Highlights on Adult Learning and Mindset based on Research with Career Switchers

Lifelong learning mindset

I am very curious about one’s learning mindset and process. In the webinar organised by Institute of Adult Learning, I spoke about the insights I gleaned through the qualitative interviews of 25 career switchers. In particular, the questions I ask are:

1) Is learning mindset just Carol Dweck’s notion of growth mindset? 

2) Does 70/ 20/ 10, the default framework used in organizations, really guide learning? 

3) What are the workplace conditions that cultivate a learning culture? 

4) When we talk about lifelong learning, are we really only referring to acquiring skills only?

I went in-depth to better understand the psychology of career-switchers and here are the highlights of my findings: 

Learning mindset is multi-faceted, it includes:

    1. Openness to experiment: try new ways before deciding if it’s useful
    2. Determined persistence: yes that means spending weekends learning and not giving up
    3. Curiosity & challenge: having mental space to play with ideas and ask new questions
    4. Humble courage: it’s hard to admit “I don’t know” as an adult with our expertise and job titles
    5. Proactive initiative: driving one’s own learning

In conclusion, learning mindset goes beyond the growth mindset, the popular concept now in the L&D field.

70/ 20/ 10 only tells us the types of learning activities.

It does not tell us how to string together a series of learning activities to continuously deepen one’s learning. That’s why learning is organizations tend to be organised around events, and not PROCESS. 

Instead, I found the learning process of successful adult learners can be encapsulated as “Input/ Reflect/ Apply”. Input refers to an experience, content, coaching by someone, observation and feedback. Inputs without reflection are useless. We need to make sense, connect to prior know-how and question or change our own assumptions. Finally, the output is to apply through executing, sharing, writing or teaching. Stringing together the cluster of learning activities help us go deeper and broader in our mastery. 

Learning culture

A learning culture has these dimensions – bosses, mentors and role models, organization resources, processes and norms (it’s perfectly fine to reach out to someone you don’t know in the organization to ask qns), opportunities and challenging projects and learning in a team with rich feedback, challenge and ideas. 

How can L&D professionals see their role in shaping a learning culture, beyond organising the training and content? 

We are more than a bag of skills.

Skills are only means. The true joy in learning is in expansion – of our perspective and how we see the world, our identity and sense of possibility of who I can be in this world and finally feeling happy, empowered and comfortable with ourselves.

After hundreds of hours of interviews, transcribing, coding, analyzing and writing, I am truly thankful for these insights. More to come on this front! Wish me luck in my upcoming qualifying examination! If you want to participate in this research effort, pls send me an email!


Written by
Wendy Tan
22 Sep 2020


  Wendy Tan   Sep 22, 2020   Lifelong learning   Comments Off on Highlights on Adult Learning and Mindset based on Research with Career Switchers   Read More

Human Faces of COVID-19: Shifting from Helplessness to Helpfulness

We are impacted by COVID-19 in some form or other. You probably know someone whose loved one has been tested positive. You probably know someone whose livelihood is severely impacted and worrying how to take care of their family. You probably know business owners who face the threat of closing down because suddenly there is no more revenue. You probably read about the thousands of people who spend their life now in ICU clinging onto their fragile lives. You probably see how healthcare workers are stretched to their human limits taking care of patients who burst through the seams of hospital capacity.

Never before has there been such a tsunamic impact on people globally, regardless of age, social class and background. Never before have we been caught with our pants down and under-prepared to respond effectively. Never before had doctors, confronted by the severe lack of ventilators, had to shoulder the burden of deciding who lives and who dies.

The human faces of COVID-19 are multi-faceted. A relatively mild impact would be the inconvenience of quarantine, isolation from working at home, irritation of entertaining pesky kids celebrating school closure, washing our hands constantly or scrambling to panic buy some essentials at the supermarket.

But consider the COVID impact on these other fellow human beings.

  1. Workers: No Money, No Family

Human impact of COVIDSource:

Sumon, father of 2 girls, is one of the 100,000 of Malaysians, who chose to be in Singapore during the 2-week lockdown in Malaysia. He usually travels 2 hours daily to get into Singapore to work and returns home to his family. “I haven’t finished paying the instalments on my house. There’re also electricity bills,” he says (CNA Asia, 25 Mar 2020). His wife’s shop will be closed with the lockdown. He has missed his daughter’s birthday. With tears in his eyes, he says, “I feel sad thinking about her. We’re very close.” With the extension of the lockdown in Malaysia beyond 31 March 2020, it is uncertain when Sumon will see his family again.

Sumon is just one example of the thousands who are separated from their family. He counts himself lucky that he still has an income, what about others? Airplanes are grounded. Restaurants are closed. Events are cancelled. Hotels are empty. The livelihood of workers and professionals in these industries are at risk. International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates 25 million jobs could be lost due to COVID-19. In the 2008 financial crisis, 22 million jobs were lost (ILO, 18 March 2020). What happens when one’s means of livelihood has been robbed?

COVID human impact


  1. Healthcare Workers: Exhaustion, Sickness and Even Death

Fighting the virus in the frontline, healthcare workers endure long hours in their protective gear. Chen Ying, a nurse in Zhejiang called on duty on the first day of Chinese New Year, often works till 2 am. As she walks to her dormitory home, keeping her company is her boyfriend. Though exhausted, chatting with him on the video chat keeps her heart warm. The couple has postponed their plans to get married on Valentine’s Day. Her face shows the marks from wearing protective gear for long hours.

