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Sylvain Rochon, September 23 2022

Jennifer Quinn – Integrating Digital Technologies into the Training Cycle

A CykoMetrix Spotlight Production

Every week, the Spotlight shines on an amazing professional with a story to tell and lessons to teach.  Welcome to the CykoMetrix Spotlight.

The following is an adapted transcript of the exchange between Sylvain Rochon, CMO at CykoMetrix as host, and Jennifer Quinn, Director of Operations at Passion4Performance. www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-quinn-51642263

Sylvain Rochon: Hello. Welcome to CykoMetrix Spotlight. My name is Sylvain Rochon. I'm the Chief Marketing Officer at Cykometrix, a leading edge combinatorial psychometric and human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud with instant assessments, in-depth analysis, trait measurements, and team-based reporting features that simplify informed decision-making around recruiting, training, and managing today's modern workplace. 

Today in the Spotlight, I have with me, Jennifer Quinn. She has been in the learning and development space since 1994. So, quite a long time, lots of experience. She started as a casino training officer for Sun International, teaching dealers the skills they needed for their work and has climbed the corporate ladder with that company until around 1999. Since then, Jennifer has been exploring and implementing solutions in the e-learning space and also was in the first Y2K-challenge-faced by industry. I remember that. For years, she has been pivotal in demystifying the South African qualifications frameworks in line with the SETA regulations from legacy to new QCTO qualifications, participating in the design of national qualifications for the country, and then assisting with the development of customized content and assessment tools. 

In 2002, she built a start-up company specializing in conducting accredited training for the hospitality and casino industry. In 2016, she sold her start-up company that became a fully-fledged private college registered with the Department of Education in South Africa and the ETQA, SETAs, and has started three more businesses since 2020 -- busy gal -- a consulting company, a training company, and an e-assessment franchise for South Africa. She's also involved in designing cutting-edge qualifications for the casino and betting industry in South Africa, that is aligned with the latest changes in industry and the educational space. That is a lot, Jennifer. Lots of stuff. Welcome to the Spotlight. It's amazing that you can make the time to be here with me. 

Jennifer Quinn: Well, it is evening here. So, it is out of my normal working hours, that's why it's not a problem. It's actually seven o'clock in the evening here, so it's fine. 

Sylvain: Jennifer, we have been talking about digital technologies, right? Because right now, that's the thing. We can digitize, we can automate, we can use tools that didn't exist prior. We need to create those tools and integrate those tools. There's a lot of work being done but your specialty is in training. So, there's a specific training cycle that's been a legacy, let's call it. Now we're integrating all these digital technologies. So, what are the benefits? Let's start just with the benefits of integrating these digital technologies into the traditional training cycle. 

Jennifer: Well, some of it is basically enabling your learners to become more work ready. I mean we've all seen how the Fourth Industrial Revolution is impacting our workspace and the working environment, and how it's changing jobs dramatically. So, as any organization, in order to stay relevant, the training industry really needs to integrate technology as much as possible in order to enable it to remain relevant, not just as an industry, but for our learners as well because there are so many new skills that we need to enable our learners to embrace. If we're not embracing them ourselves, how can we expect our learners to embrace them? 

Sylvain: Right. What are the main gaps that you're trying to fill with tech? 

Jennifer: Well, a lot of it is capacity and consistency of delivery, and creating a way of having a data management system from the very start, where you guys come in, from that needs analysis, identifying those development needs, and integrating that into an e-learning space that's not just e-learning but also covers all the learning styles. It's something that I always… I know it sounds old fashion, but I still use Honey and Mumford's Learning Styles, your activists, your reflector, your pragmatist, your theorist, and really making sure that those learning styles are embraced in the delivery of the training because so many people got excited about the e-technologies and it is an exciting space to be in, with gamification and e-learning. But it's about also remembering we're training people. People have different ways of learning. So, it's about making sure that we integrate the technology in a way that enables everyone to learn in a more effective way because learning isn't just about sitting at a computer and going through something theoretically; it's about gaining skills. So, it's taking people through that training cycle and embracing those different learning styles, identifying the needs analysis part, and taking you through to the design of the content, making sure that the way you design your content isn't just very theoretical, but it can be very interactive and participative. 

That's one of the exciting things I love about Zoom because there are breakaway rooms. You can still do role plays. You can still do these simulations. You can still have those case studies and discussions, but it makes it more exciting for your learners because you do it in a digital space. You're enabling them to feel more adventurous with their learning and embracing their ability to learn in a virtual environment, which is really the way to go. Then putting it also through to the actual making sure it has an outcomes-based assessment approach, because it's okay doing a multiple-choice question, but you still need to be able to create methodologies to capture competencies and skills. That's where the P4P system or e-assessment platform comes in. 

