T+D March 09 //Intelligence//

 

NASA Retools Training Regimen

By Paula Ketter

Focus shifts to crew survival.

A recently released NASA report finds that the astronauts on the Columbia Space Shuttle were inadequately trained in crew survival. The 400-page report included more than 30 recommendations to improve the spacecraft’s design and crew safety.

On that fateful February day in 2003, as the Columbia crew prepared to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, seven astronauts were trying to regain control of the spacecraft, focusing more on solving the vehicle control issues than their own survival.

“Crew members become conditioned to focus on problem resolution rather than crew survival,” the report says. “The training does not adequately prepare the crew to recognize impending survival situations.”

When the first alarms sounded on the shuttle, the astronauts tried to right the spacecraft as it spun out of control. They were following NASA procedures, the report says, by focusing on preparing the shuttle, and not themselves, for a return to Earth. Some of the crew members were not wearing protective gloves and still had their helmet visors open. Some were not fully strapped in, and one was barely seated.

In seconds, the shuttle lost cabin pressure, and the astronauts blacked out. They either died from the loss of pressure or from the violent movements sustained from being thrown around the spacecraft.

Even if the crew had time to get their gear on and their suits pressurized, they still would not have survived the accident. The suits do not pressurize automatically, and the parachutes do not engage automatically. Those are two things that NASA intends to fix for future missions, according to the report.

NASA’s astronaut training program familiarizes the crew with the systems and flight skills necessary to run an effective mission. The blended learning approach starts with workbooks and briefings and progresses to lessons with trainers and simulators.

“While the training incorporates scenarios that involve multiple systems failures, in general it is considered nonproductive to train scenarios from which there is no recovery, and so those cases are not simulated,” the report states. “Unrecoverable conditions are not intentionally presented to the crew during training.”

The crew training recommendations in the report include incorporating objectives that emphasize the transition from recoverable systems problems to impending survival situations. An additional recommendation was to assemble a team of crew escape instructors, flight directors, and astronauts to assess procedures of ascent, de-orbit, and entry contingencies, as well as determine vehicle dynamics and crew survival during vehicle loss of control so that it can be integrated into future training.

According to a NASA fact sheet, loss of control training has been modified to include emphasis on the transition between problem solving and survival, and the concept that the crew should lock inertial reels, close visors, and pull the personal oxygen system at first recognition of a serious problem.


T+D March 09 //work life//

Talent Exodus

India’s Attrition Problem

By Aparna Nancherla

High profits and fast-paced growth don’t tell the full story about many companies in India’s economy.

The flip side of the coin shows a continuing struggle with talent management, namely sky-high rates of employee turnover.

A new report from Right Management and the Villanova School of Business found that attrition rates in India are as high as 100 percent in some sectors and explores ways to curb this trend. The report attributes one of the chief causes of high turnover to managers’ inability to lead and engage their teams. Only 47 percent of respondents agreed that their immediate supervisor was capable of offering adequate support and development for their team.

“Responses indicated that people are being put into management positions before they are ready for the job. As a result, they may not be adequately prepared for their duties,” says Michael Haid, senior vice president and global leader for the Attract & Assess Center of Excellence for Right Management.

The report, which surveyed 4,811 employees from 28 different companies within India, covered five industries including business process outsourcing, information technology, engineering and manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and financial services.

In addition to management skills, the study also uncovered three other factors causing high turnover rates, which resembled the results of many U.S. workforce retention studies. One was a lack of investment in employee engagement, which constitutes job satisfaction, commitment to the organization, and pride. Secondly, compensation was found to be less important than other elements such as an employee’s sense of progress, competence, influence, and the opportunity to do meaningful work.

The study found that a lack of growth also drives employees away. Being offered clear opportunities for job advancement was a prime incentive for employees to stay with their current employer.

Though the main challenges facing Indian and U.S. workers are similar, there are some subtle variations in cultural norms, according to Haid.

“Managers and supervisors in India take a more ‘hands on’ role in an employee’s career progression than in Western cultures,” he says.

He adds that managers are also less critical out of fear of alienating direct reports, and need additional training in listening as well as providing empathetic feedback and constructive criticism.

The report also suggested promoting organizational values as a way to boost employee retention, or making an enterprisewide commitment to a larger social purpose. Senior leaders are encouraged to oversee employee participation in social initiatives such as special interest groups focused on combating hunger and poverty. Forums should be established on company websites to encourage and educate others on the work being done.

“Some firms in India are building these values into their leadership competency framework, assessing high-potential managers for competencies such as ‘shows sensitivity and genuine concern for the ecosystem,’ as well as more traditional leadership competencies,” Haid says.


T+D March 09 //the mind at work//

Creativity Wanted

By Michael Laff

There’s a reason why catchy jingles and taglines like “the ultimate driving machine” are a disappearing act in the world of marketing and advertising.

Creativity has left the building.

According to a survey of chief marketing officers, many newly hired marketing employees simply lack the skills and the creative juice to come up with the kinds of slogans that defined previous generations.