Recover from COVIDSource:

More than 3000 Chinese healthcare workers have been infected with the virus (ICN COVID-19 Update). New York Times report that nearly 14% of Spain’s 40,000 confirmed coronavirus cases are medical professionals. That is 5,400 doctors and nurses. In Italy, France and Spain, more than 30 healthcare professionals have died of the coronavirus, and thousands of others have had to self-isolate (New York Times, 24 Mar 2020). The most common reason is the lack of protective gear. The very people who heal the sick are now sick themselves. When happens when the healers are down?

  1. Patients: No Breath and then Death

Very high fever. Dry cough. Breathing difficulty. These are the symptoms of COVID-19. A Malaysian patient, in his 30s, describes his experience, “I was coughing like crazy until the acid in my stomach came out. I was scared and had thoughts of death.” Another patient, Tara Jane Langston, a 39 year-old fitness enthusiast, did not think she could contract coronavirus. She described breathing was so painful “like having glass in her lungs”. To warn that anyone can contract the virus, she created a video. Other patients use ventilators, which help them to continue breathing long enough for the body to recover on its own. These patients are probably the luckier ones.



As of 28 March 2020, more than 600,000 people have been infected; more than 27,400 people have died. Italy alone reported 793 deaths on a single day on 21 March. Results of modelling efforts on the infection and death rates vary widely. A study by Imperial College London estimated if nothing was done to rein in the virus, 2.2 million Americans could die. With interventions such as social distancing, the number of deaths could drop to 200,000. Still, this means between 160 million to 214 million Americans could be infected by the end of summer (Atlantic, 25 March 2020). These numbers are staggering. This will not be the worst.

Over lunch, I spoke to a dear friend, an Indian national, about the impact of the coronavirus in her country. Without the luxury of social distancing in the slums, about 300 to 590 million people can contract the virus. The lack of medical resources will mean an approach to “let nature take its course”. This means expecting the weak, old and sick to die whilst the healthy ones develop antibodies naturally. Literally, the survival of the fittest. This herd immunity strategy has a huge price. The death rate is expected to be 10% more than the annual number of deaths in India, so that’s a blip in numbers. My heart sank. “Really, just a blip in numbers”, that’s the value of human lives?

Source: New Straits Times, 22 Mar 2020

Without good knowledge of self-protection, sense of social responsibility and strong medical infrastructure, the COVID-19 impact in developing countries is likely to be catastrophic. In these countries, people cannot stay away from work if they have no money, Africa is woefully ill-equipped to deal with COVID-19. At this moment, no one has yet to estimate the casualties in these developing countries. But it is expected to be bleak.

Recover from COVID



So What?

Knowing all of this, how should we respond, and what can we do about it? The scale of this catastrophe fills me with a sense of overwhelming helplessness, as I am sure it does for many too. With every story that I read, I find myself asking, “What can I do?”

To release that tension one day, I went for a long jog to clear my mind and let the emotions settle. To my pleasant surprise, my mind began to reframe all of the anxiety and hopelessness; I asked: how can I turn this feeling of helplessness into helpfulness? I’m not a politician or biomedical manufacturer, nor am I a frontline healthcare worker or a superhero. In fact, not many of us are. However, what I do know is that, like all of these people in the first line of action, and all of those people hit hardest with the impact of this virus, I am a human being. And as a human being, I can be resilient, and I can put myself in a position to act within my own circle of influence. 


Bridging reality and hopefulness at home

As a parent, it is my duty to keep my children safe and educate them on what is happening in the world, so that they grow up understanding the fragility of life and beyond that, that they may choose kindness. Every night at 9 pm, I round up my children to watch news on TV together – a guided understanding of the world beyond the comfort of our home. Finn, my middle child, was shocked when he learned that some migrant Indians had to walk 200 km to get home when the country locked down. Even though these experiences might scare them, the reality of the world helps to put their worldview into perspective. As a mother, this means bringing impact and hope to the future generations too. With this comes the question that they learn about through these stories: how can I make the world around me a better place? How do I bring hope?

Likewise, as a business owner, I choose to support our workers as much as we can. In climates like these, companies may consider pay cuts instead of retrenchments as a first option. However, if retrenchments are inevitable, do it compassionately. As an entrepreneur, create and scale solutions to these problems. Sir James Dyson designed a ventilator in 10 days and 15,000 units will be produced. CEO of Razer, Tan Min Liang, plans to donate 1 million masks to affected countries to fight COVID. As key decision leaders in your scene, you have the potential to make impact at a scale, directly with the people underneath your wing. In seasons where it may feel as though everyone is trying to fight for the same area of the pie, ask how we may expand the pie in a mutually beneficial way?


While not all of us may be mothers or business owners, we would all, in one way or another, have an immediate circle of people we call friends. And as a friend, it is also our duty to reach out to others – including strangers – to show your support and care. As a child, take care of our parents and spend time with them (virtually, too) even as you encourage them to stay at home (much to my amusement, my father claimed that he is staying at home, but at a friend’s home!). 

Lastly, as a global citizen, which we all definitely are, be interested in what’s happening in the world, and be an actor. These times call for all of us to be part of the solution. Be whole ourselves, be connected to our community and lead from whatever position we are. We are in this together!


