Strategies to Overcoming Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Unconscious bias is hitting the news. From Bay Street to Main Street to Starbucks the impact of unspoken bias is real and harmful to the workplace. Bias stands in the way of making correct decisions in hiring and promoting. It also has a vital impact on your staff and the workplace in general. Let’s explore how we can become aware of our own bias and stop it in the workplace?


First, let’s define it. “Unconscious bias refers to a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. (ECU: 2013 Unconscious bias in higher education) 


We all have a bias. The question is, do we identify it and then what do we do about it? In addressing one of the most crucial training issues facing the workplace today, unconscious bias, employers can assist in creating an inclusive, civil and respectful workplace. 


Research indicates that unconscious biases are prejudices we have, yet are uninformed of. They are “mental shortcuts based on social norms and stereotypes.” (Guynn, 2015). Biases can be based on skin colour, gender, age, height, weight, introversion versus extroversion, marital and parental status, disability status (for example, the use of a wheelchair or a cane), foreign accents, where someone went to college, and more (Wilkie, 2014). If you can name it, there is probably an unconscious bias for it.


Hence if we think we are unbiased, we may have unconscious adverse thoughts about people who are outside our own group. If we spend more time with people from other groups, we are less likely to feel prejudice against them.


This universal tendency toward unconscious bias exists because bias is rooted in our brain. Research shows that our brain has evolved to mentally put things together to make sense to us. The brain sorts all the information it is blasted with and labels that information with universal descriptions that it may rapidly access. When we categorize these labels as either good or bad, we tend to apply the rationale to the whole group. Many of the conclusions are taken from previous experiences and learnings.  

In an article, “The Real Effects of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace”, a few of the known unconscious biases that directly impact the workplace include:

  • Affinity bias is the tendency to warm up to people like ourselves.
  • Halo effect is the tendency to think everything about a person is good because you like that person.
  • Perception bias which is the inclination to form stereotypes and assumptions about specific groups that make it awkward to make an objective judgement about members of those groups. 
  • Confirmation bias is the openness for us to pursue evidence that sanctions our pre-existing beliefs or experiences. 
  • Group think is a bias which occurs when people attempt to fit into a specific crowd by mirroring others or holding back opinions and views. This results in individuals losing part of their characteristics and causes workplaces to miss out on originality and creativity.

Horace McCormick’s research found more than 150 identified unconscious biases, making the task of rooting them out and addressing them daunting. For many organizations, however, identifying as many as possible and eliminating them has become a high priority.  


You can address discrimination issues by increasing your awareness of your unconscious biases, and by developing strategies that make the most of the talents and abilities of your team members. 

Unconscious behaviour is not just individual; it influences organizational culture as well. This explains why so often our best attempts at creating corporate culture change with diversity efforts seem to fall frustratingly short; to not deliver on the promise they intended.


What you can do: 

  • Be aware consciously of your bias 
  • Focus more on the people, on their strengths
  • Increase Exposure to Biases
  • Make small changes 
  • Be pragmatic 
  • Challenge stereotypes and counter-stereotypical information 
  • Use context to explain a situation 
  • Change your perception and relationship with out-group members 
  • Be an active bystander 
  • Improve processes, policies & procedures  

Also, managers can play a crucial role in unearthing these hidden biases by declaring their intentions to be non-biased. They can also provide transparent performance appraisals that emphasis on the employee’s exceptional abilities and skills, and grow a stronger mindfulness of their own unconscious principles.



Strategic Planning for Organizational Success

Let us take you through the process of developing a strategic plan that will bring to life, your organization’s vision and strategic imperatives.


In today’s environment, if you are standing still, you are falling behind.  Making the right decisions at the right time is critical.  Following through on those decisions is challenging.  In a survey of a broad section of CEOs, the Malcolm Baldrige Foundation learned that CEOs believed deploying strategy is three times more difficult than developing strategy.


The executive team’s strategic planning process must address, both the development of your key strategic imperatives and the successful execution of these strategies.  The process starts by identifying your organization’s vision and mission.  Your organization’s vision and mission should outline the development of your future direction, the key influences on how you operate and the key challenges you currently face.  Through an understanding of your organization’s operating environment and your key relationships with your customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders, you will then be able to describe your organization’s competitive environment, ensuring that your key strategic imperatives maintain your benchmarked position.  However, the process of developing this Strategic Plan seems onerous to many and of little value to others.  In our experience, we have found that the fault lies not in the concept of Strategic Planning but rather in the process of developing the plan itself.  Let us take you through the process of developing a strategic plan that will bring to life, your vision and strategic imperatives.


