What is a ‘best fit’ working environment?

This blog has been re-published with the permission of Trina Hoefling and The Smart Workplace.

Trina Hoefling is a longstanding organisation and team development expert and master teacher at the University of Denver graduate school. For over 30 years Trina has been helping organisations and people establish virtual presence, bridge virtual distance and build strong relationships that span time and space. A keynote speaker at the inaugural EdVET 2017 in Melbourne in April, her Trina discusses how to become a SMART workplace.

“Best Fit” workplaces consider virtual and co-located work environments as viable places to get the job done. “Best Fit” workplaces find and build talented teams that align with the organization’s desired culture and goals. They’re SMART about how they design the organizational structure so that it “fits” the way work gets done and the way knowledge is stored.

SMART workplaces start by asking how ‘Best Fit’ their organisation is in 3 ways:

“Best Fit” Work Environment

Offices and team spaces should be resources, not status symbols or uninspiring mazes. Design business operations and workspaces to match what people need. Today’s workspace may call for more teaming spaces and drop-in work stations with fewer offices. This work environment needs to support teams being able to easily manage multiple relationships – customers, teammates, project groups, managers, task forces, and so on. Showing up for multiple team meetings by web conference is a significant “best fit” time-saver for busy contributors.

“Best Fit” Organizations

“Best fit” organizations may be wholly co-located, blend office workers with mobile workers, or be completely virtual. It depends on the purpose, business goals, stage of growth and focus. All these factors contribute to what organization design and structure is the “Best Fit”. The key to success is understanding that there is no one right way because “Best Fit” is different for every organization. When organizations assess how integrated operations need to be for people to easily contribute their best, they can adapt or redesign business practices for “Best Fit”.

“Best Fit” Teams

Team leaders want to hire team members who are a “Best Fit” for their group. When considering hiring new team member, consider these multiple factors:

  • Competence and expertise – This includes the obvious professional skills, but also includes less obvious virtual collaboration competence. (See TSW blog post The Power of True Collaboration.)
  • Functional representation
  • Cultural fit, and
  • Simple availability.

Cross-organizational teams require additional “fitting.” They need to share knowledge and “think” together across organizational boundaries. They need to develop communication that “fits” all the people represented. Develop communication agreements that enable appropriate information sharing and protect organizational boundaries, such as intellectual property and proprietary processes.

Disengaged virtual workers aren’t a ‘good fit’.  And it’s not their fault.

“Best Fit” organizations need team leaders who are strong in co-located and virtual work environments. I’ve facilitated heart-sinking conversations when the team member and manager realize that the feverish work completed was in the wrong direction. Communication had broken down across the miles. Individually and collectively, virtual teams produce results when they coordinate work, negotiate competing priorities, and check in with each other regularly

If virtual team members do not have a clear sense of how their work “best fits” the team’s purpose, three unfortunate outcomes usually result:

  • They disengage
  • They waste effort on work misaligned with the team’s needs
  • They miss performance goals or quality standards.

Strong team leaders work with their teams to develop communication habits and team agreements that “best fit” the needs of the work while easily bridging virtual distance.

Get rid of virtual distance among organizations, teams and employees. Facilitate connections among the network of teams and across geography and culture. Look for operational efficiency and continuous improvements while flexibly serving the customers. In other words, learn to be SMART about the way that you work.

EdVET 2017

At EdVET 2017 in April, Trina Hoefling will join a team of bright minds in online and technology-enhanced education including Andrew Douch, respected educational technology specialist and presenter on 21st Century learning. Presentations will include:

  • Teaching tomorrow’s workforce today
  • The many faces of social media: Attracting, supporting and retaining learners
  • Using tech to meet rapidly changing ESOL student expectations
  • Towards a Moodle quality assurance framework.

For more information and to register for this inspiring event please visit the EdVET 2017 website.

Get people loving your RTO through social media

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about engaging learners, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the world of work. Allison will be presenting at the upcoming EdVET 2017 conference on ‘The many faces of social media: Attracting, supporting and retaining learners’.

Social media is fully ingrained into lots of people’s lives with some Australians spending more than half a day per week (12.5 hours) on Facebook alone. This frequency of activity presents you with lots of opportunities to get people to love your training organisation through social media. The following information shares how you can capitalise on this opportunity.

Take an outwardly and inwardly perspective

There are two ways you can be using social media to get people to love your training organisation, through an:

  • Outward facing perspective – where you create a social media profile/page as a communication tool to build your training organisation’s brand awareness to encourage potential students (and employers) to choose your training organisation
  • Inward facing perspective – where you create a social media group as a community of practice for existing and alumni students to share experiences and new opportunities with one another, ensuring people love you while they are with your training organisation, and once they have left

It’s all about helping your students succeed

Whichever approach you select, you will need to consider why potential, existing and alumni students want to engage with your training organisation through social media. This is best done by knowing how your training organisation is helping people getting their training ‘job’ done.  According to Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business Professor, the job of education and training is to help people feel successful.

