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How to Make Gamification Meaningful in Learning

September 26th, 2014 by Ana Bedard
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Gamification is such a big phenomenon in today’s business world that this decade has been dubbed “The Decade of Gamification (O’Brien, 2012).”Companies use gamification to promote interaction with and ultimately loyalty to their brand.  Learning professionals are integrating game elements into learning solutions to motivate learners to engage in learning.

Sounds simple – incorporate game elements, motivate learners! What are some game elements? Think about your favorite games. They most likely have rules, challenges, and competition. They have leader boards and points. They have awards.

While it is relatively simple to identify these types of game elements, in order to use them correctly a designer must think beyond them and ask what about these elements makes them motivational, and who they are trying to motivate. A designer who does not engage in this level of inquiry risks winding up with awards that no one is vying for or challenges that no one cares about.

Gamification expert Sebastian Deterding argues that a key – and generally undistinguished – element of successful gamification efforts is meaning (2011). What is meaningful depends on the audience. In order to be meaningful, the experience must connect to the goals and passions of both individuals and a meaningful community of interest.  People are motivated to seek bragging rights, but only if they care about what they are achieving, and if their peers care about it, too.

As an example, we are finalizing two digital learning solutions to accompany to our Consultative Skills course. One of the learning solutions is an eLearning course in the form of nine 10-minute learning bursts – this course can be used both to provide training to an individual who is waiting for a scheduled class, and it can also be used for sustainment purposes post learning.

CLOSERWe had a series of discussions about offering awards to participants who pass the eLearning course. A generic award did not seem motivational. “Congratulations! You receive the Gold Cup Award for passing the course!” Who cares? Unwilling to give up the idea of awards, however, we searched for something more meaningful. The question that drove us forward was, “What kind of award or achievement would be meaningful to this audience of salespeople?” This question allowed us to develop an idea for an award that we believe will be motivational to the audience. The highest level of achievement a user can obtain is “Closer,” a designation that any salesperson would love to have in real life. By providing a designation that is meaningful to salespeople as individuals and a community, we have injected the kind of fun and games into our eLearning that will motivate learners to achieve learning accomplishments.

So next time you are injecting points and awards into your learning solution, think about the community of users and ask yourself, “What kind of award or achievement would be meaningful to this audience?” It will help you to connect with your users and will bring the kind of fun and play into their experience that they will want to engage in.

 


 

Deterding, S. (2011, January 24). Meaningful Play: Getting Gamification Right (Google Tech Talk). Retrieved from https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=sebastian%20deterding%20google%20tech%20talk.

O’Brien, C. (2010, October 24). O’Brien: Get Ready for the Decade of Gamification. San Jose Mercury News. October 24, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_16401223.

Engagement + Accountability = Performance that Matters

September 15th, 2014 by Tom Rose
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Webinar Graphic - insights (1)In our recent survey, we responded to client interest in accountability and what drives it.   We undertook this work because we see a connection between accountability and engagement.  We believe that Engagement + Accountability = Performance that Matters.

Let me give a brief explanation.   Engagement- namely the motivation to exert extra effort to achieve results- and accountability- taking on the difficult challenges that makes a real difference- lead to outcomes that advance organizations and strengthen their cultures from “business as usual” to meaningful, sustained progress.

Our survey revealed an accountability gap that parallels the engagement gap that many experts have observed.   Roughly just under 20% of the work force is highly engaged and a slightly lower percentage is fully accountable.

How do we close a gap that is critical to business success?  At Forum, we call the capabilities that lead to performance that matters, 6 for 60. It’s called 6 for 60 because by focusing on these 6 capabilities we can harness and focus the potential of the 60% of talent that lies below most engaged and accountable members of our work force.

6 for 60 includes:

  1. Establishing clear and well-aligned goals organizationally & individually
  2. Admitting mistakes in way that protects credibility, advances problem solving and helps us to the right and difficult thing
  3. Advocating for the resources & abilities needed for success
  4. Addressing differences in approach to goals we have with key stakeholders
  5. Resolving dilemmas that underlie challenging business issues
  6. Coaching others how to take accountable action to achieve results

With focus and commitment and the right dosage of support and challenge to leadership and followership we can create the conditions that lead to performance that matters.