I.               Develop a Future Vision for the Organization


The first step in the strategic planning process is for the President/CEO and the executive team to work together and create a compelling vision.  Creating this vision and developing the strategies to achieve it is one of the most difficult challenges for many organizations.  In this complex and fast-changing world, anticipating the future can be very difficult.  The vision is more than just a dream.  It is an ambitious view of the future that everyone in the organization can believe in, one that can realistically be achieved, yet offers a future that is better in important ways than what now exists.  When the vision is clearly articulated, everyday decisions and actions will respond to current problems and challenges in ways that move the organization toward the future vision rather than maintain the status quo.    


II.             Develop the Strategic Plan


Once the vision is developed, the executive team will follow this process to develop their strategic plan: 


1.     Collect customer feedback


Dramatic gains in overall organizational performance are very often customer driven.  Customers focus on how the organization’s delivery of products and services produce the results they’re looking for in quality, price, delivery, service, etc.   Your organization’s success depends on your ability to satisfy your customer’s needs.  In turn, this ability depends on how well the organization’s internal processes work to meet this external demand.   Understanding the customer is key to determining some of the requirements for the strategic plan. 

The leadership team must know:


·       Who are the customers?


·       How is the quality in product and service delivered to the customer measured?


·       How do you obtain your customer feedback?


·       What do you do with the information it provides?


2.     Collect employee feedback


It is essential to involve employees in the planning of strategy and direction for the department and/or organization.  Employee’s input will:


·       Provide insight into issues, challenges, concerns, and opportunities which may not have been known.


      ·       Ensure their “buy-in” during the Execution Planning Stage which will link the Strategy Development into Action Plans.


The leadership team will come to the strategy development session prepared to respond to questions, derived from their staff (in meetings and one-on-one sessions with them).  Questions may include:


·       What has been accomplished in their area(s) over the past couple of years?


·       What have their customers been saying about their level of service?


·       What have been their performance strengths, weaknesses, current goals, structure and ways of operating?


·       What do they see as emergent opportunities and threats?


·       What Benchmarking information is available and relevant?


·       What would staff like to see in the future?


·       What are the concerns and issues among staff and what do they see as the opportunities?


3.     Conduct Benchmarking research


Benchmarking is an integral part of the planning and on-going review process to ensure a focus on the external environment and to strengthen the use of information in developing plans.  Benchmarking is used to improve performance by understanding the methods and practices required to achieving world-class performance levels. 


Comparisons to other similar and dissimilar organizations and their departments can yield valuable insights into determining the right strategies to improve overall quality, process, procedures, structure, and so on.


4.     Review the current organizational and/or departmental situation


Each member of the leadership team will present a summary of what they’ve accomplished in their own area of responsibility over the past year.  As well, they will include any long and short-term problems that they encountered.  Essentially, we are trying to set the stage for understanding the past so that we can overcome the obstacles, which might prevent the organization from meeting it’s vision. 


This stage in strategy development engages the leadership team in thinking about their view of their department and areas of responsibilities and related positions.  Reports collected from customer feedback and employee input and involvement will help understand the current situation.  The questions that are raised, discussed and recorded might include:

·       What are our performance strengths & weaknesses?

·       What other strengths & weaknesses do we have?

·       What strategies do we see as necessary to bridge this gap?

·       What do we think are the organization’s current goals, structure & ways of operating?

·       What are the emergent opportunities and threats bearing on the organization from various environmental sectors? (i.e.; from customer feedback, knowledge of  present market, staff feedback)

·       What are we doing to create these opportunities and threats…not looking for blame i.e.; the economy; rather, how are we working around the real issue of the economy. 


 5.     Consider your “ideal” future


Before leadership can begin developing their future strategies they engage in a general discussion that focuses on questions to get their thinking going; nothing is recorded yet.  This step reviews:


  • Staff responses from earlier meetings with them, on their vision of the future, together with customer’s future needs.  As well,
  • Results from all Benchmarking research.

To define the strategic direction and determine the best focus of effort for the organization, this process requires that the leadership team consider several key questions:


1.     What is our dream or vision of what we want to be contributing to the organization over the next 1 – 3 years?

2.     What are the key assumptions about external circumstances that will exist in this time frame and what is our best opportunity to provide a unique contribution, based on these assumed circumstances?

3.     How do we translate this dream into action?

4.     What action plans must we develop?

5.     How will we get the financial, human and physical resources to implement our plans?

6.     What performance standards should we use to measure the quality of our effort?

7.     Do we have the commitment of others upon whom we depend?  Do our partners share our vision and performance standards? If not, how will we gain commitment?

