The mechanics of podcasting are easy; the skills required are minimal. So the most challenging aspect of introducing the new technology into your organization is persuading your employees to accept the new approach.
When Colin Powell retired from his position as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993, his retirement present from President Clinton was a “barely ambulatory wreck” of a 1966 Volvo. Powell is reported as saying that this gift was the best he had ever received. The reason he felt that way was because, in his spare time, Powell had taken up the hobby of fixing old Volvos. He felt that the technical work of fixing old cars was easy and relaxing. If he connected the right hoses and wires and ensured the car had the proper levels of oil, fuel and other liquids, it would eventually start and work.
“People, on the other hand,” Powell said, “were more difficult.” Just because you used a technique to inspire, motivate or persuade them on one day and it worked, using that same technique a week later might cause the opposite effect.
The story of Gen. Powell and his Volvos is similar to the dilemma companies face when they attempt to deploy new media tools such as podcasting into their organizations. The technical mechanics of creating a podcast are easy, the skills required are minimal and the hardware and software requirements are insignificant. However, it’s much more difficult to help stakeholders see the vision, understand the value proposition, buy in to the concept of podcasting as a training option and take ownership in the process.
Trainers might resist podcasting if they perceive the technology will make them less valuable. A trainer at one financial service firm openly stated: “If anyone can record this stuff, what good am I?” Similarly, business partners may not see the value of creating podcasts. Their view may be that sending out a memo is sufficient. A product manager at one firm laughed when podcasts were presented to him as a solution to his business issue. His response was: “I already send this information out in my monthly newsletter.”
Also, the information technology or corporate security department may view podcasting as a security threat. Some firms block any site that has an RSS feed. As a result, this article will present some suggestions for dealing with the potential people issues surrounding the introduction of podcasting into an organization.
As the Colin Powell story illustrated, the most challenging part of introducing new technology, including podcasting, is first persuading people to accept the new approach. Members of your training organization may resist using or learning how to use this “new” technology. The business units you are attempting to support may claim that they do not see or understand the benefit of podcasting. This resistance likely is not specific to podcasting, but rather a general opposition to doing things differently. Therefore, addressing the people component of podcast implementation largely is a matter of change management.
Change Management 101
Wikipedia defines change management as a “structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams and organizations from a current state to a desired state.” When implementing podcasting, the state that you must transition the interested parties from is one of resistance to either the podcasting approach or the podcast technology. For the implementation to be successful, your stakeholders must be moved to a state of acceptance, or at least a state of neutrality.
The role of the training manager therefore is to predict or assess what the reactions to this new approach will be and to develop a change program that will provide support as the stakeholders go through the process of accepting this change. One approach that can be used to facilitate this process is the ADKAR model. This approach for managing change is based on the following five stages or building blocks:
1. Awareness of why the change is needed.
2. Desire to support and participate in the change.
3. Knowledge of how to change.
4. Ability to implement new skills and behaviors.
5. Reinforcement to sustain the change.
Let’s see how this change management model can be applied to the implementation of podcasting.
The purpose of the awareness stage is to help individuals understand why the change in approach is necessary. For podcast implementation, this can be accomplished by linking the need to provide additional training options with the ability of the organization to attract and maintain talented employees.
The leaders of most organizations are aware there will be a mass exodus of baby boomers during the next five years. These retiring boomers are rapidly being replaced by the Millennial generation, those born between 1979 and 1990. Research substantiates that these new entrants into the workforce have different expectations of work and learning.
Morley Safer of “60 Minutes” reported that this new breed of American worker will “attack everything that you (the manager) hold sacred.” Marian Salzman, an ad agency executive at J. Walter Thompson who has been tracking Millennials since they entered the workforce, stated that, “Today’s manager must be half shrink and half diplomat.”
Educating, training and developing Millennials poses an equal if not more difficult challenge to the industry. The same expectations that apply to how Millennials believe they should be managed also apply to their expectations of how they should be trained and developed.
Richard Sweeny, the university librarian at New Jersey Institute of Technology, has found in his research on Millennials that:
• Thirty percent of the population is considered auditory learners (versus 65 percent who are visual and 5 percent who are tactile).
• They want options and customization in every aspect of their lives.
• These students “hate to waste time and want to learn quickly.”
• They rarely read instructions and love to learn by doing and interacting.
• They love to be mobile.
• They were raised on computers and adapt faster to new technologies than any generation before them.
Since this generation will soon make up the majority of the workforce, providing learning alternatives that maintain their interest and result in faster on-boarding, improved performance and longer tenures is imperative. Not meeting the needs of these new workers will make it difficult to attract and retain the best and the brightest. This potential reality in turn affects any organization’s ability to compete in an increasingly global market. The use of podcasting as a training medium presents an excellent option to address many of the geographic, logistic and speed-to-market realities of today’s learning and business landscape.
