Wednesday, April 22, 2009 by Dave Blum

I attended an interesting lecture yesterday evening by Pat Leonard, Executive VP for the American Management Association.  The title of the speech was “The Power of Information in Employee Development”.  Sounds a little dry, huh?  In fact, Ms. Leonard’s content was rather timely, especially in her description of the current situation out there —for both employees and employers

Leonard suggested that your average worker is currently engaged in “VUCA”…which made me think of Star Trek, for some reason.  In fact, VUCA stands for:

  • Volatility
  • Uncertainty
  • Complexity
  • Ambiguity

Sounds about right, doesn’t it?   With all the budget cuts and downsizing going on, you can imagine why employees would be struggling to make sense of their rapidly-changing, highly-uncertain work situation all around them.  According to Leonard, employees are suffering from a crisis of confidence, uncertain about whom to trust, frustrated by the lack of clarity, and overwhelmed by the volume of information.

Employers, too, are in an uncomfortable transition, being forced to decide on what kind of business they want (or need) to be in this economy:

Will they simply Survive?
Will they try to Reposition?
Or will they Thrive and Grow?

Given the situation as it is, Leonard believes that access to information (and talent strategy) is the key competitive differentiator.  In other words, organizations large and small are needing to decide:

What don’t we know?  &
How can we learn it?

Leonard conclude her lecture with a description of the 70/20/10 rule.  Have you heard of it?  It goes like this:

  • 70% of learning comes on the job, within the context of the work you’re doing. In other words, you learn while doing–either alone or with a manager or co-worker.
  • 20% of learning comes through others, via mentoring, coaching or networking.
  • 10% of learning comes through formal programs.

The challenge, then, for organizations is to:
1) Get new, appropriate information
2) Create an expectation that people will use it.
3) Make sure there’s an opportunity to use it.