Research indicates that training in interpersonal skills, management practices, and sales strategies increases personnel retention figures and bottom-line sales results. This book documents 15 years of research techniques and results from corporate and internal soft-skill testing by leading domestic and international Fortune 500 companies.
A Case Study: Instruments, Surveys, Interviews,Figures from: Sprint IBM Pacific Bell FPL Chase Manhattan Bank M&M Mars Dell Computer Corporation 7-11 Allstate Insurance Nissan Genie Z. Laborde, – Ph.D. – I.D.E.A. JoAnn Garner, M.B.A. – Sprint Kay Best – IBM Linda McGregor – Pacific Bell George Flury – FPL Cliff Saunders, Ph.D. – Bell Northern Research Chuck Romero – Sprint Lindsay Collier – Eastman Kodak Donna Potignano – FPL Barbara Dabney – FPL Dell University Staff – Dell Computers
Empowered people don’t just survive stress, they sometimes thrive on lt. Empowered people don’t have to be held by the hand, constantly watched or controlled. They know what they need to do, and act with the organization’s best interests in mind. —Peter Kizilos, Training Magazine
Companies today do not have the time, the personnel, or the resources to monitor people carefully. People have to manage themselves. Besides, people perform better when they manage themselves. —John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene, Re-inventing the Corporation
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 Bottom Line Impact
Chapter 2 Long Term Impact: IBM and Chase Manhattan Bank
Chapter 3 Research
Chapter4 Meeting $aved
Chapter 5 Management Practices
Chapter 6 Team Building
Chapter 7 Humor Chapter 8 Time $aved—Money $aved
Chapter 9 Common Language
Chapter 10 National Sales Record Set
Chapter 11 Attitude Changes
Chapter 12 Changes/Success
Chapter 13 Energy/Fun
Chapter 14 Use of Other Seminar Skills
Chapter 15 Super Question5 and Metaphors: Two Skills Going in Opposite Directions
Chapter 16 Manipulation/Dovetail
Chapter 17 Other Measurable Indicators: Customer Complaints, Retentions, Replacements, and Activation
Chapter 18 I-E Locus of Control
Chapter 19 ASTD Panel Report: FPL, Sprint and Pacific Bell
Chapter 20 Synopsis from Pacific Bell study by Linda McGregor
Chapter 21 Evaluations from Dell Computer
Chapter 22 Health and Interpersonal Skills
This book reveals the secrets of conducting corporate research to measure changes from soft-skills training.
I began designing and conducting research as a sales tool for our seminars fifteen years ago. My clients sometimes conducted their own research. Years later, usually when the trainer retired, I would receive a copy. Recently I’ve become aware of how scarce soft skills research is. So this book is a case study of justifying training dollars for our clients. At the same time the instruments and approaches can be valuable to any training group. Thus this book and its title. Research is expensive- in time and money. However, anecdotal evidence is not enough to justify “soft” skills being designated “hard” skills. Statistics probably won’t change soft skills to hard skills either, but these statistics indicate that soft skills do make a difference in important areas for business. This book contains enough “indicators” to challenge the connotation of “soft” skills as unimportant for the business world. Research indicates a three-day training in interpersonal skills, management practices, sales strategies, the retention figures and/or the bottom line of Sprint, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, Pacific Bell and FPL. The trainings tested teach interpersonal skills which are similar to those skills cited by Peter Senge as essential for creating a learning organization. More on this under Theory 2 in the Author’s Note.
Change is hard to prove. Change in a positive direction is even harder to prove, and change that increases dollar return on investment is the most elusive of all. In this book we cannot prove this connection, but we can “indicate strongly,” and we will. We will use 27 separate research studies. Two were conducted by IBM, one by Sprint Corporate, 19 by International Dialogue Education Associates, one by Pacific Bell, one a panel report, one by Chase Manhattan Bank, one by Dell Computer Corporation and one, a review of the literature. The studies collected data from more than 1,250 employees. In a study conducted for the Labor Department of Motorola Inc. estimates that they earn $30 for every $1 invested in employee training. For “soft” skills, this book’s research indicates the figures might be even larger. Do the people involved think the skills they learned in the training had a significant role in the improved productivity and sales? We’ll use their own words to answer this. Their exact words are one of the reasons for this book.