So, we're actually really putting through from the whole training cycle in through to the actual evaluation of the learning, with the competence of the learning, being able to capture, and also we can record it and capture the results in a just-in-time waves so the client and the learners can get emails straight away that they've been assessed, what their results are. It's just a more dynamic way of learning and teaching. I think that's really evolved more over the past 2 to 3 years or more, I think, because of COVID than it has over the past 5 to 10 years. 

Sylvain: I've been an educator for over twenty years, personally, at all sorts of levels. So, I understand education in general. Therefore, I know training is a very, very connected type of activity. Learning styles vary tremendously, as you mentioned. How does passion for performance -- I know a little bit about the platform-- how does this platform help different learners or different people with different learning styles and abilities in communication manage to put their point across and learn and educate the prospective trainer, or employer know that they have these competencies? How does it work? 

Jennifer: Well, the exciting thing about P4P is as long as you set up your training and your assessment tools correctly, like an example that I did recently -- I was teaching some managers on how to do negotiation skills -- what we did was we set up assessment tools, that part of the assessment, they had to do a video of them being assessed. and then self assessed off that video. The assessor does an observation checklist, tracking them going through the negotiation process, making sure they opened the negotiation, they ran their ballpark, they had that negotiation, and they clarified what the deal was at the end of the negotiation. So, that video is purely skills. You can see if they've got the skills to do a negotiation or not. Then with the observation checklists from the assessor, that then can be uploaded and captured and assessed against an assessment criterion on the platform. Then also, the learner has to then submit their proof of the research they did. 

So, it really embraces many different learning styles; from your activist who wants to get in and get on and do the role play of the negotiation simulation. It enables the theorists to do their research and provide that research. It enables your pragmatists to debate and discuss things, to capture that on a video, that discussion, etcetera, and also the quality of the feedback given from that. All of that can be videoed and captured in order for the assessor to then say, "Okay." Then when the verifier wants to see and sign off that qualification, all that evidence is sitting there from the learner, from the assessor. They all can also be signed off from management. Whoever needs to sign it off are there to authenticate evidence. It's become such powerful way of doing assessing. It's not just theoretical, I've given a knowledge test, I understand the theory. Just because you understand the theory doesn't mean to say you have the confidence and the vocabulary and the cognitive skills to cope with the negotiation depending on the type of level of negotiation. So, that all can be captured and assessed in a very dynamic, just in time, very current way. 

Sylvain: What are the challenges in developing a system that is able to capture so many different types of inputs? You were talking about video. Of course, there's still text, which is still valid, and then you have maybe audio files and whatever else. You could probably integrate VR inputs or other into the future, right? What are the challenges in the market about implementing such a system and also penetrating the market with these new ideas of how to train? Can you tell me about that? 

Jennifer: I think, especially in South Africa, we've got some more unique challenges than other countries because of all the economic divides. Not everyone has access to such technology, has access to data that's cost effective in a way that they can afford to pay for it. Also, the actual access to the technology of the smartphones, the iPads, that type of thing. That's one of the main barriers that we do experience. People often think that there's a bit of a perception that the learners themselves are reluctant, but it's not actually the learners that are reluctant. When you start sharing this technology in way of learning with the learners, they get very excited as long as you do your proper OD interventions and help the organization and the individuals embrace the learning platform and support them through it. They adapted very quickly. What we're experiencing is actually not so much the learners that are more resistant to the transition; it's your traditional people that used to give them the pen-and-paper assessments, it's your organizations because it is a little bit more work to get it going. We've done this work, so we'd like to stay with what we've always done. Those sort of things that are quite challenging. 

And because people are scared of technology and do things in a different way, it's about making sure that you support them through it. That's what we've experienced and that's why I've joined Darryn in P4P because he's run P4P for quite a while, a few years. But he was experiencing some resistance. That's where I come in as a team member to help Darryn with the business. It's about taking organizations and institutions, and holding their hands while they go because it's quite a big OD intervention because you're changing behaviors, you're changing the way people do things. Instead of the traditional assessment methods where you do your assessments on pen and paper stored in a file, it is all captured digitally. It's about enabling people to embrace that transition to make them realize that it might seem like a lot of work at the moment, but actually it's not. It just feels like it is because you're not used to doing it. Once they actually get used to doing it, they actually don't want to go back to the old pen and paper.   

