Six L&D 'hot takes' - which is the hottest?
We explore six provocative takes from the worlds of ESG, EDI, Internal Comms, L&D, Employee Experience, and Wellbeing. Is there any truth to them?
I’m a huge fan of The Rewatchables podcast. If you’re a movie nerd, you will be too. Each week the hosts take a classic film and ask questions like: ‘Was this character actually good at their job?’, ‘Just one Oscar: Who gets it?’ and, my favourite, ‘The Hottest Take’ award.
The ‘Hottest Take Award’ is given to the contributor who shares the most provocative commentary on the film, only for the others to think: ‘Wait… is that actually true?’
Here’s why I like the concept of a ‘Hot Take’: It gives you a fresh perspective on an otherwise established issue. Sometimes you examine that perspective and dismiss it as nonsense. At other times, you might find your original ideas challenged, or even changed.
And since I’ve never had an original idea in my life, we decided to steal this concept and apply it to the world of HR and L&D.
To do this, Mind Tools hosted a fringe event at the CIPD Festival of Work in partnership with our friends at Emotion at Work. The format was simple: The team crowdsourced hot takes from everyone who attended, then picked a ‘Hottest Take’ under each of the six streams running concurrently at the festival.
Each of these ‘Hottest Takes’ was then discussed over a few drinks and, now, we’re running a poll to determine the ‘Hottest of Hot Takes’! It’s your chance to get involved, and the winning ‘Take’ will become the focus of an upcoming crossover podcast to be recorded by the Mind Tools and Emotion at Work teams.
So, without further ado, the nominees for each Festival of Work stream ‘Hot Take’, with my own ‘Take-on-the-Take’…
🌲 Hot Take 1: Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG): ‘ESG’ as a term conveys no sense of urgency. Climate change is happening now!
My Take-on-the-Take: Climate change is the perfect disaster for humanity. It has disastrous long-term consequences but, generally speaking, absolutely no immediate impact whatsoever. What ESG does is formalize our response into policy. Yes, I’m claiming that ‘better regulation’ will save the day. If I did have a criticism, it would be that bundling together three different issues has the effect of diluting each. We could re-brand it ‘Miscellaneous stakeholder concerns’.
🤝 Hot Take 2: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: We need to be more honest to the ‘overrepresented’ - what they’ll give up and what they’ll gain.
My Take-on-the-Take: An excellent - though uncomfortable - conversation that is generally avoided. As of 2023, there are nine female CEOs in the FTSE 100. Were that number to reflect UK demographics, we would expect to see 51 women and 49 men. It stands to reason, then, that increasing the number of female CEOs means reducing the number of men. We don’t talk about this for fear of triggering a negative response in those who we want to convince. The truth, I suspect, is that the people most reluctant to be a part of this change are thinking that anyway, so we might as well be honest with them.
💻 Hot Take 3: Internal Comms: L&D can never build communities as they are not targeted or rewarded for it.
My Take-on-the-Take: There could be another reason here. Building a community is incredibly difficult. Not only does it require a deliberate and ongoing effort on the part of the ‘Community Manager’, it also requires that community members forego some other activity in order to take part. Time is scarce, after all. No, L&D are not targeted to build communities of practice. But are we confident they should be, versus the other things they could be doing?
📝 Hot Take 4: Learning & Development: Most employees aren’t actually that interested in L&D.
My Take-on-the-Take: A recurring conversation in the Garner Household! My wife works for a global engineering consultancy. She has no idea who her L&D team are or what they do. I’d offer three quick thoughts on this. First, employees might not be interested in L&D, but they probably are interested in developing in their careers. Second, if L&D are creating the conditions for people to grow, what do they want? A medal? Batman never asked for one. And third, how explicit are L&D being about marketing themselves internally? Shannon Tipton has some useful thoughts on this.
🤩 Hot Take 5: Employee Engagement: There is a direct link between employee experience and intrinsic motivation.
My Take-on-the-Take: I’m not sure this take is even that hot. I like to think of ‘employee experience’ as the extent to which we’re making it easy for people to perform in their roles. Clunky technology and frustrating policies tend to make the experience worse. Each time one of these sources of friction is encountered, the employee gets a little less motivated. The more fun discussion might be, then, why these sources of friction are so rarely addressed.
🍏 Hot Take 6: Wellbeing: Wellbeing programmes are a thinly veiled apology for working employees to the bone.
My Take-on-the-Take: We had a similar conversation on the podcast this week, but about ‘resilience’ rather than ‘wellbeing’ (see: ‘On the podcast’, below). It’s definitely easier to introduce a wellbeing programme than to solve the systemic issues that lead to stress, burnout and conflict. But, that being said, I don’t think they’re introduced with such malicious intent.
