Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Human Resources and Company Feedback

Human Resources and Company Feedback

I think the most common or easy mistake to make is to forget how important a worker or student’s sense of self-esteem and contributions to the workplace/class and working/learning process also serves the proft/learning goals and objectives of the manager/teacher. A few years back I had a class of education students who literally bubbled over with joy as a collective group of forty during virtually every class. It was as if I was stepping out of a refreshing shower every time I walked out the door. I try to remember how this felt every day I walk into a classroom. While not every group can bubble over like that it does happen on occasion in my current work. When they are in any way appearing like drowsy or dropsy nocturnal animals I begin distributing the equivalent of quarters for dixie cups of green tea or instant coffee at break times.

I think the most important tip is to ask first or get the employee’s or students’ point of view before you state what you think should be done. For example I need to make up two weeks of lessons and have only two nights Monday and Thursday in which to do it. So I had roughly 90% attendance last night and expect roughly the same on Thursday because I asked students which day was preferable to them first. Luckily Tuesday/Thursday chose Monday and Wednesday/Friday chose Thursday. I extended this further to, “what dinner do you prefer at 7:00 PM with a show of hands sweet and sour pork or Korean fried chicken? Yes, it’s on me.” I will spend approximately four hundred dollars on feeding them as I am the one inconveniencing them. However their joy at consuming a few slices or a chicken leg here and there is often never forgotten.

In reports to management ways I would:

increase learner’s self-esteem: I would highlight examples of excellent work contributions, presentations or exam results to be noted to the learner and perhaps by direct supervisor or recommended for special merit. This would include significant increases in exam or performance results from the start to the completion of a study program. I do have “rags to riches” stories of improvement even among the “chicken heads” in the backs of my classes. These transformations from disengaged to engaged learners are often incredibly satisfying to witness and I often believe it is evidence of increasing self-realization among my learners that what they choose to put in to their studies in terms of effort does gain significant positive results at least in my class. Regular feedback throughout a course helps to enable this.

create a productive atmosphere for post-feedback progress: Revisit the students work a week or so later after written and spoken exams one to one with presentation work or as a group with written tests and check on whether or not they know what areas require greater attention in the study program with their current work through a brief face-to face interview at their convenient time. For example areas requiring refocus could include: short answers (more reading and writing preparation), more vocabulary practice (searching for and generating more sample sentences using the vocabulary as a study group) or simply more time spent pre-reading in class practice activities for written exams and content, organization or delivery review in terms of oral presentations. In terms of handing this information over to a supervisor and them revisiting learners in their working environment learners could be revisited post learning program with a brief interview and questionnaire follow-up to enable further task or JIT learning opportunities to be raised for future lessons.

handle the delivery and timing of feedback (would using the course wiki or private voice message be valid alternative to a face-to-face + written report? How often will you submit reports?): If the in company contract is ongoing a regular schedule of informal visits timed to learner availability the schedule could be flexible enough to allow face-to-face visits or conducting a large group follow-up NGT to seek out common frames of reference for what was useful in the past, what worked or didn't work and possibly flushing out future needs and lessons. A course wiki or voice messaging service and a written report might be useful however it would be dependent upon necessary time constraints and what management sought as well as what learners could provide in terms of two to three weeks following project completion. For my current PBworks wiki homework submissions I am visiting every other day or so to provoke feedback which assists learners in completing their tasks. Face-to-face interviews or office visits are usually at the students’ leisure or I request it in cases of absolutely lost sheep.

deal with confidentiality issues (will you provide both the learner and the company with the same reports, who will have access to the report?): A review of company policy for example might reveal a confidentiality issue and in reality learners might prefer to anonymously comment or feedback rather than have their suggestions open for public scrutiny. I hand back midterm written tests to the learners in a large group and if they seek to compare grades it is up to them. With speaking presentations I make notes on the grading sheet and share it with the partners in my office only. In a company situation I would seek out a compromise solution if necessary by which positive attributes and comments can be shared between staff and management while critical improvement points are of the anonymous variety. If for example the company faces known shared challenges requiring creative solutions to learning challenges I would make it a rewards-based challenge and offer a prize for creative fire-fighting or quick fix suggestions. Then publicly reward the best ideas. This should encourage more of them. For example, if the in company course was seeing voluntary but declining attendance I would want to seek out root causes and attempt to amend or eliminate issues related to planning, goals, teacher or course materials. At the same time I would expect some management incentive to ensure learners were participating in an assessment process by which we have noted many companies may perform rather haphazardly. While students are required to complete a survey questionnaire prior to receiving a final grade it is not often relied upon for actual assessment purposes here. I have created my first sample survey monkey questionnaire and I am considering using it this semester. However I more heavily rely on face-to-face suggestions for feedback.

change or modify previous feedback strategies you have implemented: This would reply upon asking questions of the management or learners or even coworkers particularly if the feedback requested, required or desired was somehow not being absorbed or integrated into a continuous learning improvement strategy. For example, I have abandoned the email system of homework submission in favour of a new wiki group worksite. While it is experimental it includes a flavor of adjusting feedback strategy that I may focus more on the “big picture” rather than individual output and as it is accessible to all students it may reduce anxiety or stress over productive capacities. Exemplary student generated homework content can serve as a template for the less confident readers and writers to replicate their own responses where substitution or creative alternatives may exist which may boost learner competence and confidence in reading and writing. What works well must be maintained and what does not must be discarded. While content or methods may change intentions and goals are often consistent over time and what is simple to achieve does not always come easily.

accommodate learners’ skills vs. learners’ attitude to learning: Teaching to the students inherent skills levels is essential and determining a reasonable degree of additional challenge is the only means by which to stretch and improve that skill level. Those with excellent study habits will perhaps innately embody all that a teacher sets out as objectives and goals in terms of improvements in learner skills and abilities or attitude. Regarding pre-experience versus experienced and currently working learners who require better BE skills to improve in their careers the difference may be in the self-awareness of needs of the student him or herself. The means by which the teacher is able to assist in motivating the learner to achieve objective can/do abilities is reached in a teamwork perspective. The important question is not only,” What do you think you need to know?” The other important question is,”What do you already find interesting in terms of business communication skills?” I once read that a class is only as good as its weakest student or to the effect that the progress of a group is determined by the member who makes the most difficult and slow progress. I do believe that good teachers besides being good planners provide relevant tasks and activities already of interest to the learner to borrow the intangible self-inspiration already present there. Activate that and build on that. Focus on the learner.

No comments: