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Questions Managers Should Ask Remote Employees
September 30, 2019
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As more employees are working from home or spending days on the road visiting learners and employers, how do you ensure you have the right conversation that homes in on issues that are often unspoken?

Here are 11 questions that you can use to create better dynamics with your remote employees, faster.  Ask these questions when you first start working with any remote employee, or at regular intervals (e.g., every half year), to check in on changes. 

1. What do you like best and least about working remotely?  

Follow-on questions: 

  • What is the high point of a typical day (for example, yesterday)? 
  • What is the low point of a typical day (for example, yesterday)? 

What this question uncovers

Motivation analysis: This question helps you find out what motivates and demotivates your direct reports. Learn more by asking for more context on comments. For example, if they say ‘my high point is getting into a flow state with a project.’  Ask: ‘what creates a flow state for you?’

2. What is your work setup like?  

Follow-on questions:

  • What equipment or process improvements would make things 10% better? 
  • What technology issues have you encountered? 

What this question uncovers

Environment analysis: This question helps you listen for ways to optimize setup and workflow. While doing so, you can also arrange for your remote employee to interview other remote employees from cross-functional departments to learn their setup tips. 

3. What is your daily routine? 

Follow-on questions

  • What do you do to take breaks/ recharge? 
  • Are you able to fully disconnect when on vacation or at the end of the day? 

What this question uncovers

Energy management: Listen for spots to help optimize time boundaries. A big danger for remote employees is burnout since work and life are blended. When working in-person at the office it’s easier to have delineated boundaries for starting and stopping work. 

4. What has your experience been with working remotely in the past? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • What were some challenges in your previous setups?
  • What were some of the learnings you had? 

What this question uncovers

Level of support needed: There is a presumption that working remotely is easy – one simply does what one would normally do, but at a different location. This isn’t true. What we’ve found in our research is that working remotely requires a unique skill set that gets honed with time, including over-communication, clarifying expectations, assertiveness, proactivity, and more. Asking about prior experience with remote work helps you gauge your direct report’s skillsets and determine if more guidance or training is needed to set them up well for success.

5. What challenges do you feel remote workers have compared to those in the office? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • What could make things easier?
  • What benefits/advantages do remote workers have compared to those in the office? 

What this question uncovers

Perception/fairness markers: The human brain is wired to track comparisons between conditions, including in this case in-person vs. remote dynamics. Sometimes remote employees feel more is happening at the office than really is (e.g., team meetings that they are not a part of, benefits they miss out on, etc.). This question helps you surface unspoken issues and re-set expectations if there is a feeling of misbalance. This includes a conversation around perks. The downside of working remotely is getting access to things free snacks or onsite company celebrations, etc, but the positive trade is flexibility, autonomy, no need for a commute, etc.

6. Would you say our meetings are remote-friendly? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Can you hear and see well? 
  • On a scale from 1-10, how easy is it for you to contribute during a meeting? 

What this question uncovers

Meetings culture: Team meetings are often harder on folks who are dialing in, yet easy to optimize. This question will help you hear, from your remote employee’s perspective, small optimization ideas. As an example, one easy hack LifeLabs Learning has found to quickly improve perceived meeting quality (PMQ) is to have each person in the in-person meeting dial in using their laptop and laptop camera and a jabra mic for the room. With this, all people in the in-person room can speak to each other like normal, but the remote person can see a close-up view of each person who is speaking. 

7. Who do you connect with most often at work? 

Follow-on questions:

  • Which coworkers or departments do you wish you had more connection with? 
  • Who do you go to when you need support or have process suggestions or improvement ideas?

What this question uncovers

Support network: When working remotely, it is harder to make connections, yet an essential brain craving for all humans is to feel like we belong. Asking ‘who do you connect with most often’ and the follow on questions helps you realize if your direct report needs help building out their network. Creating relationship capital for your direct report is easy: you can link them to other people doing similar work, find ways to make their work more visible by creating demos, or set them up for informational interviews with relevant departments. 

8. How do you feel about how often you visit the office? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Is this the right amount or would you like it to be more or less often? 
  • When you meet with other teammates, do you/ they turn your camera on? 

