Margin Notes: Hyper-specialization in an Organization

Margin Notes: Hyper-specialization in an Organization

As early as 2011, experts were concerned and excited by hyperspecialization in the 21st Century. The basic idea: As the market explores the potential of the knowledge economy, specialization can surpass traditional divisions of marketing, sales, operations, and research. New organizational structure allows for micro-divisions of labor -- let’s take marketing for example.

October Funday: Archery Training

We found out a couple things at our most recent Friday fun day company outing -- archery and bowling are apparently the two safest sports & our Director of Engineering Trey Reynolds is as excellent a shot as he is a colleague. 

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When it was Lila's turn to plan our fun day, she knew exactly what she wanted to organize: archery. Like the truly thoughtful person she is, she provided an excellent selection of snacks and beverages to accompany our team archery lessons just before Halloweekend. We had a group lesson followed by several rounds of arrows for each of us. 

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We were glad that we got to share our monthly fun day with our European operations head, Nathan Kracklauer. He doesn't get to see everyone too often, but it was a happy coincidence that his annual visit fell on the day we went to the archery range and spent some time team building.


The experience was a ton of fun. We recommend a group archery lesson to any team that is looking for something fun and creative to get them out of the office!


Celebrating a win at EFMD

We want to thank our wonderful partners Complex Adaptive Leadership and Nokia once again -- celebrating our shared win at the EFMD awards conference reinforced how much we value their partnership and how proud we are of our shared program. 

Proudly showing off our new EFMD Excellence in Practice Gold Award

Proudly showing off our new EFMD Excellence in Practice Gold Award

Through our partnership with Complex Adaptive Leadership, our program at Nokia has seen excellent results and we are proud of the EFMD Gold Award that it has earned.

Following implementation across 400 managers in 16 groups, results have shown:

  • Applied learning has increased by 93%
  • Reflective practice has increased by 96%
  • Peer co-coaching has increased by 147%
  • A 4-month payback of total program cost

If you are interested in learning more about our work with CAL and Nokia, you may read more about it in on our blog or you can download our case study here.


First Abilitie Learning & Development Roundtable

On October 20, Abilitie sponsored the first of a series of Learning & Development Roundtables that we will host around the country. The inaugural session was in Dallas, Texas, just up the road from our headquarters in Austin. 

A small but mighty group of learning leaders in Dallas, Texas!

A small but mighty group of learning leaders in Dallas, Texas!

We were so excited to get together with some of our Dallas-area L&D friends last week to discuss their virtual learning best practices. Topics covered learning management systems, simulation learning, the best size cohort for virtual training (reported best practices were 24-28!), and how to combat preconceived notions of on-the-job training. 

The discussion was guided by Alfredo Perez of Johnson & Johnson. Alfredo is the Global Academy Training Director for Johnson & Johnson's Corporate Strategy and Deployment Group. He led the discussion and provided meaningful guidance around the idea of "social learning". He said that learning professionals can get the most effective learning by leveraging the learning potential between professionals in his program. We completely agree.

Needless to say, we learned a lot from Alfredo and the rest of the learning leaders in the room. It's always nice to remind ourselves why we love being in this business -- the people, the people, the people.

If you have any interest in attending a learning roundtable in the future, let us know! We have several planned in all regions of the US in 2018.

To keep up to date on a roundtable near you, connect with us below.

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Abilitie and Western Digital Win Silver for “Best Use of Blended Learning”  


We at Abilitie are excited to announce that we have earned a coveted Brandon Hall Group silver medal for excellence in the Best Use of Blended Learning category in partnership with Western Digital.

The winning program, Leading@WDC, is a hallmark example of what a creative partnership between committed organizations can create. We are honored that the hard work shared between Western Digital and our team at Abilitie has continued to pay off.

Read more about the award-winning program here.

“Excellence Award winners symbolize the power and impact that Human Capital Management practices can have on a business or on any organization,” said Rachel Cooke, COO of Brandon Hall Group and head of the awards program.

Award entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group analysts and executives based upon the following criteria: fit the need, design of the program, functionality, innovation, and overall measurable benefits. 

We see this award as especially exciting, as it highlights one of the often forgotten benefits of a comprehensive training and development program—learning together leads to a strong company culture. As one leader of an acquired team noted, “I’ve never felt more welcome than when I came to this program.”

Participants of this blended learning program forged strong networks with one another and built trust. This trust is essential, and we at Abilitie believe that engaging, challenging, and rewarding learning programs are among the best ways to build it.


Abilitie Breaks Through!

As summer quickly came to an end for 20 rising eleventh-grade students, Abilitie had the opportunity to interact with engaged, hard working, and bright young minds in their Professional Experiences Institute through Breakthrough Central Texas. 

Breakthrough builds a path through college, beginning in middle school, for students from low-income communities who will become the first in their families to earn a college degree. The program combines individualized, long-term case management with extended learning time for students who statistics say will not enroll in or graduate from college without significant support. 

The Abilitie team served on a panel to observe and listen to student's presentations about key learnings from their summer. Members of the panel were given the opportunity to deliver presentation feedback, ask questions and continue conversations with the students around their future development goals. 