Want to know more about accountability, engagement and performance that matters? Join me on Tuesday, September 23 at 1pm ET for a webinar that looks at the results of our survey and why engagement + accountability = performance that matters! You can register here.

1 Basket, 2 Arthurs, and 25,000 Employees: How Trust and Employee Engagement Drive (or Kill) Business Results

August 12th, 2014 by Claudette Chagnon
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“Leaders can no longer trust in power; instead they rely on the power of trust. “ - Charles Green, Forbes Magazine

In a small corner of New England in the United States, a huge workplace revolution is taking place.  And it is being talked about over the water cooler and dinner tables as the hottest “reality show” of the summer.  (A welcome relief from the Bachelorette…just sayin’.)

Market Basket, a privately held and family-owned grocery chain with estimated annual sales of $3.2 billion, is embroiled in the eruption of a long-running family feud that has lasted for decades.  In the latest episode on June 23, Arthur S. Demoulas led the company’s board to oust the current CEO, his estranged cousin Arthur T. Demoulas, and replace him with two consultants. His firing continued the battle of two namesake cousins struggling to control an empire of 71 supermarkets in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. When eight middle managers, some of whom had been with Market Basket for 30 years, protested the change, the company fired them for “attempting to create a worker rebellion.”

In the days that followed many of the company’s 25,000 workers refused to report to work, a clear sign of worker solidarity against company bosses they distrust. Butchers, baggers, cashiers, and clerks came from all over New England to rallies at the chain’s headquarters, carrying signs and shouting in megaphones and risking their jobs. Warehouse employees stopped working, stores stopped accepting deliveries, and local legislators, local media, and employees encouraged customers to boycott the stores using the power of social media. Customers not only complied, but joined in the protests.

In result, over the past month, sales have dropped by as much as 75%, stock has been depleted as drivers refuse to deliver, stores have been forced to temporarily close, and the company is experiencing drastic losses. Workers and customers have promised to continue this “rebellion” until the former CEO is reinstated.

Why the Intense Loyalty to Arthur T?

Sure, Market Basket has better-than-industry norms for compensation and benefits but the employees at the rallies are not talking about compensation and benefits, and that is why business schools all over the country are watching closely. Posters of fired Arthur T. DeMoulas have appeared in store windows with the slogan “Believe!” scrawled on them.  One employee had “In A.T.D. We Trust!” sprayed onto his car.

Clearly, Arthur T. DeMoulas was a CEO who was pro-employee and pro-customer.  Making money was only one reason for running his business. DeMoulas was both a friend and a father-figure to many employees.  He gave employees battling cancer or having serious family problems time off with pay, and when somebody was in crisis, he was there for them, literally.  He attended their funerals. Entire families work there.  They trusted him.

Trust Correlates with Employee Engagement and Drives Business Results 

There can be no doubt that trust in leadership has a massive impact on workplace culture and business results. Take Market Basket…despite its reputation for low prices and high wages, Demoulas’ operating margins — 7.2 percent in 2012, were higher than most supermarket chains, under Arthur T’s leadership

Research shows that employees who have high levels of trust in their leaders tend to have greater loyalty and higher business performance than those with less trust. For example, one study linked companies’ trust levels directly to their price/earnings ratios. (Andy Atkins, Fast Company, August 7, 2012)

Some leaders are able to build a solid foundation of trust among their employees and experience the payoff of a loyal, engaged team that delivers results. Work units in the top 25% of Gallup’s  Q12 Client Database have significantly higher  productivity, profitability, and customer ratings, less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom 25%.  Further, Gallup’s research also shows that companies with engaged workforces have higher earnings per share (EPS) and seem to have recovered from the recession at a faster rate. (“The State of the Global Workplace,” Gallup Consulting, 2013)

Who Will Get the Final Rose?

Trust sets the foundation for high performance by creating an environment in which employees are willing to take risks, learn continuously, support and motivate each other and strive to meet challenging business goals. Put simply, leaders build trust and trust leads to engagement, which drives business performance.