I used to have boxes and boxes and boxes of files from the learners who were submitting their portfolios to me to assess. I now hate receiving them because it's just double work, because I now have to also capture the results that are manually created and put it into a digital format. Whereas, when you're using the digital format, it converts straight away and reduces your man hours. So, it just makes your life a lot easier. The other thing is, the work never gets lost. A lot of times one of my learners would say, "Oh, I've lost my portfolio." That has now been eradicated. 

Sylvain: Well, that's one of the benefits of SaaS, right? Because P4P is a SaaS product like CykoMetrix. You know, in the technologies… we know what we're doing, I'm sure. P4P, also what you're doing there, has a backup of backup of the data. The data is there. As long as you have an internet connection, you can access your portfolio, and everything is digital anyway. So, if you're translating something digital to another digital medium, it's usually a copy and paste or download or something very simple. So, yeah. The frustration of going back to the boxes and the filing cabinets is not very appealing to anyone because yeah, we remember those. 

Jennifer: I remember those as well. From the psychometric assessment, having your profile, your assessment, also enables you to understand yourself better. Having that cycle of information about your own development, you can also then take it from job to job. We are experiencing companies, as an example in South Africa, that do an assessment for forklift drivers. When you do the recruitment process, each company is doing the same assessment because it's not digitized, and it's not centralized. But one person could be applying for three jobs. They get the same assessment three times. So, if that was digitized and centralized in a way that they could say, "Okay, I've got my assessment. It's current. Let me then go and apply for the jobs." It enables them to actually enter the job market, makes them more employable, because people can see, well, I'm actually saving money by an employee taking you on because you've already had your assessment done and you've also shown the initiative that you've brought it with you. 

It's things like that that we can offer. We just need to become smarter and enable our learners to maximize having the resource of portfolios of their assessments of their skills so they can take it from one employer to another to show this is my skills base, this is what I've got, this is my personality profile, this is how I'd like to fit into your organization. It really just makes sense, I think, long term, not just in South Africa. I think it's a worldwide thing that needs to happen, personally. 

Sylvain: I think it is happening all around because it's just a more effective way to do, so private companies primarily enjoy efficiencies because it saves money and therefore, it's good for business. So, the transition doesn't require government push. It's happening kind of normally. Then we have innovators like our two companies for who are creating platforms and saying, "Hey, here's a solution," and deploying that. It can become standard or it can just be used for certain companies and whatnot. That's how the world works. So, we're getting into these systems fairly naturally because of those dynamics. The adoption, to your point, can be a bit shaky because you have to teach a different way of doing things. Get out of your filing cabinets and start using SaaS. If they're not already doing that, that can be a bit of a leap. But the adoption is occurring. 

Jennifer: Yeah. It's also doing it in a way that protects the individual's personal information, checking that data, that it's the case of individuals realize it's my data, I have a right to it. And enabling people to have access to it in a way that's not just enabling it for the organization, but enabling it for the individual, but in a confidential way. It also protects the rights of all parties involved. So, there's a lot going on that needs to really evolve, I think, and it's evolving quite quickly. 

Sylvain: Yeah. We are at the forefront of that. We are creating the systems, as I said. So, we're pushing them. We're penetrating markets, both of us, and creating value. That's where you see… That is part of the integration process. Have you gone to the next step or thought about things for different use cases using things like blockchain, for instance, or also AI, which is kind of like a more advanced system? Have you thought about these new innovations and how they may apply into training cycles? 

Jennifer: At this point in time, no, to be honest. The whole training cycle, the actual integration of technology between the steps is something that organizations still are not really fully aware of. So many organizations are still focusing on a learning management system or e-learning system. They're not really thinking about the whole cycle from that. So just getting the whole cycle into a digital space, in itself, is something that… Yeah, it's really evolving in our case, over the last 12 months. 

We do have AI companies. We do have companies that are designing virtual training spaces that Darryn and I've been liaising with. We've talked about Dover assessment where we're trying to encourage them to do a simulated Dover assessment, teaching people in a simulated environment, assessing them in a virtual simulated environment to drive these vehicles for the mining environment. But it's early days for those types of discussions. Also, it's a case of because those jobs are so important and people's lives will be at risk if they're not handled well, it's not something you can just rush into. You need to make sure that the evidence you produce and the testing methods that you can create and the results that you create, have validity in the workplace and can be sustainable. 