Another approach for facilitating the awareness might be to inform your stakeholders of the inevitability of podcasts as a training option. As the technology becomes more commonplace in the larger environment, it seems natural that the training world will follow. Forrester reported that in 2006, just 700,000 households in the United States used podcasting. This number is expected to grow to 12.3 million by 2010.
Providing your stakeholders with this data and making individuals in your organization aware of these issues links the implementation of podcasting to a business imperative and changes podcasting from a “nice to do” to a business necessity.
The next building block you as the training manager must facilitate is to create a desire for the stakeholders to participate in the implementation of podcasting. This can be accomplished in a couple of ways. The first is to appeal to a natural human desire. Most individuals have a desire, and some would even say a need, to be recognized by the organization for their contributions.
Because podcasting lowers the cost of delivering training, anyone participating in a successful implementation can take credit for helping the organization save money. Knowing that they will receive recognition for this effort may be enough to create the appropriate desire for some individuals.
A second approach to create a desire for this change may be to appeal to the organizational desire to attract, maintain and develop staff. If you have done a good job in the awareness stage, stakeholders will understand the impact that the Millennial generation will have on the workforce. They also should understand that developing Millennials will require a different approach. This knowledge may well be the catalyst in creating a desire in those to whom this is important.
The third building block you must help the stakeholders through is the knowledge of how to change. This can be accomplished by sharing stories of the success from other organizations. Here are some examples:
Herbalife, maker of nutritional supplements, is creating podcast training programs for its distributors around the globe. The company already has given away more than 1 million iPods to its employees.
IBM has been using podcasting to deliver information to its employees internally and is now publishing real-time updates for its investors, so they can keep up with IBM’s take on the future and direction of business and IT. The new series, titled: “IBM and the Future of…” kicks off with a podcast on the future of driving (http://www.ibm.com/investor/viewpoint/podcast/05-08-05-1.phtml).
Michael Walker, the manager of learning services administration at the Richmond, Va.-based Capital One University, felt his associates were so busy they didn’t have time during working hours into get to the classroom. In this regard, audio learning seemed to make perfect sense as workers could listen to course materials on their iPods while they worked out at the gym or on CDs they burned for their car on the drive home.
Knowing about how these organizations changed may help you predict how the stakeholders in your company may change.
Helping stakeholders achieve the ability to implement the new skills and behaviors associated with podcasting can easily be accomplished by having the stakeholders create their own podcasts. What makes podcasting so attractive to so many people is the ease with which one can create a podcast. This ease of use is especially attractive to training professionals who are under constant pressure to deliver new content to support the rapidly changing work environment. Podcasts can be created using any Mac or PC computer with a recent version of either Windows or Mac OS X. Since most computers these days come with some form of microphone, there is no other hardware required.
Helping your stakeholders create their own mini-podcast will help them gain confidence that the organization has the ability to implement this “new” skill.
The last stage or building block that must be achieved for the successful implementation of podcasting is the reinforcement that the organization can sustain this new approach. Unfortunately, this building block only can be accomplished via the sustained success of podcasting as a delivery option. The chances of this success can be greatly improved through proper planning.
Any trainer who has suffered the horror of delivering a course that he or she did not plan and prepare for understands what happens when you don’t plan.
Before recording, organize the content for the show or class the same way that you would organize any training session. Ensure that you use Gagne’s nine elements of instruction. Make notes, prepare your interviews and try to improvise as little as possible. The best podcasts sound spontaneous because of the preparation that went into making them.
Remember, podcasts are essentially mini-lectures. We all know how challenging it is to make lectures engaging. So be short and simple. Too many podcasts try to fill an hour with whatever it takes to fill that time. Listeners are likely to embrace a podcast if it is short. This does not mean that one-hour podcasts won’t work. But you may want to begin with shorter podcasts — 10 to 20 minutes — to attract listeners who might be turned off by the idea of devoting one hour of their lives to an unknown program. If listeners like the shortcasts, then they’ll stick around for the longcasts.
While the technical mechanics of creating a podcast are easy, it’s more difficult to help stakeholders see the vision, understand the value proposition, buy in to the concept of podcasting as a training option and take ownership in the process. Therefore, addressing the people component of podcast implementation is most important and largely a matter of change management.
If you can build awareness around the change, infuse a desire for it, disperse the knowledge of how to do it, develop the ability to change and to reinforce it, the implementation of podcasting as a training option ultimately will be successful.
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