What would explain the evidence, presented here, that people changed their beliefs and their behaviors in only three days of training?
THEORY 1: LEFT BRAIN / RIGHT BRAIN / WHOLE BRAIN
It’s been known for some time that we have two brains, a right and a left, and that these two brains process information differently. The left brain processes language and the right brain processes pictures, collages of data, the present moment and joy. What is not widely known is that the left brain-and our culture is mostly left brained-processes small amounts of information close up. . . a worm’s eye view, so to speak.
It’s as if one half of our brain is a computer programmed by a worm. The right brain processes large amounts of information into patterns. This computer is programmed for a bird’s eye view, a mountain top view-the big picture. Because our culture is so left-brain oriented, business people tend to problem solve with one solution, rather than stepping back and looking at the big picture, discovering many options, then choosing the best. We use small amounts of information to think about, then take action. In our own culture, people who can readily use their right brain are known as creative, often as creative geniuses. They may or may not be geniuses, but they do process their perceptions in a different way from most. Interestingly enough, there is an attraction to right brain thinking that is seductive. If you’ve done it a few times, you want to do it more and more. The problem is that most people don’t know how to set it in motion. They have blinding flashes–intuitive insights, then they revert to “normal” left brain thinking.
Right brain thinking is normal, too. Left brained people find this whole area and the people in it “weird.” What they don’t know is they can do it, too. We all have both left and right brains, but most of us don’t know how to use them. Also, the right brain is seen to be the door to the unconscious mind, while the left brain uses conscious information and small amounts of information, viewed up close. Whether the right brain is the door or the unconscious mind itself is controversial. Both left and right brains have certain advantages, but the biggest difference occurs when you can use both brains together. It may be a rapid shuttling back and forth or it may be both brains are synchronized. Here is the biggest secret of all. When both brains work together, extra energy becomes available. This extra energy can be used to create success. The attraction of right brain thinking is that when it “backs up” the left brain thinking, the extra energy available with this kind of processing is astounding. It’s as if, once you begin to use both brains, to look for and find lots of options to a “next move” then the energy to pursue one or more of these options is generated. The energy seems to be intrinsic to the process of two brained thinking. Why is this? I don’t know; however, this was pointed out as early as 1945 by Robert Desoille, whose work on the Waking Dream contributed to Roberto Assigioli’s work, Psychosynthesis.
Psychosynthesis is one way to learn right brain processing. There are many ways. This book teaches some of these ways. Coincidentally, it also teaches how to carry out the advice of the management experts. These experts tell you what to do, but in most cases are not able to tell you how to do the “what.” By using two brain thinking, their advice really does work. This book supplies many of the missing pieces for business management and gives first-hand accounts from people who have used these “missing pieces” and found they work. This insight about left and right brain processing as applied to business practices came ten years after I began teaching the processes presented here. I knew the processes worked to make me more effective. When I taught them to business people, they became more effective. I actually did not realize how much more effective until I began gathering information for this book. I heard story after story of success attributed to the three day seminar, Influencing with Integrity®, and my response was, “I don’t think one three-day seminar can cause so much change in so many people.”
I believe in education, and I believe in what I teach, but my natural skepticism was greater than my ego, in this case. What I finally came to believe is that the skills we teach are tapping into the processes natural to the right brain, and thus the energy of the two-brain approach is tapped. This vortex of energy from the two-brain processing creates successful changes in behavior. This vortex of energy also allows humor and play to appear in the work environment. Humor is not present without an excess of energy. If you are struggling to survive, it’s hard to laugh. 0ne of the clues as to what was happening with the group of executives, directors, managers, supervisors, and sales representatives presented here was the repeated mention of increased humor, fun and play. The formula is simple:
TWO BRAINS PROCESSING => ENERGY => HUMOR
In the next chapters are ways to tap into right brain processing and to activate two brain processing. I knew that the twelve skills I taught changed the habitual patterns of my students. What I did not realize was that I was teaching them to interrupt their left brain habitual thinking with right brain patterns. Whenever they actually did remember to try out the right brain processes (the 12 skills presented the seminar Influencing with Integrity®), then both brains were engaged, and this special vortex of energy was tapped. This energy usually led to success and more success.