So certain things like that, that Mackie and I from Phelekeza perspective are also talking about with this virtual IR company to help with the minds. So, there's a lot going on. Considering we've only really been in business 8 months, it's a lot to like, "Okay. Let's just get the businesses up and running." Do you know what I mean? 

Sylvain: Yes, I completely understand we are entrepreneurs innovating and trying new things and then you've got to learn because these systems don't exist in our market. So, we're testing things, right? We're getting feedback and reactions and developing further. Come to think of it, a good follow-up question to this would be what does the next 5 years look like? 

Jennifer: Yeah. I have no idea because 2 years ago, I was still working in the corporate environment, looking for an organization that I'd sold my first business to. So, 2 years down the line, I really didn't think I was going to be sitting where I am now. I think that's part of the exciting part about it really. We're in uncharted territory. It's really the rates, the e-assessment companies exploding already. We've already tripled our turnover in 3 months, 4 months. We're enabling people to do mass assessments and monitoring that assessment process in a on mass way. That's also taking learning in itself and that you know, and helping with project managing big national skills, fund training projects that are taking place here in South Africa, a much-needed process. 

I think it is a little bit early to say where we're taking the cycle. Like within the virtual space, within the e-learning space, and within technology space, 2 years down the line, I think maybe 12 months, we're hoping to have more clients on board or more steady approach to the training cycle. So, it's really talking about a new, really innovative approach that no one else is doing in South Africa, which is quite exciting. I don't think there are many places around the world that are integrating a digital training cycle where we're hoping to, as a team of several companies, work together in a cohesive, strategic alliance. So, yeah, it's been quite exciting.

Sylvain: You know, I spoke with people from all over the world. I haven't seen any example of what you guys are doing in collaboration. There's certainly nothing like what we're doing, and nothing like P4P. The combination of these systems makes it pretty interesting. That's what innovation is, right? It's to create something that fills a gap and a need. So, we're doing that. For sure, like you may not delve in AI, but we will next year, to gather data, not for the training piece, but to gather more data on a more regular basis without intrusion. That will empower decision making for different learners, employees, and all that stuff in a very more effective way, more expedient way, and a more regular way. 

I was speaking to a consultant recently. We're talking about this where if you implement AI into assessments, you can get, let's say, daily blips or data points on individuals over certain dimensions. After a year, you can see a graph of behavior changes or dimension changes in soft skills and you may see crises as blips, right? Good and bad. And then you have a frequency. It's additional information that allows decision-making that couldn't happen prior. So, you have to develop the technology and find a way how it will be integrated into training cycles or into hiring cycles… 

Jennifer: …develop national planning. All of those things are critically needed, especially, we've got such a skill shortage in South Africa, but we've got such a high unemployment rate. So, there are huge needs here in this country alone that are pushing organizations and institutions to become more innovative to get people on board. Because if you don't, obviously, you've got a small economic pool where people who are actually earning a wage… It's not growing. So, it's important for the economy as well as for the individuals. Yeah, it's exciting times but it's also quite scary considering the workload. I actually thought I might be retrenched in 2020 due to Covid. I thought I'll be my own boss, work less hours. Mm-mm. It's just exploding. It's really exciting but it's just that the workload is just immense. I must be losing it. It was the first time I've actually had to turn work away because so much is coming in, which is a very unique situation to be in. So, we've got to be thankful. 

Sylvain: Yeah, we've got to be thankful for those moments because that means what you're doing has value in the market. People are asking for it. We're experiencing the same phenomena where we have to prioritize. That's why we do these talks. There's new information. Each company or consultant has a different vision, a different approach, sometimes a different idea that could be worthwhile to someone, and allows us to kind of talk about these different approaches, innovations, and technologies, and expose it to a broader world. We're all operating in the same economy. It's no longer national economies, right? Everything is international. 

So having the information out allows exposure to what's going on in South Africa and the type of collaboration in technologies that are being created and tested. The companies that are interested in that can collaborate with us and grow the ideas. That's why we're doing this, right? We know that your plans are to continue on the track of innovation, integration, improve the model feedback from customers, of course, to iterate. Do you have any other plans that you'd like to share to the audience? 

Jennifer: At this point, those plans itself, just getting the training cycle digitized, and acknowledged, and accredited, because there's still a lot of manual work that gets done here in the South African space. When you are working with accredited training work, qualifications get issued. Obviously, that information has to be given to the sector education, training colleges, or citizens you are referring to at the introduction of a project. So, there's still a gap in communication from a technology perspective between the private institutions and the government institutions. So that really is the big push that we are hoping for over the next 12 months. Instead of us having to take the data and then typing it into the governance systems, the government trusts our data sufficiently, we can do bulk uploads for them. That really would smooth the whole process from the qualifications and that the workload behind it immensely, because then it's a case of as soon as they're being enrolled on the e-learning, it gets them into the assessment, that gets them on to the National Learner Database. 

