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Bridging the B2B Sales Gap

By Amy Franko

atd sales blog 1 captureBefore I became a part of the learning and leadership development field, my background was in sales. It’s a tough job, but one that has always been a passion of mine.

Of course, much has changed in the sales landscape in recent years. We are seeing shifts in our customers’ habits, processes, and expectations. In turn, we must change the way we approach selling. It affects roles across the organization: field sales, inside sales, pre- and post-sales, marketing, and sales leadership.

What can we in the training and development community do to better equip our sales teams?

In the current climate, organizational success will become dependent on our ability to evolve. My latest article on the ATD Sales Enablement Community blog shares some of my observations on today’s B2B sales environment, a profile of the modern seller, and how the learning function helps sellers connect to increasingly savvy customers.

You can read it here. Watch for a second article soon. And in the meantime, tell us, what trends are you seeing in the B2B sales arena?


How Our View of Risk Correlates to Business Growth

A Recap of the 2016 Columbus Chamber Annual Meeting Keynote Address by Mark Kvamme

canva 1x use blog 021116By Amy Franko

Midwest nice.*

The Midwest is full of nice, well-intentioned, and welcoming people. It’s why I love being from the Midwest, from Ohio, and making Columbus my home.

But does this mindset hold us back? Make us less willing to take a risk? Does it make us less of an entrepreneurial region?

These were the questions we grappled with this morning during the Columbus Chamber’s annual meeting. Mark Kvamme of Drive Capital shared his insights on risk and how we can move forward as a city, region, and state.

This post shares some of my key takeaways from his talk.

  • “Do you view risk and failure as a badge of honor or a scarlet letter?” Mark’s perspective is that areas of the country like Silicon Valley view risk and failure as a badge of honor, something to talk about openly and with confidence. Whereas, here in the Midwest, it’s often seen as the scarlet letter, something to be feared and avoided.
  • What makes the Midwest, and specifically Columbus, unique? One of our gems is that our well-known community business leaders willingly and excitedly invest their time in talking with, mentoring, and cheering for our region’s up-and-comers. That’s almost unheard of anywhere else, and truly representative of what makes this a supportive environment in which to succeed.
  • Believe. You have to believe that deep down, you’re in the perfect place, that you live in the greatest part of the country in which to do business. Mark shared that Columbus is within one car drive of 60 percent of the country’s GDP.
  • Our degrees of connection are even closer that we think. We now have only 3.5 degrees of separation from practically any person on the planet. The barriers to connectivity are lower than ever, and we can leverage that connectivity for the greater good.

And finally, one point that I see from a different perspective.

It was mentioned that Columbus is often seen or labeled as the next “Silicon Valley.” From my perspective, while I want for Columbus, and Ohio, to thrive, I also want our city to stay true to what makes us unique, our Midwest Nice. It has a place here, and we need to leverage that into our own uniqueness, while not allowing it to hinder smart risk. In the words of one of my favorite athletes, Skylar Diggins: “You Do You.”

Let’s do us in a way that helps us to shine.

* Credit to Mark Kovacecvich of Improving for that phrase!

The Leader’s Network: Elevating Relationships and Results (Webinar)

canva 1x use - webinar blog 020116What is social capital? It’s the value created and leveraged through your network of strategic relationships. Research shows that successful organizations and individuals who “get it” place a high value on social capital and they purposely cultivate it, knowing that it has real benefits – tangible and intangible, personal and professional. In this presentation to the CPCU Society, Impact Instruction Founder and CEO Amy Franko delivers a simple formula and real life examples for successfully forging lasting strategic relationships.

Watch it now.

Impact Founder to Speak at International Conference


Look out Denver, here we come.

Amy Franko, Impact Instruction Group’s founder and CEO, has been invited to share her leadership insights at ATD 2016, the Association for Talent Development’s annual international conference and exhibition. This year’s event will take place May 22-25 in Denver.

Amy is a long-time member of ATD and moderates the group’s Central Ohio Learning Executives Network.

amy speaking 2Her presentation for ATD 2016 will focus on “Leading With Impact and Influence: The Power of Strategic Thinking.” In it, Amy will inspire participants to use the power of strategic-level thinking and the mindset of a leader to consciously design a path of impact and influence. Expect active conversation and exercises on leadership Identity, strategic risk taking, change resilience, and principled negotiation, a well-known methodology to create better outcomes for all parties involved.

Learn more about ATD 2016 and Amy’s session on the conference website.

For more information on Amy’s leadership development keynote offerings, visit our speaking page.

5 Training and Development Trends

How Does Your Learning Organization Compare to ATD’s State of the Industry?

canva 1x use atd blog 012016By Amy Franko

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.” Indeed it is.

As learning leaders, we need to keep our finger on the pulse of changes in the industry so we can better help our organizations meet business objectives and retain top talent. One of the best ways to do that is to read the ATD State of the Industry Report. It’s been my go-to resource for years.