Written by:


Wendy Tan
Author, Wholeness in a Disruptive World
Connect on LinkedIn





  Wendy Tan   Mar 30, 2020   Wholeness@Work   Comments Off on Human Faces of COVID-19: Shifting from Helplessness to Helpfulness   Read More

Viral Impact of our Choices

The viral impact of our choices. Whilst the pandemic seems overwhelming, it is within our power to make choices for the good of the whole. In this article, I contrast three scenarios of what Singapore did differently. It is possible to reverse this downward spiral by focusing on the whole and our individual role in it.

  Wendy Tan   Mar 30, 2020   Wholeness@Work   Comments Off on Viral Impact of our Choices   Read More

Future Proof your L&D Function in the Fourth Industrial Age

Published in TD Magazine, Jan 2019

Disruptions that are changing business models, competition from start-ups, changing customer expectations, machines doing routine work, and new job roles being created—these are exciting, albeit challenging, times for L&D.

The World Economic Forum estimates that one-third of the skill sets that will be required to perform the jobs in 2020 aren’t considered important today. Developing new skills and knowing how to learn have become pivotal to success for everyone. The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030 report listed learning strategies as a top skill in the United States and the fourth top skill in the United Kingdom for 2030, based on Pearson’s prediction for future in-demand jobs. For working adults, much of the learning happens in the workplace.

How is the L&D function reinventing itself to ensure that organizations have the capabilities to succeed? What does L&D need to do differently, and what new skills
do L&D professionals need? To probe those questions, I interviewed 10 L&D leaders from different industries, ranging from mature organizations to start-ups.

What’s different?

Before delving into where L&D professionals need to go, let’s consider what’s different in the L&D space now relative to five or 10 years ago.

Proliferation of content.
From massive open online courses or MOOCs to content platforms such as Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, MasterClass, Gnowbe, SlideShare, and YouTube to even just googling, which pulls out useful learning resources, content is now commoditized in a way it’s never been before.

Speed of learning needed
. An organization can only change as quickly as its capability to execute on new strategies. Employees need to learn fast to be part of that execution. Learning becomes a critical differentiator for success.

Lack of clarity on future skills employees need. The necessary future skills, as think tanks like the World Economic Forum and Pearson articulate, are often generic and at the macro level. The specific skills an organization needs depend on its strategy. But Ronnie Tan, an HR leader at a start-up, explains, “We cannot completely project all the competencies needed for the future, because strategy changes so quickly.”

Overwhelmed and distracted employees. According to the American Institute of Stress, 80 percent of workers feel stress in their jobs. At the same time, many are constantly distracted by electronic gadgets to the point that the term gadget detox has surfaced in everyday conversation. Because of the distractions, sustained learning engagement is more difficult than in the past.
Use of technology in learning. The medium for learning has vastly expanded. L&D professionals now need to weave together a learning solution across different media.

Today, there is mobile learning with content on mobile phones; virtual and augmented reality; technology-enabled, game-based learning; gamification; and social learning in virtual communities.

However, L&D professionals can’t let these changes sweep them away. Some L&D truths remain as solid as ever. Ultimately, an L&D professional’s work is to enable a sustained behavioral change leading to step change in performance and business results. Budgets for learning continue to be constrained in challenging business environments. Learning both technical know-how and human skills to influence values, culture, and relationships remain important.

How to change?

In this Fourth Industrial Age, how does L&D need to change? Let’s compare L&D of the past and consider what is needed now.

L&D strategy. In the past, L&D conducted annual learning needs analyses by asking leaders and employees; L&D practitioners then identified suppliers, developed programs, assembled a training calendar for the year, implemented the courses, and collected feedback. Still in the past, L&D took people to classrooms for learning. Programs were the main vehicles for L&D implementation.

To accelerate learning in the digital age, L&D needs to create learning beyond programs. That means using the work environment as a learning stimulus and enabling anytime, anywhere learning. For example, a start-up implements a new strategy, learns from customers quickly, pulls learning from the team through 30-minute stand-up meetings, and records learning and action ideas on a wiki. Employees then can search for relevant learning on the wiki or access additional learning resources on the Internet and other content platforms. The same can happen for hackathons and action learning projects.

Mentoring, workplace coaching, and on-the-job training are vehicles for learning through exposure. L&D professionals also can strengthen ownership of learning by enabling employees to assess their skills and capabilities and by teaching them how to activate their development planning. Through this process, they help employees identify and leverage transferable skills for more varied career options. The new strategy for L&D is the processes and systems to enable learning, rather than a training course that individuals go to.

In the past, the key relationships that L&D had were with HR, business leaders, and training providers. Now this widens to content curators, platform suppliers, and technology partners. In the past, the performance indicators for L&D were the number of workshops conducted, people trained, or training days. Now, it will be the speed of new skill acquisition, project success with new skills applied, and availability of required skills from an internal talent pool.

Skills for L&D professionals. As L&D professionals redefine L&D strategy and its learning solutions, consider the skills L&D professionals need. In the past, the necessary key skills were an understanding of adult learning principles, consulting skills to build partnership with stakeholders, collaboration skills, and training delivery skills.

