LearnKey Blog

Improve employee engagement through delivering constructive feedback

We have kicked off our Leadership Development Series, releasing our first course on delivering constructive feedback that teaches you to set the stage, check yourself, and follow the process for the best outcome.

In any professional or personal relationship, effective communication plays a pivotal role. A crucial aspect of communication is the ability to deliver constructive feedback, which can help individuals grow and improve. However, delivering feedback can be a challenging task that requires finesse, tact, and empathy. Take into consideration that:

  • 65% of employees want more feedback than they are currently receiving. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Employees who receive regular feedback feel more engaged at work and are 3.5 times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t receive feedback. (Source: Forbes)
  • 92% of employees believe that negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance. (Source: Zenger Folkman)
  • 57% of employees prefer corrective feedback over praise or recognition. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Companies that implement regular feedback have turnover rates that are 14.9% lower than for employees who receive no feedback. (Source: Gallup)

That is why we created a course you can complete that helps you avoid these obstacles. Emotional reactions – one of the primary challenges of delivering constructive feedback is managing emotional reactions. Receiving criticism, even when well-intended, can evoke defensive responses, anxiety, or even hostility. To address this challenge, it is essential to approach the conversation with empathy and understanding. Begin by acknowledging the person’s emotions and creating a safe environment for open dialogue. Encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings, and be prepared to listen actively without judgment. Make sure you balance honesty and diplomacy; balancing honesty and diplomacy is another hurdle. While it is crucial to provide honest and direct feedback, it is equally important to consider the recipient’s feelings and maintain a respectful tone. Strive to frame your feedback in a constructive manner, focusing on specific behaviors or outcomes rather than attacking the individual’s character. By choosing your words thoughtfully and offering suggestions for improvement, you can maintain a healthy balance between honesty and diplomacy.

Finally, the timing and context in which feedback is delivered can significantly impact its effectiveness. Providing feedback immediately after a mistake or during a highly stressful situation may exacerbate emotions and hinder receptiveness. Conversely, delivering feedback too long after the incident may result in diminished impact or a loss of relevance. Optimal timing involves finding a balance between addressing the issue promptly while ensuring the recipient is in a receptive mindset, usually within seven (7) days. Select an appropriate setting that promotes privacy and minimizes distractions, creating a conducive environment for open dialogue.

Delivering constructive feedback is a complex art that requires tact, empathy, and effective communication skills. While challenges may arise, approaching feedback conversations with sensitivity and a focus on growth can foster a positive environment for development. Our course on delivering constructive feedback is geared toward a positive outcome that will inspire positive change and pave the way for personal and professional advancement.

Protect Yourself Online

Evolving Threats

Cybersecurity threats are ever-growing! I for one am not the most up-to-date on what is happening and how I can protect myself. With the rise of hackers, we need to educate ourselves on how to protect our information! I was able to take a short cybersecurity course with a coworker recently and learned how to do just that! And MAN, I have learned that even the simplest things that I was doing were putting myself and others at risk! I wanted to share what I learned from this course.

Protect Yourself When You Leave

By understanding how hackers can get my information I am able to better protect myself, my family, and my coworkers. Work is a place where I have grown comfortable enough around the people I am with that I HARDLY ever lock my computer when I leave my desk to go grab something from the print, refill my water bottle, or run to lunch. Well…that is a big mistake! The idea is that if you don’t lock your work computer when it’s unattended, a hacker is going to stroll up to it, sit down, install some malicious code or swipe some important files, then sneak back out before anyone’s the wiser may seem like something out of a movie but it’s a more common threat than you think. As an employee, you have access to your organization’s data and network. That access alone is something that is valuable to hackers – “access” to company networks and results in the loss of sensitive data, and sometimes financial loss. Even if it’s to walk 10 steps away, take the extra second to lock that computer of yours.

Stay in the Know

Cyber threats are constantly happening around you and the hackers keep getting better and better every passing second. It’s important for us to stay up to date on the latest trends and tactics that are being used. By educating ourselves we can stay ahead of these attacks and threats and protect ourselves and others around us.

LearnKey’s Cybersecurity: Protecting Yourself and Your Organization

This course simplifies what individuals and organizations must do to protect digital assets. Topics include: protecting email, protecting information, protecting devices, physical security, and working remotely.

