Daily Archives: August 3, 2015

Australian museum to display ‘world’s finest Opal’

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Sydney: An Australian museum said today it would exhibit what it believes is the best opal stone ever found — a 6.0-centimetre (2.4 inch) multi-coloured gem unearthed in the Outback named the Virgin Rainbow.
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A multi-coloured opal stone, named the Vigin Rainbow, in Adelaide (Photo: AFP)

The South Australian Museum said the stone, valued at more than Aus$1.0 million (US$730,000), would go on public display for the first time in September to mark the centenary of opal mining in the country.

“It’s of unequalled quality, it’s a fully crystal opal,” museum director Brian Oldman told AFP.

“It’s almost as if there’s a fire in there; you see all different colours. As the light changes, the opal itself changes. It’s quite an amazing trick of nature.”

Dug up in the South Australia desert town of Coober Pedy in 2003 by local miners, the Virgin Rainbow came into the museum’s possession about 18 months ago and will be part of an exhibition opening in Adelaide next month.

Some 90 percent of the world’s opals come from South Australia, once covered by an inland sea which over millions of years provided an ideal environment for the formation of the stone.

“I think this exhibition will have the finest collection of precious opals that we believe have been brought to one place in the world,” Oldman added.

Opals were first discovered at Coober Pedy — widely-known as the opal capital of the world — in 1914 by a boy named Willie Hutchison who was on a gold mining expedition with his father.

“The story goes that Willie set out in search for water one day, rather than staying at camp as he’d been instructed to do by his father,” Oldman said. “He came back to camp with water, but also with precious opal gemstones.”

CN

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7 Ways to Improve Employee Development Programs

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From this research, we’ve observed seven challenges companies must meet to create development programs that really work:

1. Ignite managers’ passion to coach their employees. Historically, managers passed on knowledge, skills, and insights through coaching and mentoring. But in our more global, complex, and competitive world, the role of the manager has eroded. Managers are now overburdened with responsibilities. They can barely handle what they’re directly measured on, let alone offer coaching and mentoring. Organizations need to support and incentivize managers to perform this work.

2. Deal with the short-shelf life of learning and development needs. It used to be that what you learned was valuable for years, but now, knowledge and skills can become obsolete within months. This makes the need to learn rapidly and regularly more important than ever. This requires organizations to rethink how learning and development happens from a once-in-a-while activity, to a more continuous, ongoing campaign. As Annette Thompson, Senior Vice President & Chief Learning Officer at Farmers Insurance pointed out in an interview, avoiding information overload is vital, so organizations must strike a balance between giving the right information versus giving too much.

3. Teach employees to own their career development. Highly-structured, one-size-fits-all learning programs don’t work anymore. Individuals must own, self-direct, and control their learning futures. Yet they can’t do it alone, nor do you want them to. The development and growth of your talent is vital to your ongoing success, ability to innovate, and overall productivity. It’s a delicate balance, one Don Jones, former Vice President, Learning at Natixis Global Asset Management summarized like this: “We need to have ‘customized’ solutions for individuals, while simultaneously providing scale and cost efficiencies across the organization,” he said.

4. Provide flexible learning options. Telling employees they need to engage in more learning and development activities with their already heavy workload often leaves them feeling overwhelmed and consumed by the question, “When and how will I find the time?” Companies must respond by adopting on-demand and mobile solutions that make learning opportunities more readily accessible for your people.

5. Serve the learning needs of more virtual teams. While most organizations have more people working remotely and virtually, it does require more thought and creativity in how to train this segment of your workforce. This includes formal types of learning through courses, but also the informal mentoring and coaching channels. Just because employees are out of sight doesn’t mean they get to be out-of-mind when it comes to learning and development.

6. Build trust in organizational leadership. People crave transparency, openness, and honesty from their leaders. Unfortunately, business leaders continue to face issues of trust. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, one in four workers say they don’t trust their employer, and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them. If leaders disengage or refuse to share their own ongoing learning journeys, how can they expect their people to enthusiastically pursue theirs? It’s the old adage of “lead by example.” If managers want employees to engage in learning and development, then they need to show that they are actively pursuing their own personal learning journeys as well.

7. Match different learning options to different learning styles. With five generations actively in the workforce, organizations must restructure the way employees learn and the tools and activities they use to correctly match the different styles, preferences, and expectations of employees. For example, Millennials came of age using cell phones, computers, and video game consoles, so they expect to use these technologies to support their learning activities.

As leaders, we know the value our learning and development programs bring to our organizations. But we also want to ensure we’re receiving a high return on investment. By clearly understanding the trends emerging in our learning and development programs, we’ll better position our companies to select the right targeted solutions to drive results, increase employee engagement, and increase innovation and productivity.

HBR

US Presidential Race: Voters Spoiled for Choice

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WASHINGTON: American voters looking for a new tenant for the White House are spoiled for choice with 22 candidates, five Democrats and 17 Republicans, including long shot Indian-American Bobby Jindal in the 2016 presidential race.

Leading the Democratic pack is Hillary Clinton, 67, former First Lady and Secretary of State with more than half the party voters backing her but independent socialist senator Bernie Sanders, 73, is fast closing the gap with 17 percent in recent polls.

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And if Vice President Joe Biden, 72, too jumps into the fray as speculated, it could really stir the Democratic pot amid questions being raised afresh about Clinton’s use of private email and her handling of the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Biden, according to a New York Times report has been “talking to friends, family and donors about jumping in” to challenge Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two nominating states.

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Three other candidates, Martin O’Malley, 52, former governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore, Lincoln Chafee, 62, former senator and governor of Rhode Island and Jim Webb, 69, former senator and Vietnam veteran, haven’t really excited the voters any so far.

While the Democrats have yet to announce the dates of six official televised primary debates, knives are out in the Republican camp to get on the main stage for the first of the nine official debates scheduled for Aug 6 in Cleveland Ohio.

With hosts Fox News limiting the main debate to top ten in five most recent national primary polls as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, respected election site fivethirtyeight has picked up top eight candidates who are most likely to make it.

They include celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump, who has shot into the lead with his promise to make America great again overtaking establishment favourite Jeb Bush, 62, former Florida governor and son of a former president and brother of another.

Others likely to make it thanks to their fairly consistent performance in the polls are Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, 47 and Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, 59, who has courted controversy by comparing the Iran nuclear deal to “marching [Israel] to the door of the oven.”

So are conservative firebrand Cuban American Texas senator Ted Cruz, 44, libertarian conservative Kentucky senator and physician Rand Paul, 52, Cuban American Florida senator Marco Rubio, 44, and author and neurosurgeon Ben Carson, 63.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie, 52, Ohio governor John Kasich, 63, Rick Perry, 65, who served as Texas governor from 2000 to 2015 and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, 57, are considered bubble candidates for the Aug 6 debate. Any two of them could make it.

But Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, 44, a former vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, former HP chief executive Carly Fiorina, 60, former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, 62, South Carolina Lindsey Graham, 60, and former New York governor George Pataki, 70, would most likely miss it.

Only Jindal is polling above 1 percent, and no one in this group has got more than 2 percent in any of the last seven individual live-interview polls, according to fivethirtyeight.

They all face the prospect of being relegated to a secondary forum at 5 p.m. before the prime time main feature.

But the polling day – Tuesday, Nov 8, 2016, – when the voters go to chose their president in an indirect election is still a long way off with a gruelling primary process set to start only in February.

It’s thus hard to speculate who would finally emerge as Democratic and Republic candidates at their national conventions at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Cleveland, Ohio respectively in July next year.

And there could well be a third party candidate jumping in as a wild card.

TNIE

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