THREE OTHER THEORIES
While I’m attracted to the “whole brain-energy-success” theory, there are other possible explanations of what happened at Sprint, Pacific Bell, Chase, FPL, and other large corporations.
THEORY 2: CREATING A LEARNING ORGANIZATION
Another theory is that by teaching the twelve process skills (p. 1-10), we are setting up a “learning organization,” to use Peter Senge’s term. The process skills do give you an “itch” to learn more. They sort of “prime” the brain and get it going, like a splash of water in a rusty pump. In “The Fifth Discipline” Senge lists the five disciplines needed for a learning organization: Team Learning, Mental Models, Personal Mastery, Vision, and Systems Thinking. I am sure that “team learning” occurs during the seminar itself and feedback says this usually continues. Our training module, Maps of Reality (p. I-11 ), overlaps with Senge’s ideas of “Mental Models.” “Systems thinking” is defined, explained and referred to again and again in the training, and “Personal Mastery” is both emphasized and taught in the State of Excellence Module (p. I-11). Senge’s idea of a “Vision” is implicit in the Outcome Setting Module (p. I-11 ), and the Dovetailing Module (p. I-11). So even a quick appraisal indicates the essential components of creating a “Learning Organization” are taught in the Influencing with Integrity® seminar (IWI). Maybe the extra energy and success are the natural result of learning to learn. I was impressed enough with Senge’s book to include his idea as one of the reasons soft skills are important to business.
THEORY 3: LEARNING ESSENTIAL SKILLS
One of these theories is inspired by a July 29,1991, Fortune magazine article, “The Trouble with MBAs” which focused on the skills needed in today’s changing market-place, skills which are not now taught. This quotation cites the position of this article in regard to the lack of essential skills among MBAs. “The Trouble with MBAs: Business schools aren’t giving them the skills employers need– leading, creating, communicating-so companies are doing it themselves, or looking elsewhere.” Later the article continues: “Corporate recruiters complain that MBAs lack creativity, people skills, attitude for teamwork, and the ability to speak and write with clarity and conciseness-all hallmarks of a good manager.” Perhaps, what our trainings do is supply those needed skills. The extraordinary successes talked about in these interviews may simply be the result of having skills that are needed for success in today’s changing marketplace.
THEORY 4: FLOW FOR SUCCESS
A third theory could be found in Flow: The Psychology of the Optimum Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of the University of Chicago. Impressive research over 20 years indicates that flow experiences are found in all cultures when people are sufficiently challenged and adequately skilled. Maybe the communication, sales, negotiation, and interpersonal skills we train are enough to meet the daily challenges at Sprint, IBM, Pacific Bell, Chase, Dell and FPL and the energy of the flow experience then creates success. Or maybe the changes are a combination of all four of these ideas. Why not decide for yourself?
The secrets of legitimate research are usually buried under the obscurantism of academic writing, but there are only a few necessary facts that you need to know to design sophisticated research. You will find these facts here and in the following pages, which contain copies of all the instruments and questionnaires used. The above is an excerpt from “Toot Your Own Horn”.
LEVELS OF EVALUATION
Donald L. Kirkpatrick has written a book, Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels, in which these widely accepted criteria are presented.
- Level 1: “Smile Sheets.” Trainee responses. Important because if you don’t like the course you are not likely to use the material. Did trainees like the course?
- Level 2: What did the trainees learn?
- Level 3: Do behaviors change on the job?
- Level 4: Did behavior changes improve business results?