Leaders have an opportunity to close the “trust gap” and enhance engagement and results by building trust and avoiding the behaviors that erode trust. So…. whoever is going to run Market Basket–the two consultants, the former CEO Arthur T, or a new owner—will want to focus on building trust.  If it is Arthur T, then he has a great start!

High Performance Team Working – Breaking the “Log Jam” with Senior Teams

August 6th, 2014 by David Robertson
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It is surprising that many senior leadership teams, even those that are quite mature, do not take advantage of one of their greatest opportunities for improving their effectiveness: confronting the behaviours of the people who comprise the team. Team work is a dynamic that needs to be nurtured and evolves through the active input and ownership of the whole team.

Everyone knows about the importance of team development but do they understand the importance of maintaining healthy teams once they have been developed and matured? In Forum, we believe there are three stages of team development:

  1. Membership
  2. Control
  3. Cohesion

Most of the time, mature teams are moving between control and cohesion stages; re-contracting around who has influence and control, how they will handle conflict, how they will proactively measure results and thinking about how they can improve the way they work as a team. The diagram below outlines the types of questions asked at each stage. If the team does not have explicit alignment around the control issues then they will find cohesion difficult, i.e. they won’t build the open, honest and trusting relationships that are necessary to drive high performance or progress to the next level. They get log jammed in the control stage.

log jam image 1Senior teams evolve their working practices over time and these are strongly influenced by the level of open commitment to the team process modeled by the team leader. A leader’s behaviours and actions strongly influence the team climate. For example, if a leader does not encourage the team to regularly to review how they work together and make adjustments, then the team will default to focusing exclusively on task and business accountabilities. Their own development will take a backseat.

Without explicit leadership of the team work process, people find ways of getting by or coping, such as not providing feedback, not managing conflict, silo behaviours, poor communication, not speaking up, not sharing or collaborating, etc.Any of these behaviours can be real barriers to effectiveness, and thus the team performance levels off and results plateau.

Senior teams need agility to navigate the complexity they deal with every day and a key component of this is an explicit and aligned team process, that has everyone’s buy-in  and commitment; most senior teams assume this is in place.

The key to unlocking this potential for higher performance is twofold: The sponsorship of the team leader and the focus of the team. Sometimes teams need to go backwards to go forwards and if the sponsor is prepared to take some time to encourage the team to have some strong conversations and get to know the people behind the roles, then they are starting to clear the log jam. When helping senior teams break this potential log jam we have found that it is important to gather data on different perceptions of the team. This helps them focus on how team members experience the team and allows behaviours and emotions to be examined openly by the team under the guidance of a strong facilitator.

Role models of high performance team effectiveness need to be cascaded throughout the organisation so that teams can cross-functionally collaborate more effectively and drive the business outcomes with agility. Below is a general process map we created for working with intact senior and functional teams to help them break the log jam and cascade this approach through their business.

log jam image 2

So if you want to break the team working log jam with senior teams you will need an engaged sponsor who will support each step in the process. You will also need to understand the teams effectiveness issues which are often linked to their team development stage, and gather a range of perceptions about the team’s effectiveness to help you focus team actions once the log jam starts to break. You need to bring the team together and agree some ground rules and then have a structured experience that opens up the issues and embeds the framework for leading high performance. You will also need a strong facilitator who can get beneath the issues and behaviours through contracting with the team and who can sense when to hand back the team process and accountability for key behaviours to the team so they can own the journey forward whilst achieving a new level of cohesion.

Does Employee Engagement Impact the Bottom Line?

July 31st, 2014 by Abby Smith
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“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.” – Angela Ahrendts

When Angela Ahrendts, now Apple’s head of retail, was new as CEO at Burberry in 2006, she put together an ambitious strategy to turn around the struggling company. An independent consulting firm hired by Burberry’s board gave her strategy a 5% chance of success. She proved them all wrong and achieved all of the goals in her strategy a year ahead of schedule. What she knew and the consulting company didn’t account for was the power of an engaged and empowered workforce. By focusing on engaging and empowering her workforce, rather than focusing primarily on the customer or the bottom line, she more than doubled sales during her time at Burberry.

