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?

Virtual Training Is Real

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The time for change in technology based training is here.

The evolution of technological training tools, which used to be paper based and then moved to online or computer-based methodologies, has shifted to the rapid implementation of virtual reality as the go-to tool for employee training and development.

Walmart and Amazon both announced a shift from paper-based training and assessment tools to implementing virtual reality training for their respective employees.

Click here to read how Walmart and Amazon are implementing virtual reality training for their employees.

As noted in the article, virtual reality can provide effective training for employees through workplace simulations. These include complex customer service, decision-making, motivation and problem-solving scenarios. This type of training allows employees to familiarize themselves not only with what (the tasks) they must perform, along with building capacity for understanding how those tasks are impacted by their own reactions. Virtual reality training seems to offer a relatively safe environment where an error or a mistake made by the employee in training will not have a direct impact on a ‘live’ customer or colleague as an immediate result.

The article states that the benefits of this type of technology allow for training to be offered to employees on a mass scale with low cost, provided the purchase of hardware and software development has been made. Certainly, corporations like Walmart and Amazon, have significant resources which allow for the investment of this type of technology-based training. It does seem that they are leading the way for the rest of the business world to follow them into the future.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does virtual reality training provide empathy training? Why is this important?
  2. From you reading of the article,
    • identify three benefits of virtual reality training that impact employee motivation;
    • identify three challenges or negative implications of virtual reality training.
  3. In your current work environment, what types of training programs could be replaced with virtual reality training tools?

Managing Leadership by Bot

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Two of the essential objects of employee training include the development management and leadership skills. As noted from our textbook, management development is ‘complex’ and leadership qualities are those which are meant to ‘inspire others’. For the lucky few, it may appear that their management and leadership skills come naturally. For most people taking on the role of supervisor or boss, these skills need to be nurtured and honed in order to assume the characteristics of an effective leader.

Traditional management training programs have provided the context and support for this type of development in the past. We do not live or work in traditional times any more. With the increasing influence of artificial intelligence in the workplace, management and leadership training can now be delivered directly to employees on the job through their personal technical devices.

The influence of leadership apps, such as ‘Coach Amanda’ and ‘Humu’, are explored in a recent article posted in The Wall Street Journal.

Click here to read the article.

As outlined in the article, these types of coaching apps provide prompts or ‘nudges’ to evoke constructive leadership behaviour. The apps are designed to give feedback and repeated reminders of appropriate supervisory or leadership behaviour. On the positive side, this kind of prompting does provide guidance from a neutral space. Most employees are not comfortable telling their direct supervisor something negative about their behaviour that needs to change. Supervisors have often been promoted into their new roles, with little guidance or direction when needing to deal with day-to-day challenges. A personalized and direct coaching app may offer an alternative to what would otherwise be a difficult conversation to have with one’s boss, or (as is usually the case) the negative behaviours for a new supervisor are just not addressed at all.

The fact that a prompt provided by artificial intelligence (AI) is needed in order change human behaviour is more than a bit ironic and, as the article suggests, just a little bit creepy. No matter what one’s perspective on the influence of AI may be, the reality is that it is here to stay and our working world has changed, for better or for worse.

Let’s make sure we program the apps for the better.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Based on your own internet search, how many leadership coaching apps are you able to source?
  2. How does an app, such as ‘Coach Amanda’, influence management development?
  3. Would you use a coaching app for your own leadership development? Explain your rationale.
  4. How does ‘micro-learning’ influence on the job management development in a positive way?

Is Artificial Intelligence a Digital Doomsday or a Bonanza for HR?


Artificial Intelligence (AI), natural language processing, and deep learning are all current technology trends which will impact the working world. What will all this advanced technology do to current workplace relationships and HR Departments?

Will it be a digital doomsday where intelligent machines radically eradicate all jobs with the precision of a laser cutting through butter? Or will it be a bonanza for workers and HR with the rise of intelligent, more productive machines that will allow humans to be more innovate and creative?

Let us discuss both perspectives. There has been a long understanding that during any technological revolution that disrupts society it will also displace workers.

At one point in time, there were only two jobs in society: hunters and gatherers. Then, we became farmers which lead to the displacement of 90% of the hunters and gatherers. Farm equipment became more efficient, which put 90% of farmers out of work and the farmers had to transition into factory workers. Then, the knowledge workers started to replace the factory workers.

You can easily see the historical trend in which technology disrupts the workplace.  We can see that AI may start to replace knowledge workers such as doctors, lawyers and accountants. Deep learning machines can now process information and learn from it much faster than humans do.  What will the workers of the future do?

Odds are that AI technology will significantly disrupt the traditional workplace. How can HR be a part of the digital AI revolution? According to an article published in HRD by Rachael Ranosa, which summarizes a CIPD study, there are five things an HR Department can do:  (Click here to read the article)

  1. Develop an implementation strategy for AI and current work integration
  2. HR needs to use AI to make new jobs more meaningful
  3. Allow employees to become more innovative in the workplace
  4. Involve employees in the technology change
  5. Continually develop employees

It may not all be doomsday for workers, according to CIPD. AI and technology are creating as many jobs as they are eliminating.

If history repeats itself, AI and new technology will disrupt a significant portion of the workforce, But if HR is involved and implements the correct strategies, it can lessen the impact on employees and create more meaningful jobs in the future.

Discussion Question

  • Research and create a list of which jobs or professions in the next 10 years may be displaced by technology. Pick two and develop a HR strategic plan to reduce the impact on those employees.

Blinded By The Blue Light


One of the physical agents that is identified as a hazard in our Health and Safety studies is the impact of blue light on worker eyesight. Blue light is emitted from electronic devices, such as computer screens and tablets. It is part of the light spectrum that travels in short waves with high intensity and reaches further into the retina than other types of light-wave frequency.

The ongoing impact of exposure to blue light includes a deterioration of the circadian rhythms, which we need to help us sleep. When these rhythms are interrupted, getting a good night’s sleep is also interrupted. As each of us may have experienced in the past, when we do not sleep at night, we do not function the next day.

The impact of blue light on employee health and safety is not a new phenomenon. The prevention or hazard reduction of this physical agent, however, does not seem to be getting the attention it deserves.

Click here to read about the increasing concerns linked to blue-light exposure in the workplace.

Think about the masses of employees staring all day at computer screens that are emitting high-levels of blue light. Is the sleep of each employee negatively impacted at night? If the workforce as a whole is not able to get a good night’s sleep, how can they be productive in the workplace the next day? As noted in the article, related costs include a reduction in daily productivity and having to deal with a sleep-deprived and cranky workforce.

The article provides recommendations for interventions that include screens for computer monitors, allowing employees to take additional eye breaks, and the installation of light monitoring software. None of these seems to be a high-price to pay when balanced against the costs that come with lost productivity and managing irritable employees.

Blue-light-induced insomnia benefits no-one.

A good night’s sleep benefits everyone.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Of the physical interventions noted in the article, identify the one that you think is both cost-effective and health-effective for the workplace. Explain your rationale.
  2. How do you protect your own eyesight from exposure to blue light?
  3. From a Health and Safety perspective, which interventions would you implement as mandatory for worker safety? Explain your rationale.
  4. Prepare an informal assessment of worker exposure to blue light in your current workplace. Are there interventions in place? If not, how will you approach your current employer?