What this question uncovers

Belonging: This question helps you uncover how your direct report feels about the amount of contact they get and allows you to explain decision criteria around in-person gatherings. Having the right amount of in-person time matters when working from afar. Our research shows that ‘frequency beats length’ when it comes to having contact. What this means is that flying a direct report in for in-person time is important, but having cameras on in order to see each other frequently is even more important.

9. What are some things your prior managers did that you liked? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • What’s something you didn’t like? 
  • What’s something I could do 10% better? 

What this question uncovers

Managerial relationship: This question helps you understand how to work best with your employee. It opens feedback lines by normalizing that your team cares about optimizing work dynamics. It also helps you improve one-on-one meetings for the future. 

10. How consistent are our information systems? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Which apps do you most use in your daily workflow? When do you use Slack, text, Jira, etc.? When do you feel confused about which systems to use? 
  • Where are we consistent/inconsistent as a team?

What this question uncovers

Communication systems: When working remotely, it is particularly important to know which medium to use for which type of information. This question helps assess confusion spots in the system. 

11. What do you want to learn more about regarding our team or company? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Has any news surprised you recently? 
  • How included do you feel in team decisions? 

What this question uncovers

Information flow: When working remotely, people sometimes feel out of the loop. This question helps you hear if they feel or are excluded. You can then optimize systems or explain the context.

Article first produced by LifeLabs Learning: LifeLabs provides training for managers, execs, and teams, with a focus on rapid skill acquisition and tipping points: the skills that make the most difference in the workplace. 

Top 10 Highest-Earning Jobs in Australia
September 27, 2019
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The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has released their most recent set of income statistics that reveal the country’s top earners according to their average taxable income. 

The rankings are based on 13.9 million individuals who submitted their tax returns for the 2016–17 income year.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the top three occupations come from the medical industry, while finance and engineering also feature prominently.

Of the 1,100 occupations listed by the ATO, the following top 10 have the highest average taxable income:

RankProfessionIndividuals in professionAverage taxable income
1Surgeons4,000$394,866
2Anaesthetists3,000$367,343
3Internal medicine specialists8,500$299,378
4Financial dealers4,500$261,008
5Psychiatrists2,800$216,075
6Other medical practitioners28,000$204,387
7Judical and other professionals3,500$195,703
8Mining Engineers8,000$167,345
9CEO and managing directors174,000$157,643
10Engineering managers25,000$147,451

To find out more about Australians’ income characteristics, such as the country’s highest-earning postcodes, head to the ATO’s Taxation statistics web page.

Jobs of the Future – It’s Not All Robots
September 27, 2019
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Preparing students for careers that don’t exist is no simple task, especially considering that of the most in-demand roles today haven’t been all that long — think UX designers, SEO experts, social media managers and virtual assistants.

Technology is evolving faster than ever before — some jobs are disappearing, others are evolving and industries are changing quickly. It’s undeniable that AI is changing how we work and robots are replacing jobs of our parents’ generation.

As always, with change comes opportunity. A 2017 report by Commonwealth bank stated that ‘the future of work will be primarily about how people can collaborate effectively with machines to do what neither can do alone’.

Alongside Deakin and Griffith universities, Ford Australia has created an extensive report on what the workforce will look like in the coming years.

The report describes possible future roles and the skills they’ll call for, plus a quiz students can take to find out what job they’re best suited to.

According to Ford, the major drivers of change will be technological advances, climate change, data democratisation and globalisation.

The industries of tomorrow will be centred on big data, algorithms, 3D printers and prosthetics, intelligent materials and more nuanced and complex ways of communicating. The report also states that digital skills and STEM/STEAM skillsare required across all future jobs. But it’s not all robots and AI — the list features jobs like ‘100-year counsellor’, a profession that would focus on helping people in their third age.

Here is just a handful of jobs that made the list:

  • Chief ethics officers: Working with large companies and government organisations to ensure they are considering genuine ethical practices and adhering to corporate social responsibility.
  • Flood control engineer: With extreme weather events becoming more common and rising sea levels imminent, there will be demand for specialised skills in hydrology and water flow management.
  • Net positive architect: Designing building solutions to create viable and responsible buildings by using spatial design skills combined with knowledge of new materials, green building processes and software solutions.
  • Virtual surgeon: Performing complicated surgeries on patients in remote areas using robotics and virtual technologies.
  • Cyborg psychologists: Helping humans to accept their synthetic organs and robotic limbs.