For the present and future, L&D professionals are going to need additional skills:
content curation or the ability to weave together learning experiences across modalities for just-in-time learning—whether that’s virtual, face-to-face, on-the-job, or via coaching
technology tools or being able to work with mobile platforms, virtual or augmented reality, location-based technology, webinars, polls, learning management systems, and content creation platforms
community management or capability of building and nurturing networks virtually or physically so that people can learn from others
webinar facilitation or competency in using virtual platforms to present, engage, and interact with learners
digital literacy and data analytics or the ability to acquire, compute, analyze, draw insights from data, and present data-driven conclusions
workplace learning or the ability to broaden the repertoire of formal and informal learning opportunities in the environment through, for example, job aids or QR codes
learning solutioning and prototyping or the capability of using agile principles and creating minimum viable products for the needs of different employees—no more one-size-fits-all or lengthy ADDIE processes
learning as assessment or the ability to use assessments and feedback as data for continuous learning rather than a one-off, high-stakes test
understanding human-machine interface or the ability to help people feel comfortable working with machines and being able to leverage machines and data ethically themselves.

The range of skills for L&D professionals has broadened tremendously. For example, Charlene Ang, learning operations director at GlaxoSmithKline, questions how L&D meets business needs faster, given the intolerance for a long, drawn-out learning needs analysis and content development process. She notes that they do so through “performance consulting. We crystalize the business needs, so that learning can work at a pace that the business needs.” This is a much faster cadence of L&D value creation.

New L&D skills in practice. Much of the learning at IBM happens through its flagship Watson-enabled learning platform Your Learning. Pallavi Srivastava, APAC talent leader for IBM Global Technology Services, shares: “For real-time and self-paced learning to upskill people quickly in future focused digital skills, L&D works with a cloud architect to create the learning ecosystem to access its content. IBM’s Your Learning platform is [artificial-intelligence]-enabled with high-end recommendation engines curating content for individual learners. However, the L&D team is closely involved in developing and curating enterprise-wide strategic content to be offered.”

She adds: “L&D’s design thinking team helps to package the delivery from a user experience perspective to have enriched, bite-sized and relevant content that can be retained and applied. In addition, L&D uses digital marketing expertise to position the content for high visibility and easy access and for seeking feedback consistently for improvements and upgrades to content.”
Those are only the technical L&D skills. Joel Leong, talent management director at Jabil, explains that “An effective L&D professional now needs to be multifaceted and keep up with rapidly emerging knowledge and skills in a variety of arenas. For example, while he may not need to have extensive expertise in data science, he needs to know enough of such domain areas, and pull them into his recommendations when appropriate. Above all, he needs to exhibit a relentless learning spirit himself.”

Looking at the list of new L&D skills, how do you stack up?

A radical thought

Is there a role for L&D in helping machines learn? Consider this: L&D has operated in a paradigm where people are the ones learning and capability lies in people. So L&D’s focus is to help people learn. If machines can also learn and capability lies in both people and machines, does that mean L&D’s focus will include helping machines learn? It’s a fascinating idea.

Srivastava has done just that. As a talent subject matter expert, she helped to train IBM’s Watson-enabled career adviser chatbot, MyCa, to answer employees’ questions about their career development—for example: What are the career opportunities available for me today? What skills should I learn to get my next promotion? She further suggests, “In the coming future, machines and humans will work alongside one another, with human workers being held accountable for the objectivity and performance of these artificially intelligent ‘colleagues.’”

To play a role in developing capabilities in machines, ask yourself these questions: What areas of capabilities can machines learn in my industry? How do machines acquire these capabilities, and how can L&D support them? Who are the people teaching the machines, and how can L&D support them? These questions will give you some clues.

In these exciting times, L&D professionals can choose to be disrupted or choose to be the disruptors. They can be forced to change or lead the change. They can learn new skills or be stagnant. Which will you choose?

Written by:
Wendy Tan (click to connect on LinkedIn)

  Wendy Tan   Aug 29, 2019   Lifelong learning   Comments Off on Future Proof your L&D Function in the Fourth Industrial Age   Read More

Emerging Stronger from Crisis to Thrive in the Future of Work

Emerging Stronger from Crisis to Thrive in the Future of Work

In my years working in talent development space, this is the most ground-shifting period I have experienced. A crisis forces us to change the way we work. Ambitious organizations spot opportunities and pivot quickly. The capacity of leaders, forced by circumstances, grow by leaps and bounds. How can we leverage the learning of this crisis to emerge stronger and be ahead of the curve? When we get to a new normal, are we better for it? What future skills do working professionals need?

I am concerned about the human world in a digital age. In a time when machines are getting more intelligent, what about human beings? How do we make a step-change in the way we learn and unlearn? How can organizations develop a culture of self-directed learning? With no certainty of organization structure or even types of future jobs, how do we navigate our careers over the 45 years? What responsibilities do organizations have in preparing their staff to be future-ready? How can managers engage, develop and retain their best people? When the ground is shifting under us, how can we nurture our own sense of wholeness, so that we are effective in supporting wholeness in the world around us?

At Flame Centre, we grapple with these questions, because we believe it is up to us to shape the world for our children and their children. We believe whilst we work to take care of the practicalities of life, we also want to do something meaningful and purposeful. Even when the future looks challenging, we believe we can all thrive in the future of work and create a better whole.

So we partner with organizations who want to emerge stronger from crisis and thrive in the future of work, so that their people do their best work, serve their customers and innovate to create the future. We do that through our areas of specialization – well-being & resilience, virtual collaboration, career development, engagement and retention, and lifelong learning. We do these through virtual, blended and microlearning learning experiences.