Learning Online With ChatGPT

A young man learning online.

Just like everyone else I am fascinated with learning about ChatGPT and how it can enhance the learning experience. So, in order for me to get a young person’s opinion I recruited my seventeen (17) year old nephew Trevor, a senior in high school, to do some research. He is a smart kid, and I knew he would give me his honest assessment, which he did. What was interesting is this quote from him which really make me think hard and serious about what this could mean:

“I really like ChatGPT. It can answer many questions for me that would take a long time to find on Google. It can also write an essay for me and give me inspiration for my own essay. But ChatGPT is also a little scary. I bet that a lot of its functions are not yet shown to the public, and it can probably do some scary things. This might involve stealing private information from you or helping ad companies market to you in the most efficient way possible. ChatGPT may also take away jobs from people, and that is usually a negative outcome caused by these inventions.”

Take away jobs? Could it? So my thoughts were, what if I asked ChatGPT to write something about our company, LearnKey? Such as a description of LearnKey and the benefits of video-based training vs. other online learning platforms. I was amazed what it returned to me in less than one minute:

“LearnKey is a platform that offers a variety of courses and training programs designed to help individuals develop their skills and advance their careers. Some of the benefits of using LearnKey online video-based training courses include:
1. Convenient Access: LearnKey courses are available online 24/7, making it easy for learners to access the content from anywhere at any time if they have an internet connection.
2. Interactive Learning: Through the use of interactive videos, practice exercises, quizzes, and other tools to engage learners and make the learning experience more effective.
3. Comprehensive Content: Which covers a wide range of topics and skills, including IT, business, management, and professional development. This means learners can find the courses that best suit their needs and interests.
4. Flexible Learning Paths: They offer flexible learning paths, allowing learners to customize their learning journey according to their goals, interests, and learning style.
5. Certification Preparation: LearnKey courses are designed to help learners prepare for industry-recognized certifications, such as CompTIA, Microsoft, and Cisco.
6. Cost-Effective: They are often more cost-effective than traditional classroom-based training, making it a more affordable option for individuals and organizations.
7. Continuing Education: Courses can be used for continuing education credits or professional development units (PDUs) for maintaining professional certifications or licenses.

What benefits do video-based training courses have over the competition? Many:

1. Retention rates: Studies have shown that learners retain 65% more information when they learn through video compared to traditional classroom training. (Source: Forbes)
2. Engagement: Video-based training courses increase learner engagement. According to a survey, 98% of learners said they would be more likely to complete an online course if it included video content. (Source: Kaltura)
3. Learning speed: Learners can learn faster through video-based training. Studies have shown that learners can process visual information 60,000 times faster than text. (Source: 3M Corporation)
4. Convenience: According to a survey, 67% of learners say that video-based training allows them to learn at their own pace and on their own schedule. (Source: Panopto)
5. Cost savings: Video-based training can be more cost-effective than traditional classroom training. According to a study, companies can save up to 50% on training costs by using online training courses. (Source: ATD)
6. Accessible: Video-based training is accessible to a wider range of learners. According to a survey, 62% of learners prefer to learn through video because it is more accessible to them. (Source: Kaltura)”

My next step was passing along this information to my peers at LearnKey to get their thoughts. So I passed it along, telling them that I put this together in about an hour’s time. They all thought it was spot on and were blown away when I told them this took less than one minute to capture.

My immediate reaction is it appears ChatGPT and AI tools like this are going to be able to provide researchers with a faster way to gather data. However, it will take human resources and intervention to ensure the information is accurate. There will be many more instances of learning how to utilize these tools to enhance the learning experience, and so far I am impressed but will proceed with caution.

Free Talent Assessment: Leveraging behavioral strengths in the learning & career exploration process

People ask me all the time about career assessments and their importance for students who want to explore career options. My response is simple: “Teach someone their natural talents & strengths first.” That is right, let them learn about their natural strengths and how to leverage those for both personal and professional growth, which can enhance the career exploration process.

Are they outgoing? If they are, how do they leverage that? What about “blind spots” that could cause their extroversion to hinder them or how they show up to others? A blind spot might be that being outgoing is awesome, however, maybe sometimes they can be too talkative and hinder others’ opinions. Same can be said for introverted people who have a hard time saying no and speaking up.