So what next?
In the coming weeks, the Mind Tools L&D Podcast and Emotion at Work podcast will be running a crossover episode to discuss one of these ‘Hot Takes’. Which one would you like us to discuss?
Let us know by selecting the button below!
p.s. In case you were wondering, the word ‘take’ appears 39 times in this newsletter.
Want to discuss how Ross D and I can help you develop workplace learning programs that have an impact on any of these challenges? Contact email@example.com, or reply to this newsletter if you’re reading it in your inbox.
🎧 On the podcast
‘Resilience’ is the ability to cope with hardships in the moment, and bounce back quickly after they’ve passed. It’s a trait that takes a long time to develop, and requires a lot of inner work.
So is there any point in running one-off resilience workshops and courses?
In this week’s episode of The Mind Tools L&D Podcast, friend-of-the-show Sukh Pabial returns to share insights from his new book, The Resilience Handbook.
‘If an organization does want to pay better attention to how their teams are resilient and how wellbeing is talked about, you do need to look at the systemic side of stuff... but that's hard work... It takes resource, it takes time... So then it becomes a bit easier to just say: “Should we just put on a resilience workshop?” Well, that’s one aspect of it. But it’s not all the work.’
To find out the impact a resilience workshop can have, and to create the conditions for a more resilient workplace in general, listen to the full episode here:
📖 Deep dive
Here’s a short list of what I’m doing right now, as I type these words: I have my email inbox open, my to do list, various tabs on Golems (more later), LinkedIn is flashing, I have an academic paper in my final tab, and I can see that I have four notifications on Microsoft Teams. For me, this is a remarkably short list of overlapping tasks. Are you the same?
And yet I know that I’m not actually capable of working on these tasks at the same time. There is no such thing as ‘multitasking’, in the sense of doing multiple tasks at the same time. Instead, what I’m doing is darting back-and-forth between tasks, with each switch coming at a cognitive cost.
But not only does this cost come in the moment, when we become overwhelmed or stressed and the quality of our work starts to suffer. It also comes later, when we fail to remember what each task was or learn anything from the work that we did.
I could go further, but my phone just pinged to tell me that it’s my turn in Polytopia, so I’ll come back to this later.
Madore, K. P., Khazenzon, A. M., Backes, C. W., Jiang, J., Uncapher, M. R., Norcia, A. M., & Wagner, A. D. (2020). Memory failure predicted by attention lapsing and media multitasking. Nature, 587(7832), 87-91.
👹 Missing links
Last week, Apple finally introduced the Vision Pro, their answer to the bulky headsets that have so far dominated the virtual reality (VR) market. Except that it’s not really virtual reality they’re touting: by using an array of sophisticated new technology, they’re bringing their suite of digital apps into your physical environment. Watch the launch video and you see the future depicted in sci-fi thriller Minority Report brought ever-more-closer to reality: right down to the lonely father, watching immersive home videos in a dark room. As Ben Thompson argues, while Meta’s Oculus headset is betting big on bringing people together, Apple’s Vision Pro assumes that we’ll spend ever more time apart.
In 1965, when the Weizmann Institute at Rehovoth in Israel completed the building of a new computer, the philosopher and historian Gershom Scholem wrote to the institute to suggest they call it ‘Golem, No. 1 (“Golem Aleph”)’. The Institute agreed on the condition that he give a lecture on why this name was appropriate. During his address, Scholem explained that in Jewish folklore the Golem was created by man with the possibility to serve or to destroy. Different variations of this myth have different endings, and so it seems appropriate to revisit Scholem’s words now as we get used to the presence of our latest Golem: Generative AI. Thanks Lior Locher for sharing this one with me.
I used to be a big Twitter guy, and many of the best relationships I have in this industry were born out of 140 characters. But it doesn’t seem to be offering the same level of value as it used to, so I’ve been trying out LinkedIn instead. So far, I think it’s good! (There’s a hot take…) Conversations are better than I expected and there’s a good community of people sharing interesting insights. But I didn’t realise that every LinkedIn poll I answer hands over my information to the pollster. Thanks Don Taylor for the warning!
I started this week’s newsletter discussing The Rewatchables, so I think it’s only fair to end with them. In this episode, the team discuss Daniel Craig’s James Bond debut, Casino Royale. Check it out for insights into the franchise as a whole, the absolutely bewildering poker hands at play throughout the film, and a discussion on the recovery time required when your ‘man parts’ are damaged.
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