Here’s our point of view on Well-Being and Resilience:

  • Anchoring deeply to know who are you.
  • Balancing by moving 100:100 across opposites over time.
  • Clearing to be empty so we can sustain 200 km/hr days.

Based on the book “Wholeness in a Disruptive World: Pearls of Wisdom from East and West”


Our point of view on Virtual Collaboration:

  • Connect before Content
  • Contract on both task and relationship
  • Create space for dissent to bring forth genuine commitment

Based on Wendy’s article published in Practicing OD


Our point of view on Career Development:

  • Reframe career development from pay and promotions to experience and exposure.
  • Move from a ‘T’ profile to a ‘M’ profile with multiple areas of expertise.
  • Have career conversations as short ‘anytime’ conversations.

Based on the books “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go” and “Up is Not the Only Way”.


Our point of view on Engagement and Retention:

  • Engagement is 1:1, even though survey results are at group level.
  • Why do Exit Interviews, why you can do Stay Interviews?
  • Practical A to Z engagement strategies are within the control of managers.

Based on the book “Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em”


Our point of view on Lifelong Learning:

  • Focus on the learning process.
  • Set up the workplace as a learning laboratory
  • Learning transforms us beyond our skills to our very sense of who we are.


Check out our resources on these topics. If you want to have a conversation about how we can thrive in the future of work, drop us an email!



  Wendy Tan   Aug 23, 2019   Wholeness@Work   Comments Off on Emerging Stronger from Crisis to Thrive in the Future of Work   Read More

Career Coaching Tips for Clueless Employees

What is your career plan?

“I don’t know where and how I want to develop”
“I am too busy with work to think about this”
“I want to develop as an XX, but I don’t know how to get there.”

These are comments from your “clueless” employees. They are probably your solid workers. They are reliable, do their work and add value to the company. But they are not ambitious and have not invested spend time thinking about their career. Or even if they do, they do not know how to put a plan together. They probably have a vague idea that career development leads to higher positions, but lack clarity and specific strategies to get there.

Such employees will certainly benefit from learning how to plan and develop their career. A workshop participant exclaimed, “Since I was young, we have been told to study hard, do well, and go from primary and secondary school to tertiary education. We are also encouraged to study subjects that will add value to the economy, such as computer science, life sciences, and engineering. But after we graduate, suddenly there are no more instructions!”

How true. We spend so much of our lives studying content that we will never use. Think of calculus, physics laws, or biological terms. But we do not spend time learning how to navigate forty years of our career! It is assumed that we will develop internal direction. But that is also a process.

So in having career conversations with these employees, our objective is to find a sweet spot between their skills and the organization needs. This is even more important when the rapidly changing environment demands new skills.

Here are some quick tips:

1. Encourage these employees to take ownership of their career.

  • Rather than wait for the manager to take initiative or for their career to happen.
  • They need to get to know their strengths and skills, manage their reputation, understand what skills will be required in future, and decide what and how they need to develop.
  • Share your own career journey. What helped you?

2. Give them permission to dream.

  • For some, they do not expect much from their career and limit their own sense of possibilities.
  • Expand their mind by asking these questions, “Tell me a time when you really enjoyed your work and felt a sense of aliveness?”, “Other than a salary, what else does your job give you?”, “What roles could give you more of this?”, “What challenges do you enjoy at work?”
  • Encourage them that they can move towards the direction they want.

3. Educate them about career planning.

  • Expose them to books: What Colour is Your Parachute? is a career planning classic.
  • Point them to articles or websites. Just Google and many good resources will show up or refer to the resources on our website.
  • Encourage them to take a course in career planning

4. Break the big concept Career Planning into small bite size

  • Some people seem to know what they want to become at Day 1, but the reality is we change our aspirations along the way or our career emerge from the experiences we have. So assure them it’s ok if they don’t have all the answers. The questions are more important.
  • So don’t worry about the BIG question – what do you want to be in your life? Instead focus on:
    1. What excites you?
    2. What are your strengths?
    3. What you are curious about?
    4. What do you want to learn?
    5. What projects are interesting to you?
    6. What could be the few natural next steps?
    7. How can you leverage your strengths and experience?

Hope this is helpful. Love to hear your experience or questions on this issue, pls feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Written by:
Wendy Tan
Connect with Wendy on LinkedIn







  Wendy Tan   Jun 27, 2019   Career Development   Comments Off on Career Coaching Tips for Clueless Employees   Read More

Using a Career Philosophy to build a Development Culture

Do your employees feel comfortable initiating career conversations?
Are your managers able to articulate their role in supporting their staff’s career? 
Does your management have a common stand on supporting career development in your organization?

If your answer is ‘no’ to these questions, then chances are your organization needs a ‘Career Philosophy’.

What is a Career Philosophy? 

It is a set of principles and norms that says how careers are supported and developed in your organization. It guides employees on what to expect and what can they do to further their career in the organizations. It articulates what a good manager does in supporting their staff’s development. Finally, it can serve as a unique selling proposition to recruit new talents.