8.     How will we measure our success?  How will we measure our contribution to building stakeholder value?

9.     What information should we monitor to alert us to external changes that require changes in our vision?


The philosophy behind these questions is:

·       No matter who you are or what roles you occupy in the organization, you can form a vision of what you want to be contributing over the next several years.  This requires making correct assumptions about what the organization will be like, and about your potential for making unique contributions, over the next 2-3 years.

·       Leadership engagement in discussing these issues is essential to the strategy development process because success depends on the understanding & commitment of everyone involved in making the vision a reality.

6.     Develop the Key Strategies


The key strategies will aim to close the gap between the present situation and the “ideal future”.  Essentially, these strategies will translate the vision of what the organization is trying to become in the customer’s eyes into reality.   It is the framework, derived from an understanding of the customer’s needs, that describes the goods and services the organization is offering, to satisfy customer needs and expectations.  Ultimately, all employees must be able to understand, accept and adopt these strategies.


The development of the strategies requires considerable brainstorming using various creative techniques including Affinity Diagrams, Innovation Processes and Critical Thinking Skills.  Discussions among the leadership team will take time as ideas are thrown out, discussed, weighed and evaluated.  It is important that the leadership team not eliminate any ideas too quickly.  Rather, they should combine all ideas into key strategies and allow the balance of this strategic planning process to assist in the determining which strategies should be included in the short-term plan and which are better suited to a longer-term plan.

7.     Conduct a Risk Assessment

Assessing risk must be a part of looking at the organization’s ideal future.  It includes conducting an analysis of what would prevent the organization from reaching each of the identified key strategies.  This analysis will include identifying the risks and creating mitigation plans to overcome them.  Keep in mind that:


·       Risk can be either the most paralyzing or the most empowering force at your disposal.

·       The situations having the greatest opportunity and high potential are probably also the ones with medium-to-high risks.  

·       These are the ones that are highly unlikely to survive the leap from Strategy Development to the Execution Plan simply because risk becomes a paralyzer. 

·       Low risk strategies, which usually have low potential, are much more likely to be implemented.


Become more comfortable with the risk.  You can achieve this by:

·       Insisting on creative problem-solving that focuses on reducing risk without reducing opportunity.

·       Put contingencies in place to ensure an “out” in case the worst possible scenario comes true.

·       Withhold spending in other areas to allow some needed security.


The risk assessment process includes:


    1)    Analyzing the strategies and determining the risks of either implementing them or not implementing them.  Use a cause and effect analysis and/or pros and cons and/or driving and restraining force-field analysis for examining each risk.


2)    Analyzing each strategy in relation to their potential cost in dollars, materials, resources, and so on.  Benchmark this analysis against expected benefits.  This cost-benefit analysis will help determine the strategies that can be completed in the short-term, longer-term and/or eliminated.


3)    Completing a SWOT analysis on those strategies that leadership determines to move forward with.  This helps prioritizing the strategies and determining the ones that can be realized in the shorter and longer term. 


·       Strengths…continue to do


·       Weaknesses…eliminate, change or improve


è Strengths and Weaknesses should consider people, money, technology, information, resources, etc.


·       Threats…what might prevent continued success


·       Opportunities…what can we start doing


è Threats and Opportunities should consider outside resources, information, competition, industry changes, global issues, etc.


4)    Identifying which strategies should stay in the Strategic Plan and which should be eliminated?  Why?


        5)   Identifying which strategies will be short-term (1-2 years) and longer-term strategies?


 8.     Create the Execution Plan


The Execution Planning process begins with gaining agreement to the Objectives required to meet each of the Strategies and the detailed Action Plan required to meet each Objective.  Then, adding performance measures to ensure that it is clear when each strategy and related objective has been met.  Unless the objectives identified in Execution Plan are translated into Action Plans, it is unlikely they will ever be reached.


This Execution Plan will include:


·       Who will do it?

·       What will they do?

·       When will they do it?

·       What resources are required?

·       What costs are required?


 III.           Summary


Developing a strategic plan takes discipline, foresight, and a lot of honesty. Regardless of how well you prepare you’re bound to encounter challenges along the way.  Like most everything in life, you get out of a plan what you put in. If you’re going to take the time to do it, do it right.  This means having the right people involved, analyzing the business environment and setting meaningful priorities that focus on results and making sure that your people contribute to the planning and that they understand and commit to the strategies.


About the Author


Michael Stanleigh has a reputation for helping businesses get to the root cause of their problems and generating effective solutions.  He has been fortunate to consult and advise some of the most admired organizations in the world to define their strategic direction, manage change, become more innovative, improve the performance of their leadership and manage their projects.  As a Certified Management Consultant (CMC), Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and CEO of Business Improvement Architects, Michael shares his consulting wisdom and secrets for operational success to help organizations to succeed.








