leadership development plan?
  3. Identify three key characteristics of someone who has been a mentor for you. What made the mentoring relationship work for you?

Train the Management Brain

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There is a saying that effective leaders are born and not made. Why then do most organizations implement management training programs in order to support and promote leadership development?

It may be that there is something to be gained from ongoing leadership training, especially in the area of skill development for emotional intelligence. Among the many practical and professional requirements that are expected from individuals in managerial roles, most organizations expect their leaders to connect with, shape and motive others in positive ways. This cannot happen if the person in the leadership role does not know how to interact with others in an emotionally intelligent way.

Dr. Travis Bradbury is the co-author of ‘Emotional Intelligence 2.0’. He has provided a very good synopsis of the benefits of training for emotional intelligence in a recent article posted on the HuffPost website.

Click here to read the article.

While not specifically aimed at management development, Dr. Bradbury’s synopsis provides interesting statistical evidence that promotes this particular need for leadership training. Through the development of their emotional intelligence skills, average performers are able to see significant improvements in their level of performance and, correspondingly, ongoing increases in their level of monetary rewards.

It is ironic that emotional intelligence is not about the development of feelings. Instead, as Dr. Bradbury explains, emotional intelligence results from training the brain to ensure that we build effective ‘in-brain’ communication through the science of neuro-plasticity.  We can exercise our brains to make new and better connections between our rational and emotional brain centres. Training our brains result in higher levels of emotional intelligence. Higher levels of emotional intelligence result in leadership success.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In your opinion, what is the link between emotional intelligence and leadership success?
  2. Identify how a management development program can be implemented through the use of training for emotional intelligence.
  3. If your employer told you that you had to attend an emotional intelligence training program, how would you respond? Explain your reaction.