We don’t know for sure what the future holds, but we do know that technology is only going to keep progressing and the workforce will keep changing. To view the complete list, visit

 100jobsofthefuture.com.

Relevant links:

NCW2020 Social Media Pack
September 26, 2019
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Here is everything you need to help promote #NCW2020 in your school or workplace.

A wide range of graphics you can use across all your Social Media platforms provided you follow the guidance in our information pack.

You can download everything you need below:

Social Media Guide
Social Media Graphics Pack
ESFA Update: 25 September 2019

Latest information and actions from the Education and Skills Funding Agency for academies, schools, colleges, local authorities and further education providers.

Documents

ESFA Update further education: 25 September 2019

ESFA Update academies: 25 September 2019

ESFA Update local authorities: 25 September 2019

Details
Items for further education
ActionBrexit Survey
InformationESFA adult education budget (AEB) funding and performance management rules 2019 to 2020
InformationQualification achievement rates (QARs) monitoring
Items for academies
Informationland and buildings collection tool series (part 3 of 3)
Informationsupport for financial planning
Informationbuying for schools service
Informationschools causing concern guidance
InformationUpdated pupil premium allocations for 2019 to 2020
ReminderAutumn school census is approaching
ReminderSustainability Award- entries close Friday 27 September
Items for local authorities
InformationESFA adult education budget (AEB) funding and performance management rules 2019 to 2020
Informationsupport for financial planning
Informationbuying for schools service
Informationschools causing concern guidance
InformationUpdated pupil premium allocations for 2019 to 2020
InformationQualification achievement rates (QARs) monitoring
ReminderAutumn school census is approaching
ReminderSustainability Award

Published 25 September 2019

New UCAS Hub Provides Students with Information and Advice

More than a third of students applying to university are setting their sights higher after using the new UCAS Hub, which brings together information and advice on all their options for life after school in one dynamic place.

It is a personalised, digital space for young people considering their post-18 choices, as well as anyone thinking about returning to education.

In a survey of those who have used the Hub so far, 39 per cent said they are now considering universities with higher entry requirements.

The Hub is designed for exploration and reflection – meant for students to return to time and time again while they make, what could be, their first life-defining decision. Most respondents agreed they would keep coming back as new features are added in the coming months and years.

Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of students are now thinking of applying to universities or colleges they hadn’t previously considered, with 65 per cent saying the Hub has expanded their knowledge of the subjects on offer at undergraduate level.

60 per cent said the Hub has made them actively think about an option that they weren’t initially considering, whether that be a different university or college, a new subject or an apprenticeship. A quarter of students specifically said they would now think about applying for an apprenticeship instead of, or as well as, a degree.

Alternative careers are also being weighed up, with almost half of students saying the Hub has helped them to reflect on their future, for when they have completed their undergraduate course.

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said: ‘A new day has dawned as personalised information and advice arrives for all students with the UCAS Hub.

 ‘We want to turn the research process on its head. Rather than having to seek out information and advice, then create an application, our new Hub will instead encourage students to reflect and define what’s important to them and their future, with relevant information and ideas being offered.

 ‘The Hub gives students the opportunity to explore everything in one place. We’re already seeing them taking the time to delve into all available pathways and discovering the exciting routes on offer. As an independent charity, we’re well placed to offer impartial advice for students, and the Hub will help them navigate the roads ahead.’

Chris Skidmore, Universities Minister, said: ‘Students now have a wealth of different and exciting paths they can take after 18, and the new UCAS Hub provides those applying for university access to the best information and guidance for their future.

 ‘The Hub is not just about helping students with their applications, it is about encouraging them to aim higher and think about what they really want to get out of their future career.’

Shaun Hiscox, current student at the University of South Wales and member of UCAS’ Student Advisory Group, said: ‘I think the Hub looks fantastic. The accessible design provides an effortless transition between different sections, and the colourful style removes a sense of formality that was felt before.

 ‘The step-by-step process is wonderful and will help applicants stay focused. The ability to select by area and local landmarks is attractive as someone may want to live in the city and study in a busier environment, as opposed to someone else, who’d like to study near a beach. The whole overhaul looks amazing!’