Train in Technology – Career Expo

Technology is meshed into every industry in some shape or form and the current and future economy will only thrive if talent is well matched to local employment opportunities. Technology drives innovation and business growth, and is critical to the future of the region’s economy.

The Barrie/Simcoe County region has experienced an influx of data centres, an emergence of global technology firms, significant growth in the number of high-tech start-ups, and an expansion of our advanced manufacturing sector. Opportunities like the Train in Technology Career Expo will build the local talent pool to ensure we have the future workforce our employers need.

muniSERV is excited to be attending the Train in Technology Career Expo.  We are also excited to be launching our new muniJOBS at this show!

muniJOBS is a new municipal career/job recruitment platform to help municipalities recruit tomorrow’s municipal leaders and for students/candidates to quickly and easily find municipal jobs.  Drop by our Booth at the Expo to find out more about this unique new website. 

We can’t wait to meet job seekers looking for municipal jobs!

This one day, not to miss, Expo is full of valuable sessions, technology industry networking and public career information.  #TrainInTech Career Expo – March 27th, 2018 from 3:00pm-7:00pm – Barrie Molson Centre.   


The “thinking the same” Paradox……

Paradox: a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.

I need to look at things differently.

Everyone else is thinking the same way.

I better keeping thinking the same way, what if I’m wrong?

It seems to me that most of us are happy to be agreeable when it comes to our perspective about how the world works, especially in business. LinkedIn is a great example of individuals that find some sense of mental piece knowing that they think like the rest of the group. It’s like a fine line in the sand that very few are willing to cross, the question is “Why?”

I imagine that there are many reasons, but at the heart of it, I believe it’s the fear of being wrong, perhaps even being considered the, “Odd Duck.” LinkedIn is really a haven for the safe thinkers, those that aren’t or willing to challenge conventional wisdom. This became an epiphany for me several years ago when I started challenging everything that I had always believed and decided, what if I’m wrong and what if we are all wrong? When I came to this realization it was quite liberating.  However, the down side was trying to open other people’s possibilities to thinking differently, that requires a monumental effort.

Here are some simple of examples of how my thinking has changed:

  • You can motivate people.  Not really, and if you could, you’d be focusing your energy on the average performers – high performers are self-motivated
  • Employee engagement is necessary to move the organizational needle.  No it’s not.  You’re still focusing on mediocre performers, focus on hiring high performers
  • You can’t have a full understanding or appreciation for your professional discipline if you don’t take a macro look at what’s happening around the world, socially, environmentally, economically and the list goes on and on
  • If there was one thing your organization should do well, is have the ability to identify and hire high performers.  Everything else really doesn’t matter as much. Your time investment will be cut significantly
  • If you don’t understand the Pareto Principle, you’re going to miss the opportunity to have an in-depth perspective on your organization
  • Leadership is innate.  All you need to do is look at the supporting data – $45B invested in leadership training, however, the number of effective leaders hasn’t really grown
  • Just because you read something in a book, doesn’t make it true. Yes there are great writers, however look at the number of different opinions, stop trying to change your organization based on a book you read –  it’s ridiculous
  • Your organization’s performance can’t improve without embracing some form of coaching.  No feedback, no improvement
  • We don’t understand the fundamental principle of what trait is required for successful service organizations – friendly people.  You can’t teach an unfriendly person to be friendly

Now, you could and probably would certainly disagree with some or all of what I’ve said. But here’s the problem – where’s your proof, where’s the supporting data?

I can defend my comments quite easily, but most individuals can’t.  Now that doesn’t make me right in my thinking. I’m not interested in being right, I’m interested in doing the right thing.

Throughout my career I’ve made some very unusual predictions – many have come true, but at the time, I had an uphill battle trying to get others to see the world from a different perspective.

If you or if we, want to make a difference in our lives or in the lives of others, we need to challenge our thinking at every step. We used to say, if it isn’t broken, don’t break it, today, some of us would say, if it isn’t broken, break it and then rebuild it and make it better.

I don’t have to tell you the times in our history when people said, it can’t be done. There was a time where society believed the world was flat.  I really don’t believe that much has changed.  Many of us today still believe the world is somehow flat.

Do yourself a favor – don’t be afraid to cross that line in the sand, the other side can be very invigorating.