If that loop was then being closed from a digital perspective, it then also makes tracking what the learners are doing more effective, makes the recording of what training is happening in the country more effective. It helps reporting on the workplace skills plans and your training reports a lot. It just has a huge spin off at this point in time because we are a private institution; we're not a government institution. Just getting that comfort. Also, we're dealing with 25 different sectors, education and training authorities. Some are coming on board more quickly than others but it's still getting them to feel comfortable that our system can talk to their system about correcting their system. That's really our biggest push over the next, I think, 12 months to 2 years. 

Sylvain: I agree, specifically in South Africa where assessments are regulated in a specific way, integration with the government system is the only way to bring efficiencies to that whole process because these are two very different entities and the government is not going to do it on their own. Governments are not designed to be innovators. That's the truth internationally. But creating the partnership allows for them to get the benefit of the efficiencies from the private sector and innovation, and the data can flow correctly to satisfy the regulation as well. That's something we'll work on together, I think. Excellent. Bright, blue skies ahead. Lots of work. Exciting stuff. So, Jennifer, final question. If people are interested in P4P or what you do, personally, how should they contact you? 

Jennifer: Basically, they can contact us through P4P's website. It's P4P. Just type in P4P and you'll get to our website. Then hopefully in the near future, CykoMetrix will be the needs analysis side of the business. So that's really what we're working towards going forward. 

Sylvain: Absolutely. Exciting. We'll put that information in the description below so people can go and find you in certain ways or contact directly the different companies, and I'll be contacted accordingly with the right people. Thank you so much for participating in The Spotlight, Jennifer. Very good. 

Jennifer: Okay. Thank you for your time. 

About Jennifer Quinn - www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-quinn-51642263

Jennifer Quinn a South African resident and a British citizen had operated and grown within the learning and development space since 1994 when she started as a Casino Training Officer for Sun International teaching the skills required of dealers to embark on a career in the casino industry.  Within a space of 6 years Jennifer developed into the role of Divisional Training Manager and the Group Training and Development Manager for the Sun International Casino and Hotel group. Assisting with project managing the training required for company’s expansion and opening of 5 major casinos around the country and assisting the organisation with its expansion into Egypt and Nigeria.

Jennifer has been exploring and implementing solutions into the eLearning space since 1999 and the first Y2k challenge faced industry. She has been pivotal in demystifying the South African Qualifications Frameworks in line with the SETA regulations from legacy to new QCTO qualifications. Participating in the design of National Qualifications for the country and then assisting with the development of customised content and assessment tools. Then linking these criteria into assessing the applied demonstration of skills in the workplace first within the corporate space then within a start-up company.

She has enabled many companies in their transitions into a digital learning space and has been working to increase the understating the differences between #eLearning and #eAssessment to the industry withing the training cycle.

Jennifer has been on the #forefront of digitizing the Assessment of learning Process in South Africa. She has #Assessed, #Administered'ed and #Moderated using different #eP.O.E. and #eAssessment platforms, across different sectors and continues to work closely with P4P International (+3 years) bringing immense experience and guidance to build a practical cost-effective process for all types and sizes in the L&D space.

As an L&D specialist Jennifer has been implementing the training cycle since 1994 when she graduated as top student from her L&D Management Development programmes and embarked as an entrepreneur in 2002 with a start-up company specialising in conducting accredited training for the hospitality and casino industry.

Since 2016 Jennifer sold her start-up company that became a fully-fledged Private College registered  with Department of Education SA and the ETQA Seta’s and has since started three more business from 2020, a consulting company, a training company and a eAssessment franchise for South Africa. Jennifer is also now involved in designing cutting edge qualifications for the casino and betting industry in South Africa that is aligned to the latest changes in industry and the education space.


About CykoMetrix - www.CykoMetrix.com

CykoMetrix is a leading edge combinatorial psychometric and human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud, with instant assessments, in-depth analysis, trait measurements, and team-based reporting features that simplify informed decision-making around recruiting, training, and managing today’s modern workplace.

Written by

Sylvain Rochon

Older Dante DiBattista – Balancing Training Initiatives with Getting Things Done
Newer Mackie Makitla – Psychometric Data Guided Development Approach