What feeling successful looks like for your students can vary from wanting to:

  • find a job or get a better job
  • start their own business or improve the one they have
  • get into a higher qualification
  • improve themselves out of self-interest
  • meet compliance or legislative requirements

Once you determine which of these jobs you are helping your students achieve, you can then consider how to communicate and connect with them on social media.  If your students fall into more than one of these categories, you will need to tailor different interactions in social media to meet these different needs.

What types of communication works well on social media?

An analysis of various successful training organisations’ use of social media uncovered that the following are key ways to communicate with students in social media:

Topics Activities
Student life while studying with your RTO or afterwards Share photos and video of cool stuff that students have done:

– Industry visits or work placements
– Awards won
– Stuff they have produced

Industry specific information Set up a Google Alert which notifies you by email of hard to find information on topics relevant to your area and re-share this information, such as:
– Upcoming important dates or regulatory changes
– Funding opportunities
Job, work experience or internship opportunities Subscribe to job finding websites which send you emails when jobs in your industry/location are advertised and then share this information
Course content Share your own content (or that of others) which is hard to find elsewhere – Video works best here if it is practical topic, but so do blog posts, checklists and reports etc.  Live streaming from events is also becoming very popular.
Course information Share how your upcoming training programs help potential students get their ‘job to be successful’ done
Team fun Share photos and video of what happens ‘behind the scene’ in your organisation, and at organisational events, which show the ‘human’ side of your organisation
Voting and polling Involve students in decision making from anything from helping to choose your next logo or to voting on key policies effecting students

When using students’ work or including imagery of students in posts, make sure you have them sign a media release form.  If you do not already have one of these, do a quick web search to find lots of examples on which you can base one on.

Which social media site?

Whoever said “build it and they will come” never worked online.  While Facebook is still “King of the Mountain’ with the largest number of social media users, there are a number of other places where your students could be frequenting including: Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Whatsapp.

If you are not sure which one to start with then, generally speaking, start with Facebook as it does have the largest pool of people.  Also consider:

  • surveying your existing students to find out where they hang out online
  • checking out where people in your industry hang out online

Tweak to be unique

To ensure that your training organisation has a ‘return on investment’ in the time and money spent getting people to love your RTO through social media, ensure you set a goal of what your training organisation is trying to achieve through social media (e.g. getting more people to your website or contacting you about your courses).

Your social media goal will be used to:

  • set the call to action for your social media communications, for example, including links in your posts to landing pages on your website, as well as having your training organisation’s website link and contact details in your social media profile
  • monitor the interactions with your social media communications on a regular basis to determine how many likes, shares and comments different posts get, and then increasing those posts which get most engagement and help you achieve your social media goal

How do you grow your social media presence?

Use paid and targeted ‘boosts’ to get your posts into the steams of your ideal potential students.  With the right content in the post, this will encourage people to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ your social media profile.  For example, regularly boosting your Facebook posts which have the right content for as little as $10 a day for a week or so will see a great return on investment over time.

Other ways to grow your social media followers is to encourage existing followers to share your posts through competitions to win stuff or by asking them to tag people into posts if they think the content is appealing e.g. tag a friend who should apply for this job.  Make these competitions fun and relevant to your followers, and to your social media goal.

And finally, use social media yourself to stay current about what is happening in your industry and as a form of professional development by following organisations and individuals considered ‘leaders’ in your field.  This activity will also give you ideas about what works and what doesn’t in social media.

For tips on using social media and ensuring you are meeting your ASQA requirements read this blog post.

Learn more about EdVET 2017.

Virtual Meetings – Optimise their effectiveness

bernadette-parry-headshot Bernadette Parry is the Client Support Coordinator at eWorks. Her role involves juggling all sorts of client-focused tasks including start-up TVC training, advanced Moodle training and support services. A self-confessed Moodle ‘geek’, Bernadette loves to discover new ways to navigate and make the most of Moodle and online facilitation. Today Bernadette offers advice on how to get the most of virtual meetings.

At eWorks we like to practise what we preach, so we have fully embraced the use of educational technology in our working lives, including the use of virtual meetings and flexible working arrangements. At any of our daily WIP (work in progress) meetings, staff join from interstate, from home, from their car… you get the picture.

Here are some great tips for how to get the most out of your virtual meetings.

Camera

Keep your camera on – you wouldn’t put a bag over your head if you were in the meeting room. Think you look terrible? You don’t! Seeing yourself on video is like hearing your recorded voice – it sounds or looks far worse to you than it does to others. And you will get used to it. You can always hide your image from yourself so that you don’t need to look at it.

Adjust the angle of the camera so that your colleagues or clients can see you clearly. The camera should be at eye level and on the monitor you are using. Other angles can be unflattering and off-putting for others.

bad-shots
Placing the camera on the screen you are using enhances the connection between you and your audience by giving an eye contact like effect. Your audience will feel you are looking at them just like you would in a face to face meeting.