Here is a list of questions to help your organization craft your own Career Philosophy:

  1. From the organization’s perspective, why is it important to develop employees’ careers? Are there any other reasons beyond the organization’s interests?
  2. What is the role of employees in their own career development?
  3. What is the role of managers in their staff’s career development? What behaviours does a good manager exhibit?
  4. What is the role of the organization in its staff’s career development? What do good responsible employers do?
  5. What do managers do or not do to support career development?
  6. What can individual employees do to explore their career development?
  7. If an employee wants a promotion but is not ready to be successful in the new role, what does the manager do and say?
  8. How do we see employees who want a role outside of the department? What should the manager and staff do?
  9. How do we treat employees who want to explore ‘the world out there’? Do we still keep in touch with them as potential returnees?
  10. What do we say to employees who choose to stay within their comfort zone?
  11. What resources does the organization invest in to support the career development of the staff?
  12. Are there specific expectations, such as 2 functions, 2 locations and 2 roles in a given time frame? Or are employees expected to change role every so often?
  13. Is it acceptable for one to propose a slowdown of one’s career development to tend to other priorities such as health or family?

Remember defining the Career Philosophy is not just the job of HR  department. Often HR spearheads and engages the rest of the management, so it is the organization’s collective agreement on, “here’s how we develop careers in this organization.”

Love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Feel free to reach me at to share your ideas or ask any question.

Written by:
Wendy Tan
Flame Centre

  Wendy Tan   May 27, 2019   Career Development   Comments Off on Using a Career Philosophy to build a Development Culture   Read More

How to Become a Talent Magnet

Wise leaders build engagement by becoming magnets for high­-performing talent.

Never before have organizations paid more attention to talent — keeping it, attracting it, developing it and engaging it.

Talent is no longer simply a numbers game. It’s about survival. It’s about winning market share and bringing on new investors, clients and big contracts. Companies depend on their top performers to innovate and differentiate themselves from their competitors. They’re reliant on their
employees to thrive.

Executives, line managers and the learning and development professionals who support them agree that engaging and retaining talent is a core business initiative. In fact, many enterprises have elevated talent retention to the top tier of objectives, on a par with generating revenue
and managing costs.

In support, leaders constantly seek new ways to build everyday engagement — the brand of engagement that is natural, effective and sustainable. Wise leaders build engagement by taking a lesson from science. The magic and science of magnetism has many relateable applications for engagement and retention. Let’s face it, most of us could be more magnetic — and most of us would like our bosses to do the same.

Magnetism is an extraordinary power that attracts or repels. It gets its name from Magnesia, Turkey, where more than 2,000 years ago the Greeks found rock that possessed mysterious powers. The rock, a form of iron ore called magnetite, could attract metals, making the rock and the metal stick together.

A magnet is a substance — usually a metal, such as iron or steel — that has been magnetized so that it will behave like magnetite. Any metal that can do this is called magnetic.

What’s a Talent Magnet?

Magnetism can help leaders understand human reactions at work. That understanding is often the first step to increasing leadership effectiveness and employee engagement.

Managers can be talent magnets, and decide how much energy they devote to attracting and developing talent. While organizations have magnetic forces by virtue of their mission, vision and values, the manager must translate those forces into everyday action.

Managers can attract and hold talent. An organization as a whole, a business unit, function, team or person can be a talent magnet. Because managers have the most power and influence in the engagement and retention arena, we’ll focus on them.

Managers decide how much energy they devote to attracting and developing talent and translate those forces into everyday action.

When leaders have strong magnetism, they feel it. So do others. Energy, morale, engagement and productivity are measurably high. Recruiting talent is easier because people want to work for talent magnets. Talent magnets get positive press. If leaders recognize and use their own magnetic powers, they can create more, achieve more and earn more.

But what if leaders aren’t magnetic? Well, they’re in trouble. Finding and keeping top talent makes or breaks a team, business unit and, ultimately, a company.

The good news: Even the most nonmagnetic leaders can create, increase and sustain magnetism.

Here are some examples of how magnetism works in talent retention:

  • Every magnet has a magnetic field around it. Every talent magnet creates a culture that attracts and keeps talented people.
  • The stronger the magnet, the larger the magnetic field. The more magnetic managers are, the more people they affect.
  • If you break a magnet in pieces, you’ll produce new magnetic fields around each new piece. Magnetic managers create more magnets by sharing their power and ability with others.
  • Metal objects that attach to magnets become magnetic, too. Employees of talent magnets attract others, at least while they work for a magnetic manager.
  • Something that behaves like a magnet after it leaves the field of the inducing magnet is said to have residual magnetism. When managers lose talent magnets to the competition, they lose a crucial competitive edge.
  • The attraction of two magnets toward one another depends on how close they are and how strong the magnetic force is within the magnet. Talent magnets get to know their people well. They get close and stay close, learning all they can about their employees’ motivations and desires.
  • If a magnet is suspended in air, it will always point in a north­-south direction. A compass always finds magnetic north. Magnetic managers create, share and lead by a strong vision.
  • One can create a magnet by giving it an electric charge or by putting a specific metal in the mix, like iron. Talent magnets know when and how to boost engagement through learning and development. They take action when something employees want is missing.
  • One can demagnetize a magnet in many ways. Managers can put people off by actions they take or fail to take.

Identifying the ‘Sticking Features’

What makes an organization, team or leader magnetic? Decades of research confirm that most workers want fair pay and a good work environment. Beyond that, they want exciting, meaningful work, a chance to grow, and a good boss. These are sticking features that people have in common.