John Prpich, TalentBlueprint


The Cost of a Wrong Hire and how to do it Right

The Cost of a Wrong Hire and how to do it Right


Are you ready to lose hundreds of productive hours and thousands of dollars? I thought not. Unfortunately, hiring the wrong person is estimated to cost at least 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“When you add up missed sales opportunities, strained client and employee relations, potential legal issues, and resources to hire and train candidates, the cost can be considerable,” says CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson.

As the saying goes, one bad apple can spoil the bunch, and this couldn’t be truer than in the workplace. Company culture can quickly be poisoned by negative attitudes or even just disengagement. Both tend to spread quickly. Although some employees stay strong and seem immune, they can become frustrated or burned out trying to make up for the poor performance of others. As a result, some key employees may decide their talents are better spent elsewhere.

While there may be no sure-fire way to guarantee a successful hire, there are some best practices which will up your odds of hiring the right person for the job.

  • Provide a detailed job description – If the candidate isn’t aware of the full responsibilities of the job, they may end up in a position that’s out of their comfort zone, let alone their skill set. This could lead to frustration and poor performance.
  • Research the candidate before the interview – Have a look at their LinkedIn page (that’s what it’s there for) to see if they have the necessary experience. Where have they worked in the past? Find out about that company. What titles have they held? Do they have connections to other professionals in the industry?
  • Ask the right questions – Be sure to ask open-ended questions which allow for the candidate to showcase past situations where they’ve put their skills to use and how they relate to the position. There’s a great list of questions to ask on to get you started.
  • Think about company culture – Culture is defined as the values, practices, and beliefs shared by the members of a group. Will this candidate be a good fit? Feeling like a part of the group is the first step to success.

  • Check references – Make the person offering the reference was in a position of authority over the candidate. A co-worker or team member may have a very different perspective than a supervisor and most likely won’t be able to answer all of your questions. Checking references should go beyond the typical questions like “What was the candidate’s greatest strength?”. Try questions like: How did s/he support co-workers? What was their biggest accomplishment while working for your company? What do you think the candidate needs to really continue his or her career development and professional growth?


With due diligence (and a little luck) you’ll be able to offer the position to the right candidate, add an amazing person to your team and avoid those costly hiring mistakes.


muniSERV is Canada’s leading online solution for helping municipalities and professionals connect.  We help municipalities save time and money searching for the consultants & CAOs they need, while offering professionals the opportunity to showcase their profile and services to get found and grow their business.



If You Don’t Understand These Concepts You Don’t Understand Learning

Here’s some Key Learning & Development Concepts to Consider

  • Content is less important than you think, even poor content – the focus needs to be on what happens after the delivery.
  • If you’re not familiar with the Kirkpatrick or Phillips models of evaluation, then you will not understanding that Level 3 is a very critical level. What I see is most doing level one and two then wanting to jump to 4 or 5 depending on what model you follow 
  • Everyone shouldn’t have access to learning, it should be a privilege that’s earned. Over $40B spent on learning, where’s the ROI? Did you ever notice that those who did well in your workshops were the high performers, not a coincidence
  • If building organizational competence is truly your mission, then don’t hire anyone that isn’t willing to learn on the companies time and their time.
  • If you don’t get to application after two weeks of the learning intervention, your attendees will lose 70% of they’ve learned, this is why application is so critical.
  • If you keep conducting the same classes or offering the same content and nothing has changed, stop doing that and move to another approach or different content
  • Most of you have forgotten about the 9 Box Transfer of Training Model, Vertical axis, Boss, Employee Trainer, Horizontal Access, Before, During and After. Box one and three, is the boss before and after, box 2 is the trainer delivering the knowledge to the employee. Guess what, 1 and 3 never happen, so nothing changes, this issue is one faced by every organization, I mean ever
  • Learning should be competency driven, that’s how you build organizational competence, you identify the core competencies that drive organizational results, guess what, your other talent systems, selection, performance management and succession planning are all competency-driven. Less than 50% of Fortune 500 companies use competency modeling, don’t know why
  • If you are using an LMS, make certain that you build in the Amazon 5 star rating approach. It helps drive others to the content and more importantly, tells you how your customer feels about the content
  • When your customer comes to you with a problem that requires your learning solution, don’t believe what they tell you. I’ve learned that my customers bring me symptoms, I ask a lot of good open-ended questions to ensure I’m dealing with the root cause. I passed this skill on to my team, you need to know how to consult
  • If your learning strategy is a push and not a pull, you’ll never be successful.
  • If you’re a learning department consider yourself to be a vendor and the currency of your customer to be time. You have to sell them on the idea of using your solutions, the best way to do that is have other customers talk about the effectiveness of your solutions. Remember, nothing beats a good testimonial and don’t be afraid to share those with the organization.
  • If the flipped classroom approach isn’t in your strategy, you’re missing the boat and the point. As I mentioned earlier, degreed has taken care of the content, you need to focus on getting the learner or a group focused on applying that learning in a real live project. Two things happen, you get real-time experience and you move the needle on the company’s results 
  • If your goal is to build certain organizational competencies, remember, more is less. Instead of focusing on several, which forces you to go 10 miles wide and an inch deep, pick one or two and do a real deep dive, so that you’re a mile wide and 10 miles deep, a better return
  • Whose responsibility is the development of the company’s employees? If you said you are, go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Employee development is and will always be the responsibility of the leader, you are merely the catalyst 
  • Stop using meeting webinar solutions to deliver synchronous and asynchronous learning, look at products like Adobe Connect or Go To Training, there’s a big difference. 