These behaviors are going to show up which, is why we have just launched a great course on discovering one’s strengths for career exploration. This course addresses this and much more.

Additionally, we have our own free talent assessment for learners which takes less than 5 minutes and provides them with a high-level description based on their responses. Best of all, its free!

These are learning systems to help those through the learning process, and can play a big role in online learning as well. For example: someone who is more process oriented is probably going to have an easier time with online learning vs. someone who is extroverted. Don’t get me wrong, extroverts can be successful, however they may want more “touch points” by way of instructors, counselors, and tutoring sessions along the way.

Alert: Not all knowledge comes from college

As 2023 kicks off now more than ever (Note: CBS did a national story) we are seeing the growth of micro-credentials and globally recognized industry certifications. Take for example among the key survey findings for students, summarized in a Coursera blog by Scott Shireman, the company’s Global Head for Campus:

  • Students across the globe believe industry micro-credentials make them more employable – 89% agree or strongly agree that earning an entry-level professional certificate will help them stand out to employers and secure jobs after they graduate.
  • Including professional certificates in an academic program makes students, on average, 75% more likely to enroll in that program.
  • Among the U. S students surveyed, 81% believed that micro-credentials would help them succeed in their job, and 74% said the presence of relevant micro-credentials would influence their choice of a degree program at their university.

Almost four (4) years ago I blogged on the importance of these credentials and there demand continues to grow. As the economy “cools” and organizations look to Artificial Intelligence (AI) make sure you continue to gain important digital & customer/human skills so you stand out.

Positivity & Respect core ingredients to the fabric of our culture

For over four (4) years I have sent daily (well almost daily) quotes to our LearnKey team members around positivity and respect. It was something to help me through whatever I was going through and then just started sharing with everyone because they were helping me feel better.

Then I realized these really were important to our company, especially with over 90% of our teams working remotely. It was a way to connect and reinforce behaviors we have come to like. In my previous blog around culture this was another tool to help us all in building respect in a positive way.

It was also surprising that these quotes would also be great rallying resources especially during one on one’s or team interactions. Just a good reminder of how beneficial it can be to spread positive thoughts. So today I thought it would be fun to go back just a couple years and revisit some of these:

Monday 7/27/2000, “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you. “- Lao-Tzu

Friday 12/20/2019, “If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.”- John W. Gardner

Friday 1/24/2020, “Positivity is contagious so share it with everyone because it costs nothing.”-JLC

Wednesday 2/19/2020, “Respect peoples time, if you want your time to be respected.” – the peacemaker

As the holidays come and go this season maybe this will shed some positivity on you and also be a reminder of how important it is to keep a positive attitude and one that really shows others the importance of respect. Sometimes it appears like we are not doing that and my hope is like anything else in life some self-reflection on what we have is always better then, focusing on what we don’t have. Words I try to live by in my life.

Culture: There is so much more to it than meets the eye

What if I told you the easiest and to me best analogy to explain what culture is that “Culture is an iceberg. There’s so much to it than meets the eye.”

That really resonates with me and my team. It is something that must continually be monitored, mentored, developed, with constant reinforcement of super amazing people, process, tools and technology.

One of our team members Julie Plummer from KYT Corporate did an excellent blog topic on culture trends and she specifically gave her thoughts around the importance that people/team members/employee’s feel connected to the company and its cause. Since our cause is all about helping drive a culture of learning and helping individuals improve their employability skills its extremely motivating for me to be passionate about sharing our cause- if we focus on always trying to get better, we will. Our culture is all about getting better and our employee’s want to continue to grow as well.

Back to the “there’s so much more to it than meets the eye” in my analogy around culture. With my thirty-five (35) years of leadership experience one thing I have learned is the workforce, its landscape, working environment constant changes, requires three important skills: Communication, more communication and then yes, more communication. That is right – you develop your plan, share it, reinforce it, then go out and evangelize it through every communication method (i.e. newsletter, one on one’s, team meetings, all hands company updates, and then some) possible.

Then it’s about letting your leaders lead, empower your teams to take risks (calculated) from time to time, and to always be learning while trying to get better at what we do. I feel blessed to have the teams we do working with corporations, school districts and those adult learners going through our IT certification pathways, it reminds of why we do this and reinforces our culture too.