But this doesn’t tell the whole story because everyone has a unique sticking features list. If leaders guess at what their talented people want, they’ll often guess wrong. Instead, managers at all levels will do well to stop guessing and start conducting stay interviews with every one of their employees.

Stay interviews are conversations between managers and their employees that intend to tell people how much they’re valued and to learn what will keep them engaged and on the team. Stay interviews prevent exit interviews.

Managers need to discover what people really want and need to bring their discretionary effort to work and to stay in the organization. As part of a stay interview, for instance, one manager might ask their employee: “Which part of your job do you wish you didn’t have to do, and which part would you like to expand?”

That simple question can open up a conversation that leads to job enrichment and increased engagement.

Managers today face more to do with less time in which to do it. They need to recognize that every interaction with direct reports is an opportunity to create, increase or sustain magnetism.

Managers today face more to do with less time in which to do it. They need to recognize that every interaction with direct reports is an opportunity to create or increase magnetism.

Create Magnetism

Once managers know which sticking features matter most to their employees, they’re ready to create magnetism.

Apply an electrical charge. For some employees, the electrical charge comes from a career discussion, a new learning opportunity or a much­desired “thank you” from the boss. Talent magnets learn what kind of charge their people want.

Consider this hypothetical example: When Sergey’s boss asked what he wanted to learn next year, he said, “I’d like to improve my negotiating skills.” They began a three-­step learning process. Here are the steps they followed and how it worked out for Sergey.

Step 1 — Conscious Observation: Sergey’s boss selected someone who was exceptionally skilled at negotiating for Sergey to observe. Later, Sergey and his boss discussed what Sergey learned and would do differently.

Step 2 — Selected Participation: Sergey’s boss allowed him to take a well­defined but limited role in a negotiation. The goal was to let Sergey practice without feeling overwhelmed. Afterwards, Sergey and his boss discussed what worked and what to improve.

Step 3 — Key Responsibility: Sergey’s boss gave him primary responsibility for a project that required excellent negotiation skills. Sergey completed the entire negotiation with the vendor and was accountable for the outcome. His boss was present, of course, but would have stepped in only if Sergey requested his support. Afterward, his boss asked him what worked well and why.

It worked. One year later, Sergey is thrilled with his job and continues to develop mastery as a negotiator for his organization.

Put some metal in the mix. Some people want a deeper relationship with their boss, while others want more fun at work or more time away from work. True magnet managers will discover what’s missing and partner with their employees to add those ingredients to the job.

Talent magnets are always curious about what’s working and what’s missing. They then collaborate with their employees to find the right formula for magnetism.

Increase Magnetism

Sometimes leaders have magnetism, but not often or powerful enough to attract, engage and keep the best people. The good news is magnets can get stronger.

Turn up the voltage. Some people would like more praise or encouragement. Others want to know their bosses care about them, their lives and their careers. Talent magnets should notice when employees’ job enthusiasm appears flat. They can even use failure as a learning experience.

Get bigger magnets. Magnetic managers often connect themselves to other magnets, becoming more powerful themselves. They reach up and out to learn and give more to those who follow them. In the race to engage and retain talent, there is never a time to say, “I’ve done enough.” There is always a way to improve the relationship or enrich the work.

Recharge. Talent magnets check in often with their talented employees. They want to know how the sticking features have changed. What do they want more of or less of from work? Listening is the most powerful tool in the talent magnet’s toolkit.

Magnetism can make objects attract or repel each other. It’s sad but true that actively disengaged or toxic bosses can drive talent out the door. Retention researchers agree that people seldom leave organizations; they leave managers.

Magnetic managers need to be vigilant and courageous. They regularly recharge themselves and whom they manage. They mentor, manage and ultimately remove demagnetizing forces from their teams.

Talent magnets are a powerful force for an organization. They attract others who can help them build and sustain engaged, highly productive work forces. They watch for and disempower demagnetizing forces.

The strongest leaders ask themselves how they might grow even stronger or know their people better. They ponder how they might increase the electrical charge help employees find missing ingredients or turn up the voltage.

The payoff for talent magnets and the organizations they lead is profound. It can make the difference between an organization being mediocre and it being hugely successful.

By Beverly Kaye & Sharon Jordan-­Evans
May 18, 2018

  Wendy Tan   Feb 13, 2019   Career Development, Engagement   Comments Off on How to Become a Talent Magnet   Read More

Plenty of Room to Grow

Career Growth

Moving up isn’t the only way to achieve successful career development.


Engagement surveys reveal, again and again, that individuals join organizations to pursue career possibilities and they leave organizations if those opportunities don’t materialize. In fact, a recent Gallup study reported that the majority of millennials—projected to be 75 percent of the workforce by 2025—say that professional growth and continued development is very important in their decision to join an organization or take on a new role.

Recruiters who describe an organization as having a development culture need to understand what it means to follow through on that promise. Company culture must meet employee expectations and desires for learning and growing. When the reality doesn’t match the promise, a coveted new hire can easily disengage or become a quick quit.

It’s no secret that yesterday’s career ladders have faded or lost rungs along the way to today’s flatter organizational structures. Goals defined only by moves up the hierarchy and recognition systems centered primarily on celebrating promotions are setting the stage for frustration, disappointment, disengagement, and potentially loss of talent. The very definitions of growth and career development need to be broadened to encompass the full scope of growth options that exist in the world of work today.