If you consider these four levels, it is clear that Level 4 implies yes to the other three levels. Note in Chapter 1. on Bottom Line Results, that Sprint’s questionnaire gathers Level 4 information.
THIS BOOK IS BASED ON 27 DIFFERENT RESEARCH PROJECTS: SOME PROJECTS HAVE AS MANY AS 11 SEPARATE DATA COLLECTIONS FROM INTERVENTIONS OVER TIME.
1. DESIGN l: MAILED SURVEY DESIGNED AND ADMINISTERED BY SPRINT PERSONNEL.
The first study in 1989, was designed, administered and collated by corporate training personnel under the direction of Janice Schoenwetter and JoAnn Garner. Some questions gathered Level 4 data about bottom-line impact from training. The individual comments, which were written on the mailed form by Sprint employees, are presented separately here from the interviews. Genie Z. Laborde, who led the later research studies, did not know of this Sprint research until months after it was completed. The questionnaire and study itself is presented in Chapter 3. Levels I.II.III.IV
2. DESIGN 2: INTERVIEWS FOR PATTERNS OF CHANGE – CONDUCTED BY GENIE LABORDE WITH KEY EXECUTIVES, MANAGERS, AND EMPLOYEES.
The second study began with interviews from the three directors of a division we later trained. These three interviews, plus interviews with the direct reports shaped the instrument called Opinion Surveys, which Genie then administered to the top people in this division. Levels I and III.
3.DESIGN 3: INTERVIEWS FOR QUOTATIONS AND ANECDOTES.
Genie also continued to interview 43 additional people from all levels, who had been through the Influencing with Integrity® training. These last interviews were primarily for a training video she produced with Sprint, and are called Ditto Ripples because the subjects mentioned usually had already been initiated and encouraged by members of the key group. The key group interviews were longer, more in-depth, and give a bigger picture so these are given more space. The Ditto Ripple quotations are presented to show that the changes noticed at the director and manager level, also were being noticed and repeated at the supervisory and salesperson level as well. Levels II and III.
4.DESIGN 4: CHASE MANHATTAN BANK: OBJECTIVE THIRD PARTY INTERVIEWS
The editor of an in-house newsletter at Chase Manhattan Bank conducted interviews with eight of the participants of the Communication Excellence seminar more than one year after the seminar. The interviews were about changes as a result of the seminar. A copy of this article is included in Chapter 2. Levels II and III.
5.DESIGN 5: MAILED QUESTIONNAIRE TO PARTICIPANTS FOR LEVEL 3 RESEARCH AT IBM (SUBJECTIVE ANSWERS).
This questionnaire was designed by IBM to gather Level 3 data from the participants about their use of the seminar skills on the job one year later.
6.DESIGN 6: MAILED QUESTIONNAIRE TO MANAGERS OF PARTICIPANTS FOR LEVEL 3 RESEARCH AT IBM (OBJECTIVE ANSWERS).
7.DESIGN 7: OPINION SURVEYS: INSTRUMENT ADMINISTERED AT SPRINT. (BOTH SUBJECTIVE, ON SELF, AND OBJECTIVE, ON OTHERS).
This instrument grew out of the in-depth interviews and was mailed, or handed to the 15 members of the key group and other managers. Eleven returned the instrument. Levels II and III.
8.DESIGN 7: (SAME INSTRUMENT, DIFFERENT AUDIENCE).
The same Opinion Survey, created by Sprint feedback, was administered at FPL (Florida Power & Light) with trainers and managers to ascertain whether the same changes were noticed in another corporation where we had trained approximately 1,000 people in Customer Service. This FPL Opinion Survey is also included in Chapter 3. A composite of the Sprint FPL results is also included in Chapter 3. Levels II and III.
8.DESIGN 8: I-E LOCUS OF CONTROL LEVENSON’S VERSlON OF ROTTER’S INSTRUMENT FROM SOCIOLOGY.