Jo Moore, Progression & Employability Adviser at Exeter College said: “My team will be encouraging students to use the UCAS Hub this cycle, as having all the information, personal statement help, and courses in one place is really useful.

‘It’s a brilliant system to which I look forward to seeing progress in the future. Good job UCAS!’

Accountability for Awarding
September 24, 2019
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Ofqual has confirmed how awarding organisations will be expected to scrutinise assessment judgements of training providers.

Ofqual has confirmed how awarding organisations will in future be expected to scrutinise the assessment judgements of training providers, schools and colleges (collectively known as ‘centres’) offering their qualifications.

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Our decisions follow a consultation that ran between 25 February and 20 May 2019, and strike a balance between ensuring an appropriate level of awarding organisation control over centres while ensuring that qualification delivery meets the needs of users. This is an important issue that we are tackling within an overall strategy of improving the controls that awarding organisations have over centres.

As a result of our decisions, all awarding organisations will be required to introduce Centre Assessment Standards Scrutiny processes by no later than September 2021, although we will expect them to be working towards meeting them sooner where they can.

Through these, awarding organisations will be able to design the most effective controls for their qualifications in the context of the centres that deliver them, subject to minimum requirements.

Some qualifications – for example GCSEs, A levels and Technical Qualifications that will sit within the new T Levels, will continue to be subject to a process of moderation. This is a particular form of scrutiny, and requires awarding organisations to check the results for each group of learners, and make any adjustments they consider necessary, before they are issued. Awarding organisations may consider that moderation is appropriate for some other qualifications too. However, there are other forms of scrutiny, which could take place before or after results are issued on a periodic basis, which awarding organisations may consider more effective in other cases.

Our proposed new rules minimise the extent of regulatory burden, while ensuring that awarding organisations consider carefully the risks to qualification standards when they do not make assessment judgements themselves. We have termed this, ‘accountability for awarding’. As part of their consideration, awarding organisations will need to think carefully about how they approve centres to make these judgements on their behalf and how they use the data and evidence available to monitor these centres to make sure they are doing so effectively. We will be continuing our programme of work focussed on centre controls more broadly.

Phil Beach, Executive Director for Vocational and Technical Qualifications, said:

We have taken a thorough look at the controls awarding organisations have in place with centres in recent years. We have found some significant areas of weakness that are not contained to specific sectors or types of qualifications, and are prevalent in delivery models based on ‘direct claims status’.

We recognise that a degree of delegation from awarding organisations to centres can be necessary for some qualifications to be delivered. However, the right balance needs to be struck, and this flexibility shouldn’t come at the cost of qualification standards, public confidence or, in extreme cases, public safety. Awarding organisations must be accountable for all their qualification awards.

Alongside today’s decisions and analysis of the consultation responses, we are also launching a technical consultation that includes proposed Conditions, requirements and guidance.

September Apprenticeship Parents’ Pack
September 24, 2019
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The September Parents’ Pack is full of useful apprenticeship information,

The edition includes ideas and top tips on where to look for an apprenticeship, an outline of the support your child can expect from their employer, an Apprenticeship Perspective interview with Akeem Graham, a camera trainee and media production apprentice with the BBC, an insight into apprenticeships in the construction industry and much more!

Download a free copy now.

Meet The MD: David Gallagher Of NCFE
September 23, 2019
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“It doesn’t matter what you want to be, it’s who you want to be that’s important.” David Gallagher of NCFE shares his advice on the importance of being the best version of yourself, but always being yourself. 

What is it the company does?

Meet the MD: David Gallagher of NCFE
David Galagher

NCFE is a national awarding organisation with a strong heritage going back over 170 years. Passionate about designing, developing and certificating diverse, nationally recognised qualifications and awards, NCFE is at the forefront of technical education and has contributed to the success of millions of learners at all levels.

A registered educational charity, NCFE is proud to be recognised for exceptional customer service and sector-leading expertise. NCFE offers an extensive portfolio of NCFE and CACHE branded qualifications covering a wide range of products and services for leaners of all ages across many subject areas and specialisms.

NCFE is also a registered Apprenticeship End-Point Assessment (EPA) Organisation, specialising in health, care, childcare and education programmes. The NCFE family of businesses also includes Skills Forward, which offers online diagnostics to support the successful delivery of Functional Skills, and Peer Tutor, a new platform offering high quality, on-demand, tech-enabled peer-to-peer tutoring support at low cost.