So, what’s the answer?

Organizations are striving to stay ahead of the competition and on the cutting-edge of serving customers. Recruiters and HR professionals need to see return on the time, money, and energy invested in attracting talent. Managers are focused on building and engaging a team of valued players who are ready, willing, and able to deliver results. Individuals are developing current and future capabilities to realize their career aspirations. Continuous growth opportunities will meet the needs of all entities.

Organizations that meet the challenge of providing continued professional growth in spite of fewer promotional opportunities will attract and retain talent. Managers who recognize, embrace, and encourage nontraditional career paths will build reputations as development-minded leaders and establish trusting relationships with their teams. And employees whose growth needs are met will see a future within the organization and remain engaged and committed to the work.

A good place to start achieving this is recognition.

1. Recognize the issue—and the opportunity. Recognition of the issue and more importantly, the opportunity that lies within the issue, unlocks a wealth of opportunities for individuals and potential for the organization. Many traditional career paths don’t exist anymore, but in many cases, fulfilling alternatives have replaced them. Candid conversations with candidates, new hires, and tenured employees about opportunities to grow professionally create solid partnerships and send the message that growth is still there—it just may be packaged differently.

Nontraditional options can bridge functional groups and uncover potential paths by triggering interest in professional passions that employees may not be aware are possible. For example:

  • IT professionals can have transferable skills for product design and marketing roles;
  • instructors see line management assignments that draw on their expertise in the field of learning while affording the chance to stretch into new areas; and
  • a sales leader can excel as a direct customer contact manager.

The key, however, is ensuring transparency regarding what continued growth looks like within the organization. For many, the mental image of growth is still a step up a ladder. While the reality may be very different, it is no less valuable toward the ultimate goal of building a personally meaningful career for individuals while simultaneously building future capability for the organization.

2. Recognize the options. When multiple options for learning and developing are recognized and consistently communicated across an organization, a growth culture is formed. There are six types of experiences that, when mixed and matched within a career pattern, create a kaleidoscope of development opportunities. They include:

  • Enrichment: growing in place. Not all workers want to move from one role to another, but growth within current roles can and should happen. Through enrichment and learning programs, individuals feed their passion about the work, stretch to build new capabilities, and grow professionally. Enrichment builds resilience and fosters engagement.
  • Exploratory: testing the water. So much can be learned from simply trying on a role to see if it fits. Exploratory experiences can identify future roles that are ideal as well as eliminate others from consideration. They can also provide a road map of the behaviors and skills needed to be considered for a future role. Whether the employee steps into a temporary assignment or simply conducts a series of informational interviews, exploratory experiences can uncover details that contribute to informed decisions and better choices for the future.
  • Lateral: moving sideways. A sideways experience is an opportunity to leverage transferable skills acquired at the same or similar level while learning a new aspect of the business. In many organizations, movement among teams is more fluid and frequent than in the past and offers the opportunity to grow. Lateral experiences can build breadth of expertise, which senior leaders value. Employees who get hands-on experience in multiple areas learn functional interdependencies and gain a deeper understanding of how the organization works.
  • Realignment: stepping back. Too often labeled as a negative, stepping back can at times be the perfect choice. When a talented individual voluntarily realigns by stepping back and continues to contribute to the success of the organization, the employee and the organization win. Realignment experiences are often valuable when changing disciplines or fields. Whether changing disciplines or simply adjusting the work-life balance scale, taking on a role of less scope or responsibility could lead to greater engagement and satisfaction.
  • Vertical: moving on up. Promotional experiences still exist in organizations. It is critical that individuals choosing to pursue steps up clearly understand what to expect and examine the downsides as well as the upsides of the new role. Promotions can be enticing and they can also be rewarding. The key is in making sure those rewards—visibility, influence, compensation, and the like—are in sync with any accompanying trade-offs—longer hours, increased pressure, greater risks, and so on. When the time is right and the role checks all the boxes, then up is the answer.
  • Departure: leaving the nest. Often, there comes a time in most careers when stepping out the door is the next best option. If a particular competency or skill set can’t be acquired, or the environment or culture is not the right fit, then leaving might be best for the employee and the organization. The key here is to ensure that there is always an opportunity to return in the future. For many individuals, the chance to step out—even for a short period of time—and gain another perspective or experience is an opportunity that shouldn’t be ignored. Some of those individuals may decide to return at some point, bringing with them new skills.

3. Recognize growth and celebrate it! Ensuring that employees are encouraged to stretch and learn, are coached when redirection is needed, and are celebrated when milestones are mastered, builds a sought-after development culture. When employees’ efforts to grow in traditional or nontraditional ways are acknowledged, a clear message is sent that the leader involved, as well as the organization they are a part of values and recognizes that growth. Employees want challenges in their work, opportunities to learn new things, greater employability, and leaders who value their contributions and care about their futures. These are all possible by expanding the definition of career growth.

Beverly Kaye is the founder of Career Systems International (now doing business as Talent Dimensions) and the author of multiple books on career development and engagement. Lindy Williams is a consultant with Talent Dimensions and the co-author of “Up Is Not the Only Way: Rethinking Career Mobility” along with Kaye and Lynn Cowart.

  Wendy Tan   Feb 13, 2019   Career Development, Engagement   Comments Off on Plenty of Room to Grow   Read More
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