For those unfamiliar, the ATD State of the Industry Report is an annual review of workplace learning and development trends. It assesses how the profession performed as a whole and how companies are investing in resources, as well as content and delivery trends.

After reviewing the latest edition, I took some time to outline the major trends and investments, as well as my perspectives on how you can leverage these trends within your organization.

Some initial thoughts:

  • The report presents data in three groupings: consolidated (all organizations participating in the survey), ATD BEST Award winners, plus organizational size/sector. This article focuses on the consolidated figures.
  • The data points used in this report are from 2014; they’re reported by ATD as the 2015 report.

Trend #1: Learning investment per employee has increased for three years running, and is well above pre-recession investment.

Organizations are investing annually on average $1,229 per employee in formal learning. This increase over the past three years signals that organizations realize they must invest in their people in order to remain competitive and retain their best talent. Learning leaders must align investments to overall business strategy, plus be prepared to estimate and demonstrate ROI.

Trend #2: The number of hours that employees are spending in formal learning is on a consistent rise, since 2011.

The average number of formal hours used annually per employee is 32.4, a steady increase since 2011. This number however, hasn’t reached pre-recession levels (in 2007 the figure was 37.4). ATD’s research doesn’t track informal learning hours, so while organizations are making more formal hours available, employees are still learning on their own time and in informal settings.

More than ever, employees view their learning paths as jungle gyms and not ladders. This means they’re taking advantage of learning outside the workplace, with access to options like Lynda, Treehouse, Coursera, TED Talks, and Udemy. To get a full picture of their employees’ learning paths and engagement, leaders should be leveraging new technologies such as the TinCan API to track informal learning as well as formal learning.

Trend #3: When determining the value of your overall learning investments, it’s important to calculate the hours used versus hours available, plus measure reuse ratios.

ATD’s research analyzes the number of learning hours that organizations make available, the number of hours used by employees, plus the reuse of those available assets.

For example, if an 8-hour formal learning experience on leadership is offered and 100 people participate, that indicates 800 hours used by the organization. To calculate your reuse ratio, use this formula:

# used

# hours available

The greater the number, the higher the reuse ratio for that initiative or learning experience. In addition to evaluating outcomes and behavior change, usage and reuse metrics are another lens with which to determine value. Estimating these calculations before making a training investment is also helpful, especially with very specialized topics or smaller audiences.

It’s important to note that ATD BEST recipients (ATD’s award winners for best-in-class learning organizations) have nearly twice as many learning hours available and a 50 percent higher reuse ratio, versus the other organizations surveyed for this research. Bottom line? When available learning is leveraged and applied, organizations increase their probability of higher performance, and the learning function is likely to be perceived as more valuable to the business.

Trend #4: Leadership development content tops the list.

The research survey ranks content distribution by various areas, as well as by sectors. In the aggregate, leadership development/managerial content ranked at the top, with 13 percent of the distribution. Industry-specific and mandatory/compliance rounded out the top three.

In years past, leadership ranked much more near the middle of the pack, which tells me that organizations truly see the need to develop both today’s leaders as well as tomorrow’s leader. In fact, front-line leaders are one of the least-invested in groups, the “forgotten middle.” I share some ideas on how to develop front line leaders in this article.

Trend #5: Instructor-led classroom still represents the largest investment in formal learning (but decreasing), and technology-based learning (in its many forms) is growing.

Instructor-led classroom still represents 51 percent of formal learning opportunities. While that has decreased over the past several years, I believe it has tremendous value for the right situations, as well as for developing relationships and engagement. Organizations that smartly deploy classroom-based learning with other delivery methods are typically positioned for the best results from those investments.

Technology-based learning (in all of its various forms) is on a growth trajectory, representing 41 percent of overall investment. An important trend to note is that while mobile learning is growing, mobile learning initiatives are still in their beginning stages, representing only 2 percent of overall expenditure. At this point in time, mobile learning for informal and independent development looks to be a more common usage of the platform (see trend #2).

Three key trends I’ve seen with our clients when it comes to technology based learning:

  • Virtual classroom is on the rise.
  • Micro-learning design is a trend that has taken hold and will continue to grow.
  • Personalization is becoming more important than ever, especially in terms of engagement, relevance, and application on the job.

Trend #6: Closing skill gaps remains a top priority.

According to ATD, a 2015 worldwide survey of 1,373 talent development professionals determined that “closing skills gaps was one of the top priorities for talent development functions across all countries.”

The skills gap conversation isn’t new; in fact, it’s a topic in almost every learning conversation I have, regardless of industry or role. Not only closing skill gaps, but closing them more quickly and with long-term sustainability in mind.

To this end, more clients are taking a deep dive into their leadership and mission-critical roles, to develop multi-year plans that combine onboarding (first 90 days) and ongoing learning (first 1-2 years). This helps them to take a strategic view on the most important skills for the short term, while taking into account the long view on learning and engagement. This important process helps learning leaders to assess and prioritize learning requirements, prior to making investments in training deliverables.