Ms. Ahrendts isn’t the only leader to share this belief that employees should come before customers. It is one that is becoming more commonly embraced by leaders.  Southwest Airlines, for example, often takes an employee is always right approach to customer service rather than the customer. In fact, founder Herb Kelleher once famously fired a customer, who continuously sent letters of her complaints about the airline and its employees.

What these two leaders showed was that by focusing on their employees, engaging and empowering them, they’re also focusing on their customers. However, it seems like these stories are the exception with regards to employee engagement rather than the rule. The latest Gallup State of the Global Workforce Report showed that as many 87% of employees around the globe may not be engaged in their jobs.

Forum’s definition of employee engagement is when employees have a deep sense of ownership in the organization and strong feelings of involvement and commitment in one’s own work. This results in a strong contribution of discretionary energy from employees. That last part is the most important. The willingness of employees to spend extra time, energy and mindshare on their jobs, is what really differentiates a highly engaged workforce. It’s what has helped turn around Burberry and given Southwest Airlines loyalty numbers that seem unreal for a company in an industry as despised as commercial air travel.

Unless you’re employees are that 13% across the globe that are engaged (and if they are, bravo!), there are steps you can take to engage and re-engage your workforce. Forum’s research shows that there is not just one facet of employee engagement, and it’s way more than just social outings and an annual survey. Real engagement has three facets:

  1. A positive team climate. Climate is simply what it feels like to work somewhere, and that is influenced by everything from politics, history and fellow employees to the physical office space and computer operating systems. Research shows that the most important climate factor for employees is their leader.
  2. Trustworthy leaders and managers. Tying in closely with climate, trust is a huge aspect of engagement, and disengagement, in the workplace. We conducted a survey last year of over 1000 business leaders and employees on the topic of trust. Three clear characteristic emerged as to what makes a trustworthy leader: ability to listen and understand, walking the talk and encouraging new ideas and suggestions.
  3. Engagement needs being met. There are five main engagement needs, and while employees need all of them met, most people have one to two dominant engagement needs in their jobs. It takes a highly skilled leader to recognize that different people need different things out of their jobs. These needs are accomplishment, recognition, enjoyment, belonging and advancement.

By focusing on employee engagement instead of the bottom line, leaders will probably find that the bottom line improves anyway.

Interested in employee engagement? Forum is conducting a survey on how accountability impacts employee engagement, and we would love to get your thoughts. You can take the survey here, and we’ll send you a copy of the results.

Manager Misconduct

June 19th, 2014 by Abby Smith
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Last fall, Forum conducted a survey of over 1000 business professionals from around the globe to see how managers gain and lose employee trust and and how that impacts employee engagement. In an open ended question, we asked employees to tell us what mistakes managers make that erode trust in the workplace, and seven clear trends emerged. In fact, these seven types of mistakes accounted for 80% of all the responses from employees.

In this article for T+D Magazine, Forum CEO, Andrew Graham, outlines the seven mistakes managers most often make that erode trust. For more on the data from this survey, check out Driving Business Results by Leading Trust.

Do you think this lists covers the main mistakes managers make? What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation in our LinkedIn group.

How Do Great Leaders Drive Employee Engagement? [Infographic]

May 20th, 2014 by Abby Smith
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The benefits of an engaged workforce go beyond just happy employees. A team that is engaged is more productive, produces higher quality work and directly impacts the bottom-line. However, globally, only about 20% of workers are highly engaged at work. What can you, as a leader, do to improve and maintain employee engagement at your office? Forum’s latest infograpic based on our recent webinars and whitepaper, outlines the steps leaders can take to make sure that they are driving engagement and impacting revenue.

Forum Infographic employee_engagement_design

7 Simple Rules for Virtual Learning Success

April 30th, 2014 by Nanette Miner, Ed.D
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As we’ve talked about many times on this blog, when done correctly, virtual learning can have a huge impact. However, to make an impact, a lot of work needs to go into making sure that the learning environment is the best it can be.