Where the field of learning has really failed in this country is that those in the discipline still continue to focus on the tools instead of the process. This is similar to those in the HR discipline when it comes to performance management. They focus on the tool and not the system or process.

If I gave you Rachel Ray’s cookware, do you think you could cook as good as she does, I don’t think so?

John Prpich, Learning Protagonist



Competency-Based Learning

One of the most significant opportunities being missed by most organizations today is the lack of a competency talent framework. I’ve always believed that the only true business differentiator is the competency of your organization. Everything else can typically be easily duplicated with financial resources.

The exact opposite is true for people. They are complex and require a great deal of effort and energy, however, if you can tap into their talents and keep them engaged in building their strengths, you will flourish.  History has proven this time and time again.

When it comes to the term competency, it’s often confused with other words like talent, strengths, or skills. By definition, a competency is where, motivation, knowledge, and skill meet. A competency can be a talent and it can certainly be a strength, so let’s not get too hung up on the term. The goal is to identify the critical or core competencies that are drivers of your organization’s success. Typically, I encourage the organization to select anywhere from 8-12 competencies – more than 12 becomes difficult to manage.

Once they’ve been identified and agreed upon,(this requires feedback from all levels of the organization), you can then start to incorporate them into the other systems and processes that drive your talent framework – selection, performance management, succession planning, personal development, and organizational values. These competencies also become an integral part of your culture.

Marcus Buckingham, the author of, Go Put Your Strengths To Work, also advocates focusing on the people’s strengths and not their weaknesses. What I found compelling about his work was that it aligned with my experiences as a leader.

Most performance review processes focus on improving someone’s weakness but rarely have I seen an improvement.  However, if they focused on a strength, I would see great strides being made. Even Dan Pink discussed this when he identified what motivates individuals – Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. The mastery of skills is aligned with focusing on strengths and that’s aligned with what Malcolm Gladwell shared in his book, Outliers, where he wrote that “ ten thousand hours is the magic of greatness.”

If you are going to build a competency-based organization, make certain that the learning opportunities you provide are tied to those competencies and incorporate them into everything you do.

On a final note, I’d like to suggest another philosophical opportunity. Would you hire a person that wasn’t willing to develop or improve themselves?  You probably will tell me that you wouldn’t but we do it all the time. One important criterion that is missed in the selection process is assuring newcomers that if they join your organization, they have to be willing to continue to learn and develop.  If not, why would you hire them?

If the competence of your employees is a business differentiator everyone has to be willing to continue to learn.

John Prpich, TalentBlueprint


Becoming a Learning Organization

During my 20 years in the business of learning and competency development, I’ve experienced a pattern that continues to plague organizations – confusing tools with strategy and process.

A good example of this can be found in performance management. Organizations focus all their energy on the tools and ignore the process, therefore the system has always failed. As the old saying goes, if I give you a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Developing an organizational mindset with a focus on behaviors necessary to ensure that the crystallization of the behaviors that will support the change you are looking for.

In the business of learning, organizations typically go directly to purchasing content or tools that will support the content – Learning Management Systems (LMS). Let’s remember if you buy a racing car that doesn’t make you a racing car driver.  It just makes you someone with a racing car. If your goal is to build organizational competence, you need to understand how to bring that change about. 

It isn’t easy. There are a series of questions you must ask yourself, here are some examples:

  • What does it mean to be a learning organization?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What are the challenges?
  • How does this align with our Mission, Vision, and Values?
  • What are the desired outcomes?
  • Who will champion this change?
  • How will this impact our goals?
  • What type of investment is involved?
  • How will this impact our culture?
  • How will this impact our ability to attract talent?
  • What behaviors are we trying to change?