Conducted with 10 groups in the U.S., two in Russia, one in Mexico. This sensitive instrument evolved from theories in sociology and measures deeply held beliefs that affect behavior, responsibility and productivity. The first version was designed by Julian Rotter and there are more than 1500 separate studies using versions of his instrument. More information on this can be found on pages 18-1 to 18-20. The companies contributing data are: Southland Corporation (7-11), Cernitin America, Allstate Insurance, Multi-Management Co., M&M Mars, Interceramic and Nissan.
9.DESIGN 9: I-E LOCUS WITH THREE SEPARATE CONTROL GROUPS.
Linda McGregor, in her job as Sales Training Manager at Pacific Bell conducted her own study using this instrument. See pages 19-1 to 19-7. Levels II and III.
10. DESIGN 10: PANEL DISCUSSION AUDIO-TAPED FOR QUOTATIONS. AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT PANEL
Six representatives of corporations who are experts in their field delivered their own research and experiences around the G. Laborde seminars and these presentations were audio-taped. Relevant excerpts from the audio tapes are presented on pages 21-1 to 21-7. Levels II and III.
11.DESIGN 11: BOTTOM LINE RESULTS
Actual figures and opinions are both useful in this area; however, actual figures carry more weight. This is Level 4 research and indeed, difficult to elicit from clients. Sprint’s corporate research gathered Level Four data. See chapter one. Level IV.
12.DESIGN 12: SMILE SHEETS
Evaluations by participants immediately following a seminar are designated Level One research. This level reflects whether the students liked the course or not. If they liked the course, they are more likely to use the skills presented. The research presented in this category was collected by Dell Computers. We also gathered class evaluations from each corporation on our client list. Most of these have been retained in our files at our corporate office.
13.DESIGN 13: REVIEW OF OTHER STUDIES
Compilation of multiple related studies conducted by other Researchers. This review is focused on the statistical correlation between interpersonal skills – relationships – health and longevity.
IF YOU ARE DESIGNING RESEARCH
The essential know-how of research is revealed in the chapters which contain examples of 13 specific types of research. All instruments that were used to gather the data are included in this book.
A RECAP OF POSSIBLE RESEARCH DESIGNS AND LEVELS:
1. SURVEY FOR PARTICIPANTS GATHERING DATA ON THE SUBJECT’S SUBJECTIVE AND OBJECTIVE EXPERIENCES.
When using questionnaires, the responses are returned without contamination of data by the presence of an interviewer. Example: Sprint. Levels I,II,III, and IV.
2. INTERVIEWS FOR PATTERNS OF CHANGE
Interviewing of subjective experience of participants is useful, if the numbers are large enough. One or two or even ten people is not enough, and the information is considered anecdotal. When thirty-plus people are interviewed, this is research. Subjective accounts are very powerful in indicating change. Example: Quotations in Chapter 1. Levels II and III.
3. INTERVIEWS FOR QUOTATIONS AND ANECDOTES.
The author conducted numerous video interviews which are an excellent source of information. Example: Quotations in Chapter l. Levels II and III.
4. OBJECTIVE PARTY INTERVIEWS
When the interviewer does not have a personal or professional stake in the answers, the information gathered has less contamination and more credibility – a legitimate method of data gathering. Example: Chase Manhattan Bank quotations in Chapter 2.� Levels II and III.
5. QUESTIONNAIRE TO GATHER SUBJECTIVE INFORMATION ON TRAINING.
Example: Level 3 questionnaire sent by IBM in Chapter 2. Levels II and III.
6. QUESTIONNAIRE TO MANAGERS GATHERING SUBJECTIVE INFORMATION ON DIRECT REPORTS.
Example: Level 3 questionnaire sent by IBM, Chapter 2. Level III.
7. OPINION SURVEY FOR OBJECTIVE AND SUBJECTIVE INFORMATION
Objective information from managers, colleagues and observers adds another level of credibility to research findings. Example: Chapter 3. Levels II and III.