In this ATD webinar, we share more on our process for developing strategic learning plans and closing skill gaps.

So, where does your organization stand? Are your learning programs keeping up with best practices? When considering the industry-wide trends from ATD’s research, these points can help you to identify which trends are most affecting your organizational goals, and as a learning leader where you can prioritize your efforts for 2016.

Impact Instruction is here to help you advance your learning development program. Contact us to learn how we can get started.

Building Teams that Go the Distance

extra mileTrue, long-term success comes from teamwork, not from individuals alone. This African proverb sums it up well:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”

If your organization is like most, you’ve developed some big goals for 2016. You want to go farther, accomplish more objectives faster and increase your revenues. The list goes on. But how will you get there?

In this article on the Switch and Shift blog, I outline six strategies for building teams that go the distance.

Read the full article on Switch and Shift.

And best wishes for a happy and successful New Year!

Your Leadership Habits

logo_block-FINIt was Aristotle who said that we are what we repeatedly do. Our seemingly small actions, performed day in and day out, eventually create who we are.

They are also known as habits.

To help you take the next steps in creating lasting leadership habits, our Founder and CEO Amy Franko shared a simple, three-step plan you can practice.

This article is the fifth and final post in a series on creating leadership identity on the Association for Talent Development blog. Read it here.

And be sure to check out the other articles in the series.

Building a personal brand
Leading through your actions
Leading through your visual and verbal presence
Leadership response

Inspiration to Elevate Your Leadership in 2016

These Videos Will Motivate You to be a Better Leader

canva - 1x use 121615It’s that time of year. We’re looking ahead, and making resolutions for enhancing our work and personal lives in the next chapter. For many of us in leadership positions, or those who aspire to be, our goals for 2016 may include sharpening our leadership skills.

One of my favorite places for inspirational advice is in TED talks. TED is of course known for its short, powerful talks. When it comes to the topic of leadership, you can find lots of motivation via TED. Here are a few recent talks that rise above the rest, in my opinion, and can help propel you in 2016.

What it Takes to Be a Great Leader
“The world is full of leadership programs, but the best way to learn how to lead might be right under your nose. In this clear, candid talk, Roselinde Torres describes 25 years observing truly great leaders at work, and shares the three simple but crucial questions would-be company chiefs need to ask to thrive in the future.”
View the talk.

Why It’s Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work
“Organizations are often run according to ‘the superchicken model,’ where the value is placed on star employees who outperform others. And yet, this isn’t what drives the most high-achieving teams. Business leader Margaret Heffernan observes that it is social cohesion — built every coffee break, every time one team member asks another for help — that leads over time to great results. It’s a radical rethink of what drives us to do our best work, and what it means to be a leader. Because as Heffernan points out: ‘Companies don’t have ideas. Only people do.’”
View the talk.

How to Manage for Collective Creativity
“What’s the secret to unlocking the creativity hidden inside your daily work, and giving every great idea a chance? Harvard professor Linda Hill, co-author of ‘Collective Genius,’ has studied some of the world’s most creative companies to come up with a set of tools and tactics to keep great ideas flowing — from everyone in the company, not just the designated ‘creatives.’”
View the talk.

Roselinde, Margaret and Linda all leave me feeling inspired and ready to tackle the New Year. What about you? Want more information? You can view the full library of TED leadership talks on the TED site.

And if your organization is looking for new or enhanced programs for developing your emerging and frontline leaders, be sure to contact us. We can help.

3 Strategies for Developing the Frontline Leader

columbus ceo - frontline nov2015What’s the top challenge we see facing organizations today? From our perspective, the answer is obvious: the development of frontline leaders.

When given the opportunity to submit a guest blog for Columbus CEO Magazine, our Amy Franko jumped at the chance to address this issue.

Frontline leaders are typically responsible for teams of eight to 10 people, and often are in the trenches with their teams in day-to-day operations. Their time is dedicated to the current issues at hand, with little time to substantially develop their teams’ skills, let alone devote time to their own development.

But despite their importance, frontline leaders receive the least amount of investment—the forgotten middle.

We invite you to visit the Columbus CEO blog to read our Amy’s three strategies for developing the frontline. Then tell us… what strategies are you leveraging in your organization to address this challenge?

Read more.

Your Leadership Identity: Do You Respond Like a Leader

logo_block-FINThink for a moment about how you respond to what’s happening around you. Many times you probably don’t give a conscious thought to your responses. There’s a difference between reaction (unconscious) and response (thoughtful and conscious). When we move from reaction to response, it indicates a shift in our mindset around what it means to lead.

Our Founder and CEO Amy Franko shares three ways your responses can communicate the wrong leadership message. Read the full article on the Talent Development blog.

This article is the fourth in Amy’s series on creating leadership identity. You can also read about building a personal brand,leading through your actions, and leading through your visual and verbal presence.