As you can see, the list of questions will be very long and there’s a good reason. The average investment for a LMS today is around $100K, not including the learning content you would purchase or the overhead expense for managing the process. Take that and then factor in learning engagement trends, (30-40% of the organization), you’ll start to understand that this can easily be an expense instead of an investment.

Most organizations don’t realize the pre-work that proceeds getting ready to become a learning organization and they simply fail. Learning in North America is more of an expense than an investment. Billions of dollars are spent every year yet its rare for someone to articulate what happened or changed that impacted that expense that made it worthwhile. Part of this failure must do the lack of understanding of the model of learning evaluation (See Jack Phillips or Donald Kirkpatrick). Organizations should be developing Level 3 type evaluations to measure behavioral change.  It isn’t difficult, but most don’t understand how.

The other challenge is the perspective you must take when it comes to learning as a support function should engage with internal customers. Most learning departments use a push strategy, trying to force their customers to engage in learning –  this never works. You need to have the mindset that you are a vendor with a solution that can help your internal customers and the currency you are dealing with is time. How do you get your customers to invest their time in your solution? You must market your solution and you need testimonials from internal customers to encourage other customers to engage in your solution. This is a completely different mindset, but it works well.  I’ve been doing it for 18 years.

The other two critical components that are always missing are the Communication and Change Management strategies. How many times have you observed your organization’s leadership announce a change without doing any ground work and then watched that change fail.  People went back to work doing the same things they were doing before you told them what was going to change. We tend to forget the dangers in not explaining the Why’s of what we want to do and how that will positively impact the employee first, not the organization.

The other value of change management and communication is to get buy in. Remember, you want the leaders of the organization to drive the process and change, not the learning department.

John Prpich, Learning Protagonist




Making a Case for the Digital Transformation of Municipal Learning & Development

The digital transformation of municipalities has morphed over time from simply being a trendy “buzz word”, to becoming a central component of a modern municipal business strategy. Fortunately, government leaders are really starting to leverage modern technology to implement and improve administrative best practices.

“Smart governments integrate modern technology into their day-to-day operations to enhance engagement with citizens and other stakeholders to drive better outcomes – And, better technology improves public administration.”[1]

Modern technology is revolutionizing and transforming all aspects of public administration – everything from the way you manage your public works and assist citizens, to the way you administer your learning and development programs.

An LMS is a software application that helps organizations manage the administration, documentation, tracking, training and reporting of their Learners. It reduces the time, effort and cost of training programs while offering deeper insight into your Learner’s experience, compliance and progress. The number of organizations that now use learning management systems (LMS), is higher than ever before and digital learning and training is becoming more widely accepted and used.

That’s why it’s hard to understand, with all the proven efficiencies and benefits of using LMS software and digital learning, why some learning and development professionals still consider expensive, face-to-face, instructor-led training preferable to digital learning?

So, here’s a case for going digital:

It Breaks Down Silos – Different departments often use different systems resulting in decentralization and “everybody doing their own thing” with training and development. Centralizing your learning and development programs by using an LMS, eliminates the decentralization that results in scattered data across multiple municipal departments and improves management analytics and reporting so more informed decisions can be made.

It Eliminates Spreadsheets – Spreadsheets and legacy systems are unwieldy processes that lead to increased errors and a limited ability to track and monitor training, which ultimately results in frustration.

Produces IT Savings – On-site software requires in-house IT resources and expensive IT ongoing maintenance. It needs to be updated continually – plus it’s difficult to access information across departments and away from the office.

Using cloud-based software and Software-as-a-service (SaaS), eliminates the time spent on installations and manual software updates, while at the same time providing a more cost-effective solution that saves time and provides online data centers with far greater computer power and storage capacity.

You Can Do More with Less – Transforming your learning programs to digital learning simply allows you to deliver more training to more learners at less cost. It stretches training budgets because it reduces training costs (less travel, time away, travel expenses etc.)

Deliver consistent learning across your organization, anywhere, anytime – Maybe you need to deliver the same compliance course to various departments in your municipality at the same time? An LMS and digital learning makes this easy.

Adopting digital learning lets your team obtain certifications such as PMP, Change Management, Risk Management and more – right from their desktops – at a fraction of the cost of traditional classroom learning to acquire the same certifications.

Puts you ahead of the curve in your ability to entice younger workers – many of them are quite used to digital learning already.

It’s predicted that over the next 5 years, 51% of senior municipal staff members employees will be eligible to retire. Therefore keeping the current workforce engaged –millennials, generation Xers and baby boomers included – is essential to the success of each municipality. When you create a modern digital workplace and give employees tools to help them do their jobs it helps drive employee engagement, which keeps more young professionals in local government.