Here are my seven rules, based on years of experience designing virtual programs.

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Rule Number 1: Engage people immediately and on purpose

Typically we ask people to join our virtual classes ten or fifteen minutes early to ensure that we can start on time and also to overcome any technological obstacles that might arise.  You don’t want to punish the punctual student by then having them sit around doing nothing for those few minutes before the class officially starts; so give them something purposeful to do.  For example:

  • Ask them to answer a discussion question based on their pre-work
  •  Give them a fun interaction, such as a word jumble or a video or pictorial montage and ask them to guess what the warm up has to do with today’s class.
  • Ask people to declare one surprising thing about themselves that their work colleagues would not know about them.

Rule Number 2: There is no such thing as a five minute break-out. 

Break-out rooms are fabulously well received in the online classroom; they allow individuals to get together in smaller groups and really make personal connections with one another as well as the content.  If you choose to use the break-out technology in your virtual learning platform, use it to its best advantage.  In other words, don’t have people go to a break-out room for an activity that can be done in a large group with the exact same success rate.

Rule Number 3: Have a script.

Very often a script is avoided because companies are afraid that the facilitator will then sound as though they are simply reading and if they are simply reading – why didn’t they just send the text of the class in an email so that the individual could read it themselves?  The purpose of a script is to ensure that the class is tightly timed; so that the same content is taught from delivery to delivery and so that any facilitator can teach the same quality class.  However it is imperative that the facilitator is so familiar with the script that they are not reading from it; they are instead using it as a point of reference, and are interacting more with their screen and their learners than they are with their scripted facilitator guide.

Rule Number 4: Use a producer.

A producer ensures that anything that might go wrong during the delivery of a live, online class is handled by an individual solely dedicated to trouble shooting.  Technology is not perfect.  Connections will be lost, individuals will drop off of the audio, break-out rooms may not initiate, and slides may suddenly seize up.  If a facilitator has to take their attention away from the delivery of a class and engaging participants in purposeful discussion in order to find the conference-call number and issue it again to one individual who has somehow lost their audio, it turns the entire attention of the class away from the learning.

Rule Number 5: Use a variety of tools, but use them purposefully.

Virtual classroom technologies allow for many interactive devices: polls, chat, whiteboard annotation, break-out rooms, etc.  But having a variety of tools does not mean you should use all of them.  Use only the tools that are necessary to “move the class forward.” You wouldn’t want to conduct an activity in a break-out room that could be done more simply by using the chat feature..  Ensure you understand how your tools work and how they can be used to further the progress of the class.  Don’t use a tool simply because you can.

Rule Number 6: Talk less.

Hearing the same voice, the same intonation, the same pace, contributes to auditory overload and participants eventually stop paying attention.  A better strategy is to use a variety of voices, perhaps by calling on participants to read or share their stories, or ask the producer to give the instructions for the next activity. The facilitator’s role is to ask questions that get the learners to contribute – not to lecture or provide his or her own perspectives and stories.  Rather than saying, “Let me tell you about a story I had with customer service on my recent flight,” you would want to say, “Who has a story they can share about a recent customer service disappointment they’ve experienced?”  The more the facilitator lectures, the more the learners will question why they bothered to show up to a live class.

Rule Number 7: Use less slides.

One of the ways to ensure that the facilitator speaks less and the participants contribute more is to have fewer slides in the presentation.  Typically a good online class will only include 10 to 15 slides.  This limited number of slides ensures that there is engagement and interaction at each slide rather than simply a lecture.  For instance, a slide with five bullet points means that a facilitator can spend 5 or 10 or 15 minutes lecturing and expounding on each of those bullet points; but a slide with a two column grid – pros and cons, before and after, features and benefits, ensure that the participants are contributing that content – there is no content until the learners add it to the slide.  Therefore, there is physical engagement via the learner’s using their keyboards to write on the screen, there’s verbal interaction through the facilitator summarizing the learner’s contributions or asking for further explanation of those contributions, and there is auditory engagement by hearing a variety of different voices, not just the facilitator.