“This generation of marketers has no idea about the techniques that make marketing work,” says Steve Cone, chief marketing officer for Epilson, which conducted the survey. “They are not taught it in college and don’t learn it on the job. All the techniques being used now ignore the basic rules of getting consumers to pay attention to a message.”

Cone says the creativity behind memorable taglines such as “the real thing,” or “a diamond is forever” originated with a single copywriter who was given the authority to craft a message that defines a product. Such creativity is not fostered by focus groups or brainstorming sessions.

As an example, Cone cites the numerous organizations and public institutions that use “life” in their slogans, a testament to a lack of original thinking. Such generalizations don’t sell effectively.

Cone believes MBA programs place too much emphasis on running a business and not on promoting one. Among other flaws, print advertisements typically contain excess text and are hard to read. If the measurement of an effective marketing campaign is something that is visually exciting, tells a unique story, and calls the view to action, then most campaigns fail on at least two of these categories.

Not all is gloom and doom in the field as some businesses keep creativity alive. Cone noted some catchy slogans such as a New York-based grocery service which uses the tagline, “our food is fresh, our customers are spoiled.” An electrical contractor is known for its motto, “we get into your shorts.”

The CMOs identified the following as the most important characteristics in a new employee: creative thinker (70 percent), provides good leadership and inspiration (64 percent), ability to complete projects efficiently (63 percent), forward thinking and modern in approach to business (63 percent), and fiscally responsible (40 percent).

Just 26 percent of respondents said they place high value on a candidate’s ability to find a good balance between career and life outside of work.


 T+D March 09 //Trends//

Social Net-What?

By Paula Ketter

While most professionals with MBA degrees recognize the value of networking, few actually use it as a tool to increase earnings and accelerate career advancement, according to a recent study by Upward Mobility and Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business Management.

According to the highest-earning professionals in the study—those making more than $200,000—the single most critical factor in determining the value of your network is the breadth of connections with people who are willing to recommend you for jobs.

“Elites know that effective networking today is about quickly cutting through the clutter and creating meaningful online and offline connections, relationships, and rapport—the kind that enables the giving and receiving of trust,” according to the report “Professional Networking and its Impact on Career Advancement.”

The survey found that most people tie networking to their job search, networking only when they are pursuing their next career move.

“People, especially Americans, tend to be very reactive,” says Lisa Strand, director of methodology for Upward Mobility. “Most only use networking when they have a problem and need to fix it. The elites in the study—those doing well who are very successful in their jobs—don’t view career change that way. They view it as an evolving process that they want to do well in, so they foster relationships with others.”

The study showed that networking today is more challenging and more complex than in the past because there are more relationships to manage and put into context and more unwanted emails and requests to answer. Truly effective networking requires more than “connections” or “friends”; it requires sorting through the clutter and focusing on the mutually beneficial relationships.

“Relationships are becoming more important,” Strand says. “Professionals are beginning to realize that they need to use social networking sites to build and foster those relationships.”

Most of the respondents said they could improve their networking skills in all areas, including adding new contacts and getting meaningful introductions to key contacts. But many admit having trouble finding the tools for networking and networking development.

“Elites in the study said they learned by experience how to leverage networking to serve others, create rapport, proactively manage relationships, and accelerate their journeys along chosen career paths,” the report says.

“Elites said they learned to effectively network through mentors and other professionals they look up to,” Strand explains. “Often a former boss or colleague helped show them how to use networking to progress in their careers.”

Good networking skills can be learned by anyone at any stage in their career, Strand says. “We need to lose the idea that networking is throwing your business card out there, being part of an online community, or spending time at a meet-and-greet,” she adds. “Networking is a two-way street. It’s about reaching out to help other people. There is nothing worse than someone who is reaching out in a superficial way to only reap the benefits.”


T+D March 09 //fast fact//

Grasping at

There are no Google schools or universities but a recent survey indicates that users of the influential search engine are far from proficient.

Given how much the world relies on the online search giant, some skills development is in order. Workers spend an average of 108 hours annually for business-related Google searches yet 46 percent of their searches yield failed results, according to a survey conducted by Boost eLearning, a training company.

According to the survey, 50 percent of Google users did not know that they can search based on a specific file type such as a PDF or PowerPoint. Another 25 percent did not know that they can surround a specific phrase with quotation marks to narrow their search and avoid the splitting of proper names.

“A lot of people don’t know how to execute the basic functionality of Google,” says Victor Alhadeff, CEO of Boost eLearning.

As for the disturbing searches that yield nothing but advertisement offers, Alhadeff says Google is not to blame as it has not revealed the secret to how search results are categorized, a heavily guarded secret, called “page rank.” It’s just that advertisers have been able to figure out the method.

“Google is intellectually honest,” he says. “They have provided nothing. There is an entire industry devoted to search engine optimization. Advertisers have gotten smarter.”

Getting employers to pay for training is another matter, Alhadeff says, because since Google is free, it is difficult to drum up support for any kind of paid training for the site even if it will save time.


T+D March 09 //Info Graph//

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