Establishes the right learning opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders – You can create Learning Paths and Learning Objectives within an LMS to ensure you are helping shape tomorrow’s leaders.

Improved control over the creation, deployment and management of your own training initiatives and staff development.

And More…………

As digital technology continues to evolve successful digital transformation will require careful collaboration, thoughtful planning and the inclusion of every department.

However, digital transformation isn’t only about technology, it’s about meshing the power of technology with a corporate culture that embraces the change technology can lead for the organization.

Any learning initiative needs employee buy-in and the support of upper management. And often organizations need assistance to help them create a strategic roadmap to guide them through their digital learning and development transformation.

We wanted to know why municipalities have been slow to adopt new technology to transform their learning and development programs so we conducted a survey in 2017. What we learned was, that while municipalities would like to have an LMS, purchasing their own LMS software is a huge capital outlay that is simply cost-prohibitive for many municipalities. In addition, we heard that those municipalities who already have their own LMS have a hard time sourcing quality, accredited training.

So, we developed muniLEARN – a collaborative learning management solution for municipalities that’s intended to be an end-to-end solution to help them as they navigate through their learning and development transformation and digital learning.

muniLEARN is a robust, secure, turn-key learning platform that lets you manage the deployment of your own learning and training initiatives – digitally, in a cost-effective manner.

If you’re considering transforming your learning and development program, Click here to try our free needs assessment tool to check your readiness to transform, or

Contact us at for:

  • More information about muniLEARN and/or a free introductory demo for your team
  • How your municipality can participate in our free Pilot Program to test drive using an LMS and digital learning

Remember, Learning Isn’t Where You are, It’s What You Do!

By: Susan Shannon, Founder & Principal of or at 855.477.5095

[1] The Digital Transformation of Public Administration – OpenGov


What Can a Learning Management System do for my municipality?

Municipalities have reported two (2) main pain points when it comes to managing their learning and development programs:

  1. They are tired of tracking Learning & Development on a spreadsheet and they would you like to have an LMS but they are cost-prohibitive for their municipality,
  2. Sourcing training content to populate their LMS is difficult and time-consuming, not to mention expensive

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

A Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application to help organizations manage the administration, documentation, tracking, training, reporting of their Learners. The main benefits of an LMS are to reduce the time, effort and cost of your training program while offering deeper insight into your Learner’s experience, compliance and progress.

With an LMS, you can assign training to your team to; a) grow the leaders of tomorrow (succession planning), b) for annual compliance training, c) for new hire onboarding or d) improve the job skills of employees in your organization. 

Not every municipality is the same so not everyone has the same needs when it comes to an LMS.  That’s why any LMS must offer a wide range of functionality to address individual municipal circumstances and the provider must be available to provide support and guidance along the way.

Learning Content

When organizations purchase their own LMS, the first step they need to do is upload training content into the LMS – and municipalities already know that it’s difficult and time consuming to source quality courses. But, then once they’ve found the training content they will need their IT or the LMS provider to upload it for them.  This increases costs and results in time delays in getting their training started.

A Learning Management Solution for Municipalities

muniLEARN is a collaborative learning management solution provided by, in partnership with Orion Learning. It saves municipalities money, improves  learning effectiveness, and helps them implement a safe, secure, collaborative learning solution across their municipality.

Here’s how:

muniLEARN has three components:

  • A state-of-the-art, robust, secure, subscription-based learning management system (LMS)
  • Access to a content marketplace of over 900 accredited, competency-based learning courses, programs and certification exams
  • Expertise to help you transform your learning and development program



Learning Management System – muniLEARN’s LMS comes with a full range of functionality already, but it is also customizable to suit individual needs.

Learning Content – With muniLEARN you have immediate access to our learning marketplace of over 900 accredited competency-based learning courses, programs and certification exams. We have sourced the best competency based learning courses from some of the world’s best content authors to provide you with an off-the-shelf content solution you can access directly or integrate it into your own learning programs. All of our courses are accredited by internationally recognized accreditation bodies including PMI, AXELOS, APMG International, ISSA, APM and ISTQB. We show you the accreditation agency on the accredited courses and your learners will receive certificates on successful completion of the exam.

Learning Transformation – muniLEARN has the expertise available to help guide municipalities through the transformation of their learning and development programs.

muniLEARN Pilot Program

If you’re not sure how muniLEARN will work for your municipality, we’ll give you a month to try it out!  Our muniLEARN Pilot program gives municipalities a test drive of the muniLEARN solution and the opportunity to experience using an LMS and digital learning.

Contact us today at to learn more and discuss your learning and training needs!