Make sure you look into the camera when you are speaking – makes you more ‘engaged and present’ to your audience.

Sound

Test that your sound works – before going online!

The mute button is a great addition to virtual meetings. Turn your sound off /mute yourself unless you are speaking – background noise can be annoying and distracting, but remember to check your sound is not muted when you speak.
Speak naturally, not too quickly, and pronounce words clearly. Speaking to a screen can often make you think that you need to speak louder to ensure the audience can hear you but a good quality microphone can encourage you to speak more naturally and add to the feel of a normal face to face meeting.

Try not to speak over others. If this seems to be an issue with your call, perhaps use the ‘raise hands’ feature or messaging. Avoid side conversations – they don’t work well on a call.

And…

  • Behave as if you were in a physical meeting. Keep focussed, it’s easy for your audience to tell if you aren’t fully present in the call.
  • Limit excess movement as it can appear jerky on the screen.
  • Make sure your room is well lit and the background is appropriate for a work meeting.
  • Everyone’s time is important, so be respectful of this and be punctual.
  • If people don’t know each other, introduce yourselves.
  • Your clothing – stripes may play havoc with the camera. Pastel colours are usually recommended because red, white and black can also have distracting effects on the screen.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the software you are using, and double check your equipment before the call. Most webinar services will allow you into the room early for testing.
  • For large meetings, you may be advised to have a moderator to monitor chat messages.

Physical virtual room!

We do have a room permanently set up in the office. This suits our large meetings, and meeting with clients who come into the office – where some participants call in. If you are lucky enough to have a permanent room for virtual calls, then it is recommended that you have:

  • A booking system for the room! Make sure the room is available.
  • A PTZ camera – this is a camera that can Point, Tilt and Zoom. The camera can be controlled remotely with software such as Zoom.
  • The camera placed directly underneath the screen everyone is looking at – this helps the remote people who feel that the people in the room are looking at them when they speak.
  • Ideally two screens in each meeting room – have the faces of virtual participants on one, and screen sharing on the other.
  • Microphones hanging from the ceiling and over the table work well – they pick up voices without getting vibrations from people tapping on the table, etc.
  • If the room has lots of smooth hard surfaces that interfere with the sound (maybe an echo affect), then it may be worth investigating some form of cushioning for the walls.

When it works well, virtual meetings are fantastic! So get in and make sure your talented staff can make the most of this opportunity!

For further information, watch ‘Video Conference Etiquette for Dummies’.

Teaching is my lifelong passion

This blog has been re-published with the permission of Trina Hoefling and The Smart Workplace.

Trina Hoefling is a longstanding organisation and team development expert and master teacher at the University of Denver graduate school. For over 30 years Trina has been helping organizations and people establish virtual presence, bridge virtual distance and build strong relationships that span time and space. Scheduled to visit Melbourne in April 2017, today Trina shares her journey into teaching.

In 4th grade I was partnered with Steve to be his coach. He was a cool kid getting poor grades. I was a quiet girl who got A’s. I can’t remember if his grades got better, but I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up – a teacher. I remember lining up my stuffed animals in rows on my bed, teaching what I studied in school.

I’m often teaching, whether I travel to the student, from a virtual classroom, or in a coaching conversation. Recently a grade school classmate asked me why I loved teaching and training so much. Another classmate answered for me so simply –

“Trina is driven to help people get to their goals. Teaching is the main way she does that.”

She was right; teaching people what they need to meet their goals IS what I do.

trina_photoI was a high school teacher in the early 80’s before computers and copy machines. My first teaching clothes were polyester double knit, that enduring fabric that absorbs chalk, mimeograph ink, and never ever wrinkled. I was a fashion icon with a mullet…

I’ve been a corporate trainer and coach for over three decades. My clothing choices improved and I was an early adopter of laptops. I’ve logged many frequent flyer miles getting to where my learners were. I started to burn out in the mid-90’s though I still loved my work. The travel was extreme. It wasn’t great for the clients either.

Learner follow-up was limited to one-off courses and little follow-up. Something had to change, so I became an advocate and early adopter of online learning. All of us then were learning as we went.
Soon I was training trainers at international online learning conferences, still logging frequent flyer miles but less often.

Today I’m an online educator, never far from my MacPro. I teach professionals already established who are improving themselves and their careers. I also teach one-on-one through mentoring and coaching – mostly by telephone. I am a Master Teacher in two graduate programs for the University of Denver, and co-founding faculty at Virtual Workplace University, an online learning destination for today’s professional.

I’m a learner, too. I seek out ways to engage with my peers, tapping wisdom and offering some. I live with a learning mindset. My profession helps me be passionate all the time, without effort and usually without fail.

I’m no longer burned out. When I log frequent flyer miles now, it’s a treat to physically be with fellow learners.

I lucked into a career in 4th grade, thanks to Steve, my first teaching assignment. How I teach and learn has changed, but my passion as a teacher hasn’t.

What we do matters.

Join Trina as she presents at EdVET 2017 on April 28th. Click here for more information.