Abilitie holds a vision to change the way people learn and our team was ecstatic to work with an organization who fosters learning in new and innovative ways for our younger generation! 


Two Tactics to Train Managers for Clarity in Leadership

Clarity in leadership is an essential aspect of modern management. It is also not something that comes naturally to everyone—luckily, it is something that can be learned! With enough work and a careful approach, anyone can improve their ability to manage with clarity.

Why it Matters

Communicating clearly with the people you manage should be a priority. Not only is there the risk that tasks will be completed incorrectly or that team members will not be aligned, but unclear management will spread into other important aspects of company culture. In fact, the ability to foster trust in a team is deeply tied to clarity in leadership.

According to Dr. Paul J. Zak, “vague or impossible goals cause people to give up before they even start.” This is in contrast to a manager who has been trained effectively in clear communication and is able to inspire her direct reports by outlining audacious goals in terms that actually increase engagement. When a challenge is well explained and the path to success is outlined vividly, there is a net gain in engagement, even if the task is difficult.

Make Challenges Specific

When teaching managers how to better communicate with their teams, an easy improvement we all can make is to be specific when we set goals. This specificity is proven to increase manager effectiveness.

Action: Rather than tasking a team with “improving sales,” task a team with engaging with ten more leads a week than they currently do.

Model Emotional Transparency

For many managers, it can be difficult to adopt emotional transparency as good practice. This isn’t to suggest that a manager needs to unload all of their emotional baggage on their team (this would probably confuse them more than anything!), but there is value in building a team culture in which openness is not just accepted but expected.

Action: Try starting team meetings with a short “State of Being” discussion. Model openness by sharing some of what is happening in your non-work life and encourage that others share as well.

It's Only the Beginning

There are many more ways to incorporate clarity into your management training offerings, but these are two solid first steps. By integrating these two tactics, team engagement will rise and team productivity will follow.

Three Elements of Motivational Speech

Motivating a workforce is one of the most persistent challenges that managers face. Even at the most mission-driven companies, it can be hard to bring people together to put their energy toward a common goal.

According to research conducted by husband and wife team, Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield, there are three key elements that must be balanced in order to achieve this group motivation.

The first, “direction giving,” is an essential tool for any communicator. In the case of a motivational speech, this can take the form of a challenge. Rather than encouraging your team to “increase sales,” one might lay out a task: “Call 20 potential clients.” This challenge is specific and actionable. It’s a lot easier to get aligned and motivated for a task that has already been outlined than for a task that is theoretical.  

“Emotional acknowledgement” is an element of motivational speaking that is familiar to most managers, but can be easy to neglect when deadlines are looming. That being said, this element is as easy to add as saying (and genuinely believing!), “I understand this is not easy, but we are in it together.”

Last and certainly not least is “meaning-making language.” This is often the missing ingredient when managers communicate with their teams. While we can always pull up our company website and read off the mission statement, it is worthwhile for you to articulate to your team the “Why?” of your organization. Think of it as a rejuvenating practice--you have a captive audience, remind them why they actually want to be achieving!

Utilizing these elements in tandem can be difficult. Speaking in terms of big picture “meaning-making” can make it easy to breeze over the more personal “emotional acknowledgment.” Focusing on “direction giving” can minimize the “meaning-making” you want to accomplish. It takes practice and determination to learn how to be a good manager, but with an intentional approach to development, it is possible!

Abilitie at NewCoAtx: Management Challenge Demo

We are excited to share that Abilitie will be one of the presenting host companies at this year’s NewCoAtx Conference. 

NewCoAtx is bringing together companies from a wide variety of industries with the common quality of driving positive change in our communities.

At our session, we are excited to share with you our newest simulation, Management Challenge, in which participants drive organizational change at the “people level”. We hope you will come visit us on June 21 at 4:00pm in the Capital Factory 16th Floor Classroom. 

By attending and taking part in our demo, you will encounter challenging scenarios (a new hire who needs extra coaching, an employee who doesn’t want a promotion, a team that needs just a little more motivation) and must manage your way to a profitable quarter and a better developed workforce. Along the way, our facilitator will coach participants through debriefs to translate the game experience into tangible skills. We’re always working for that “Aha!” moment.  

As a special gift to our local Abilitie community, we’re offering discounted tickets to come join us at our NewCo demo presentation (as well as the many other excellent presenters). Simply use the code ABILITPC when checking out here.

Thank you for your involvement with Abilitie. With every new relationship we build and old relationship we maintain, we believe we are elevating and refining learning opportunities in the workplace. See you next week!

Abilitie Flies

Abilitie staff took a short break from work today to celebrate one of our team members—Taylor Taliaferro is going to medical school!

In honor of Taylor's accomplishment and to celebrate all the great work she's done here at Abilitie, we went to iFLY Indoor Skydiving in North Austin to get our adrenaline pumping before Taylor hits the books. 

We're sad to see Taylor go, but know that she is going to make us proud in medical school and beyond.

One thing is certain: the Abilitie team is going to have to work double-time to bring as much energy and enthusiasm into the day-to-day without Taylor around. Luckily, we think she'll still visit. 

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