Working With Teachers on Certification Prep

One of my favorite lines from a movie and something I can relate to is a scene from the movie 48 Hours, where a character named Luther goes to pick up his car in a parking garage. The attendant looks at the ticket and says, “Wow. Two years.” Luther’s response: “Yeah. I’ve been busy!”

That is how I feel about this blog, given all our major suites (Adobe, CompTIA, and Office) have either been upgraded or are being upgraded since the last time I said hello here. One other suite of certifications has changed, from the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) suite to the IT Specialist suite, now hosted by Certiport instead of Microsoft.

The changeover happened about a year ago, but the MTA program officially ended on June 30. To that end, many teachers who use our courses are trying to get certified in the IT Specialist certifications in time for the fall. And I have had the privilege of helping some teachers lately, specifically the Hillsborough County schools in Florida, prep for two of these certifications, Device Configuration and Management and HTML/CSS. I liked being in a live environment again, albeit virtual, as that is what I did primarily before joining LearnKey in 2015.

The time I spent with the teachers reminded me of some critical exam points, and I want to share two of them with you today. First, always get a copy of the objectives for any exam and study those well, paying close attention to each objective’s first word or phrase. There is a big difference between “Describe…” and “Configure…” as the latter indeed will have more in-depth questions on an exam.

Secondly, get hands-on practice where you can. For example, for the HTML/CSS exam, build some webpages using HTML and CSS. Make sure you have a code example for each objective on the exam. Make the website your own. Studying something always resonates better when you can make examples of your own.

Lastly, if you can study in a group, great; this way, you and the other group members can research together and bounce concepts off each other. Someone else may better understand an idea than you do and vice versa. We as a group did that by going through some practice exam questions, and the exercises benefited the teachers as they prepped for the exams.

We have some big course releases coming soon, which I will detail in this blog. And I promise not to be like Luther any longer.

What is an Engaged Employee?

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an employee who is engaged? Is it the employee that is always happy? Or the one who shows up on time every day? Whether you listed one trait or many, what if I told you that these traits are unrelated to employee engagement?

Engagement from an employee is based on an emotional connection to what they are doing. I recently read an article that helped me see the difference between an engaged employee and the employee who is not engaged. Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.

An engaged employee will know the true “WHY” behind every task they do every day, and that will motivate and drive them to company goals/mission. Helping employees find the “WHY” is what we do for our customers with our Enterprise Development Solution. These proven and game-changing solutions are based on four needs that every employee needs to become engaged.

“Know Me. Grow Me. Include Me. Inspire Me.”

An engaged team is a team who will do their job and willingly and happily go the extra mile to make sure that their customers/clients are happy. It’s all about the “WHY.” When your employees understand that the positive impacts are endless.

Company culture: One-on-ones validate – Employees want to grow

During our June all-hands video call I promised to complete one-on-ones with every employee who does not report directly to me. My goal was to ask four questions to each employee so I could get consistent feedback on what was working, what needed to improve, and what other learning experiences have they had along the way during their tenure with LearnKey and Know Your Talents.

Always be listening

The feedback has been amazing and truly listening to the voice of the employee is something that through these one-on-ones will help us get better. Plus, we have implemented some improved tools for specific departments and are working on a few others. Our leadership team works hard to develop a growth-oriented company culture that is focused on always wanting to get better. I was really proud of the feedback employees shared about the strong relationships they have with their peers and leaders. The word “respect” is big in our company.

The process was easy as I was following what we do for our customers through the four pillars of our Enterprise Development Solution (two specifically): “Know me. Grow me.” It made the conversation much more engaging. Every employee has taken a Proscan, so we learn about each other’s behaviors/talents, and it was nice to leverage that in conversations around benefits it has to collaboration, being flexible, and respecting why change and/or communication can be much more effective in different ways for different people.

One of the biggest things that jumped out at me was how every employee really wanted to learn other team members’ behavior so they could communicate and support each other more. Less about them and more about the team.

Another important benefit was the reminder of keeping a pulse on our established company culture of learning. Meaning never stop promoting all of the resources we have to our very own employees so they can gain more skills.

Last but not least, was the wonderful feeling of gratitude because we really do have an awesome team.