8. INSTRUMENTS CAN PRODUCE POWERFUL STATISTICS.
If the instruments are completed by 30 or more, you have useful and impressive research. The statistical results of pre and post instruments, compared with a control group, which indicate a shift or trend are difficult to discount. Your intervention (the training) has a strong probability of being the cause of the shift or the trend. To study our trainings, we’ve used the I-E locus of Control pre- and post-seminar as well as the Communication Congruence Inventory from University Associates. Example: I-E Locus in Chapter 18. Levels II and III.
9. USE OF THREE DIFFERENT CONTROL GROUPS – PACIFIC BELL STUDY BY LINDA MCGREGOR.
If you are gathering statistical data, you must be aware of the proper use of control groups. Control groups, When used properly will counter the Hawthorne effect. The Hawthorne effect is named from a series of studies that indicate any change, shorter hours or longer hours, can increase productivity at a manufacturing site. The way Ms. McGregor used control groups, to eliminate the Hawthorne effect is that she: 1. administered the instrument at one time then again at a later time, roughly equivalent to the pre-and post- time of your test group. 2. administered the instrument, but the group attended another training with similar but different content. Pre- and post- measurements are used. 3. administered the instrument pre-and post-, but the group attended another training with decidedly different content. This narrows the results so that the shift or trend seems to be dependent on the exact content of the training being tested. Example: Pacific Bell Study 19-1 to 19-7. Levels II and III.
10. PANEL DISCUSSIONS WITH EXPERTS WHO ARE AUDIO-TAPED
Panels are another source of valid information on the effectiveness of interventions. The experts draw not only from their own personal experiences but also on the experiences of the groups they represent. Research measuring change in human beings is difficult but possible. Levels II and III.
11. INTERVIEWS USING A QUESTIONNAIRE.
This approach if designed correctly and administered correctly, has the advantage of gathering figures. The disadvantage is that the information gathered may be contaminated, either positively or negatively by the attitude and nonverbals of the interviewer. We all respond to the person with whom we are communicating. Some of us like the other’s approval and some of us consistently go polarity to what the other wants. This can skew the results. Levels II and III.
12. MONEY TALKS: BOTTOM LINE RESULTS
Bottom line figures that show a trend are impressive as research. Money saved, time saved, estimates of money earned as a result of using new skills all affect bottom line. Levels II, III and IV.
13. REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Research conducted by others can be compiled to build a strong case. Here health research, relationship studies and skills of communication indicate a correlation between immune system function, strong ties, and communication skills.
Research is driven by numbers. What many people do not know, however, is that 33 people going in one direction are enough to indicate a trend. So if you use random selection and interview 33 people to discover a similarity, you’ve got research. Yes, the purists will want control groups, and matched populations, but this, in a practical world, is frosting on the cake. If the 33 are part of a written survey, without a live interviewer, even better. The live interviewer can contaminate as explained above. Also, statistics are not infallible, as you probably know. Here’s one example: When Elvis Presley died there were 26 Elvis impersonators. In three years, there were 233 impersonators. In five years there were 1,397. Using statistical projections, by the year 2000, one in five U.S. citizens will be an Elvis impersonator. Be careful of relying too much on figures. Use your eyes, ears, feelings and common sense to make decisions about trainings. As one of the Sprint responders wrote on his survey in response to a request for an estimate of dollar amounts earned from the learned skills of the seminar, “Even as a manager, I think this is a peculiar question and wonder why we are so afraid to try things just because we intuitively know they are the ‘right’ things to do!”
TIME OF RESEARCH
Most of the key-people interviews took place 6 to 12 months after the IWI training. The bottom line results, in the interviews, refer to those from August 1989 to February I990. The first interviews began in February 1990 and continued through the remainder of the year. The bottom line results from the Sprint Corporate Research are from 1989.
PACIFIC BELL: 1988 FPL: 1990 CHASE: 1987 IBM: APPROXIMATELY 1988
The real names of the ASTD panel members are used as are the real names of the Chase Manhattan Bank interviewees. In most cases the names of the personnel at Sprint have been changed. In a few cases, like Chuck Romero, the real names have been retained.
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