Learning or Improving Your Soft Skills in Five-Minute Chunks
In the 2.5 decades I've been writing about IT training and certification, as well as career growth and development, I've always gone out of my way to give soft skills their due. Soft skills represent the more touchy-feely side of the workplace and concern themselves with basic workplace abilities related to communication (written and oral), management (personal, other people, time, and resources), leadership and mentoring, and more.
As I was out taking my morning constitutional today, I heard mention of a program called Accel5 that promised to teach soft skills in five-minute increments. "Hmmm," I said to myself. "Interesting. Can this be for real?" Indeed it is. Not only that, but it's worth checking out for those seeking to build themselves as well-rounded professionals in IT, especially those aiming at more senior and responsible roles, either in technology or in management.
Who Is EBSCO?
EBSCO Information Services is the division of EBSCO Industries, Inc., which describes itself as "one of the largest privately held and family-owned companies in the United States." It's been in business since 1944, and started out as a small subscription agency.
Today, EBSCO is a leader in the library services industry with a variety of products, services and event technologies that it makes available to its customers, which include research and library operations within branches of government, research operations, health care and medical institutions, and major corporations. Their mission is to provide "content and resources to serve the information and workflow needs of their users and organizations."
The company describes its core values as follows (quoted verbatim):
Focus on what our customers need and continually improve.
Create a vision based on customer feedback.
Aspire to attract employees who foster creativity and cultivate passion.
Insist on quality. Take the time to do the job right the first time.
Innovate and improve technologies for libraries and organizations.
Here's a thumbnail assessment of EBSCO as a company: They've got a track record, funding to support serious research and development for learning and content delivery, and a mission to make what they have to offer useful and valuable in the workplace. So far, so good.
What Is Accel5?
For this description, I'm drawing on a May 2017 press release that describes Accel5 during its product launch. On the one hand, Accel5 is described as a platform that "supports continuous, self-directed learning by providing best business practices from leading business authors, coaches and executives."
Its model is something called micro-learning, which means content gets delivered in small, easily digestible chunks designed to take no more than five minutes to read, watch, or experience. EBSCO says, "Content is designed to be consumed in five minutes or less, making Accel5 ideal for busy professionals at all career levels — from millennials to seasoned executives."
Accel5 content comes in three forms: videos, book summaries and articles or blog posts. They mention some big names in business as video stars: Dan Pink, Liz Wiseman, Marshal Goldsmith, and Tim Sanders. They mention that leading business books, including output from Harvard Business Review Press and the American Management Association Press (AMACOM), get summarize in audio and text form to focus on key takeaways.
Finally, articles from major business journals are carefully selected to provide important ideas and insights. The interface is mobile and modern, accessible from any Internet-attached device.
Accel5 may also be integrated into existing company Learning Management Systems (LMSs), SharePoint and other content delivery platforms, and so forth. Corporations can even customize content collections to meet their specific learning priorities, with an option to add their own corporate branding, if desired.
Again, so far, so good.
Poking Around on Accel5
The content is divided into three major areas: business essentials, managing others, and managing self. Each of these containers holds two-dozen or more sub-topics (short list from business essentials: business acumen, continuous improvement, corporate culture development, corporate social responsibility, and 13 more).
Under each subcategory, content is organized with a tag line, attribution to creator(s), publisher or source, and a quick summary. Drill down gets into text, audio or video materials. It's nicely laid out, easy to navigate, and chock full of interesting stuff. I literally had to pull myself away from stuff I actually wanted to dig into.
A free seven-day trial requires providing payment information, and comes in Annual Plan ($149.00) and Monthly Plan ($14.95) flavors. If you work for an IT employer, then don't sign up for anything until you ask whether there might not be a corporate subscription already in place.
If so, then you may be able to access what I could see as a member of the general public plus a whole bunch more (mostly more business and other journals, courtesy of EBSCO's library businesses in that area) without paying anything. Once the seven-day trial ends, unless you opt out ahead of time, your credit card gets charged annually for the big number, or monthly for the smaller one.
What To Make of Accel5?
I think soft skills are worth a great deal. I think that Accel5 offers covers that space as well or better than other, similar offerings (most of the big training companies and AMACOM itself, offer soft skills libraries at similar prices). The real question is one you'll have to answer for yourself: it is worth $149 a year or $14.95 a month to me to further develop my soft skills?
Personally, I think the answer is "Yes!", but I can't make the decision for you. Check it out and see what you think!