NCFE is committed to changing the lives of learners and supporting people to progress and achieve. The organisation’s purpose is to ‘advance and promote learning’ – with a particular focus on social mobility; supporting those who need it most to improve their career and life chances through learning.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

I lead NCFE including NCFE Awarding, Apprenticeship Services, Skills Forward and Peer Tutor. My role involves me shaping the strategy and cultivating the culture of the organisation, developing the leadership and management team to be the very best they can be. I also play a leading role in the growth and continuous development of our business, balancing our social purpose and commercial objectives to ensure that we continue to make a significant impact on the lives of learners of all ages.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I joined NCFE in 2018 as managing director of NCFE Apprenticeship Services, leading a new team to deliver End-Point Assessment (EPA) solutions across a range of subject areas. I have since moved into my new role as chief executive at NCFE.

I have enjoyed a successful career in education, apprenticeships and skills for over 15 years. This has included working in the public sector for the Learning and Skills Council (now ESFA), several private sector training providers and also through establishing several successful new business startups within the sector.

In a previous role, I held a board position as group commercial director at Babington, a professional training organisation based in the Midlands. I also led the reshaping of the organisation and its proposition in response to the Apprenticeship Reform Agenda and emerging market opportunities. I successfully oversaw significant growth of the business, primarily though securing a variety of major corporate accounts. I also held board level responsibly for the creation of Babington’s innovative ‘NextGen’ blended delivery apprenticeship programmes which has received hugely positive feedback from customers and key stakeholders.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

I think it’s so important to be the best version of yourself as much as you can at work and to lead by example. I believe in my actions being aligned to my words and being bold and courageous, whilst also being considered. I also think that great leaders focus on helping those around them to be the best they can be.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

I’m naturally a ‘get things done’ person and prioritising tasks when there is so much to get stuck into is a big challenge. It’s exciting, though, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. The pace of our sector really keeps me on my toes!

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

Spending time with my family and finding that balance between work and home is what alleviates stress for me. Taking time on an evening to cook and spend time with my wife and my two boys helps me keep a good perspective and value what is most important in life.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An archaeologist – basically because I wanted to be Indiana Jones! Then an architect and a golf course designer; I think I’ve always liked creating things.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

Apathy is the enemy of energy and is something I really can’t stand. I strive to ensure that people are connected to what we’re trying to achieve and inspired to take action. We really believe in the power that learning has to change people’s lives and we’re a key part of powering education and training. So apathy is essentially our enemy because it means that power is sucked out of something that is so important.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I believe that learning will change radically over the next five to 10 years, so I would like to think that NCFE has played a major part in developing new ideas and approaches that will create more opportunities for learning, particularly for those who need it most. I also see us being able to leverage more investment in learning through clearly demonstrating the significant positive impact that we’ve had on the lives of millions of learners in terms of their life and career chances.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

I would say to be yourself. Be the best version of yourself, but always be you. I occasionally see leaders ‘playing the role’ and it shows. Plus, it must be exhausting.

As a leader, you have such an important role in setting the tone, the mood and ultimately the culture within your organisation. So I think it’s hugely important to be optimistic, consistent, balanced and fair.

Finally, I believe that feedback can be the single most important thing that can improve your performance as a leader. So, ask for feedback and ask people to be honest. Take the feedback with openness and humility, even when it stings.

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

I wish that someone had have told me that it doesn’t matter what you want to be, it’s who you want to be that’s important. We spend so much time asking children what they want to be when they grow up and that’s the wrong approach. Focusing on the kind of person they want to be should come first.

State of the Nation 2019
September 23, 2019
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The Careers and Enterprise Company. has published thier State of the Nation 2019 report which provides the most comprehensive assessment of careers education in England. 

The key messages in the report are:

  • Careers Education is improving everywhere. Disadvantaged areas are among the highest performing in the country.
  • Two million young people are now engaging with employers at least once a year.
  • The new Careers Hubs and the Enterprise Adviser Network are delivering accelerated progress.
  • Young peoples’ skills and work readiness are improving.
  • Schools, colleges and business now work together on a national scale.

Download the full report below.

DOWNLOAD STATE OF THE NATION 2019 [PDF]