By following these 7 Simple Rules for Virtual Learning Success your virtual, instructor-led training will develop a reputation as effective and engaging.  What rules would you add to this list? Share in the comments or in our LinkedIn Group.

10 Ways to Maximise your Return on Learning

April 16th, 2014 by David Robertson
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Return on learning (ROL) is a key measure for organisations and illustrates the impact and effectiveness of learning initiatives in making a real contribution to business success. A robust and proactive measurement strategy is important to capture the data you can use to calculate ROL, however up front you need to design a programme that drives value for the individual and the organisation and impacts the key business metrics. Having designed solutions for our clients for the past ten years I am often asked for tips for maximising return on learning investment (ROL) and so thought I might share my own top ten:

  1. ROL takes time. Recognise that individual learning and resultant behaviour change is often a slow process. You need to create context, ignite the learning, provide opportunities to; act, explore, reflect and then evaluate, socialise and integrate – this does not happen in a single event or session and requires an engaged learner.
  2. Clarify Business Impact: Know and understand the business issue(s) you want to impact; use it as an ‘anchor’ and create a measurement and communication strategy around it. Then actually execute that strategy!
  3. Know your Audience: Review any generational, regional and cultural differences with regard to learning; preferences, support and application and take account of these in your learning design.
  4. Align around Value: Find opportunities to build and sustain alignment with all stakeholders (Learners, Line, Sponsors, SME’s etc.) around the business and learning context and clarify the value of the learning experience for stakeholders and the business. This keeps the focus firmly on ROL for the individual and the organisation.
  5. Engage Early: Engage learners and stakeholders early through sharing stories and providing opportunities for dialogue and feedback—use this to create positive momentum for the ROL.
  6. Engage the Line: Encourage line coaching prior to any event to help focus learning on real priorities and personalise the learning experience. Engage line in the development and ownership of the measurement strategy.
  7. Blend the Journey: Build capability through creating an appropriate blend of experience over time in a way that stretches and challenges the learners – create a learning journey that engages all stakeholders and respects their needs and realities.
  8. Think outside the Event: Provide opportunities and support for learners to collaborate outside of the event to socialise, share and get feedback on their learning experience.
  9. Build a community: Encourage development of a learning community to curate and share best practice, e.g. an internal collaboration site or a regular reconnect webinars. This dynamic social database can really help to sustain the ROL
  10. Structure informal learning: Sustain the learning experience through intentionally structuring application of learning in the workplace. This is where you activate your ROL

What might you add or change in this list? Do you have your own top ten? Share with us in the comments or join the conversation in our LinkedIn Group.

Building the Business Case for Learning & Development

March 26th, 2014 by Janine Carlson
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“Prove it.” Every learning and development professional has heard this from their management team. What used to be a request has now become a mandate — and while it is not always easy, it is a shift we thoroughly embrace.

In a recent Australian Training & Development magazine article*, Forum Asia Pacific managing director, Cynthia Stuckey, discusses the ways for L&D to win over management through measurable results.

“Senior management buy-in remains one of the biggest challenges when it comes to learning and development initiatives. The tough economic climate is making it even harder to justify budgets for learning and development, as cost reduction strategies take precedence in today’s boardrooms.

To gain management’s commitment to learning and development, professionals have to strongly demonstrate the impact of learning investments on the bottom line. The problem is, while the majority of companies investing heavily in learning and development recognise the benefits of measuring results, many of them have yet to formalise their measurement process.”

The article goes on to highlight recent research findings, best practices for aligning learning to the business, and suggestions for what you measure with examples of metrics and accountabilities. You can read the full article here.

For more information on measurement best practices and building a business case for L&D, check out our Asia Pacific on-demand webinar, Using Measurement to Drive Impact & Effectiveness of Your Leadership Development Programmes. To discuss learning and development measurement strategies in Australia with Forum, email AsiaPacific@forum.com, call +61.2.9080.4160 or visit www.forumaustralia.com.au.

 

*This article originally appeared in Training & Development magazine February 2014 Vol 41 No 1, published by the Australian Institute of Training and Development.