Our recently launched research report, “What Makes a Training Organization Great?”, identifies strategic alignment as the most important process capability of a training organization. With that in mind, today, we spoke with Maggie Redling, manager of learning and development at AvidXchange, Inc., and Coleman Williams, senior manager of human resources and talent operations at AvidXchange, Inc., to learn more on strategic alignment.

Listen to learn more on:

  • Why strategic alignment is essential for great training.
  • Key challenges — and solutions — to achieving strategic alignment between training and business goals.
  • How to prove training’s value to the business.

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The transcript for this episode follows: 

Speaker:

Welcome to The Business of Learning, the learning leader’s podcast from Training Industry.

Taryn Oesch DeLong:

Hello, and welcome to The Business of Learning. I’m Taryn Oesch, managing editor of digital content at Training Industry.

Sarah Gallo:

And I’m Sarah Gallo, an associate editor at Training Industry. Before we get started, I’d like to say that this episode of The Business of Learning is sponsored by Training Industry Research.

Speaker:

As a training professional, your job is to effectively manage the business of learning. You probably listen to this podcast to gain insights on L&D trends being used by some of the most innovative thought leaders in our market. But did you know that Training Industry also provides data-driven analysis and best practices through our premium research reports? Our entire catalog, including reports on topics such as “Deconstructing 70-20-10,” “Women’s Access to Leadership Development,” “Learner Preferences” and “The State of the Training Market,” just to name a few, can be found at TrainingIndustry.com/ShopResearch. New insights create new ways for L&D to do business. Let Training Industry’s research reports assist you in taking your learning initiatives to new heights. Go to TrainingIndustry.com/ShopResearch to view our entire catalog.

Taryn Oesch DeLong:

For over a decade, Training Industry have been conducting research on the process capabilities and best practices of great training organizations. Our recently launched report, “What Makes a Training Organization Great?,” identifies strategic alignment as the most important process capability. With that in mind, today we’re speaking with Maggie Redling, manager of learning and development at AvidXchange Inc., and Coleman Williams, senior manager of human resources and talent operations at AvidXchange Inc., to learn more about strategic alignment and how to achieve it. Maggie, Coleman, welcome to the podcast.

Maggie Redling:

Hello, nice to be here.

Coleman Williams:

Hello, thank you for having us.

Sarah Gallo:

To get started, why don’t you define strategic alignment for us. Coleman, do you want to start us off?

Coleman Williams:

Actually, I’m going to let Maggie start us off.

Maggie Redling:

I’m going to keep it really simple. So, when I think about strategic alignment, it’s really about simply working toward the same goal and being planful about how you do that. So, it’s making sure you have the right people in the right seats, using the same language. It’s having right resources, actually, as I think about this it makes me think of a rowboat and you’re on the water and there’s people in the rowboat and it’s about [whether or not] you have the people in the right spots. Are there four [people] on one side and two on the other? Are you going in circles? Do you have oars? At the end of the day, hopefully everybody in that boat is trying to get to the other side of the lake or the finish line. And it’s that piece that really makes it strategic.

Coleman Williams:

So, I’ll jump in here, and this is not meant to be political. It is election season, and CNN is actually running a commercial right now and there is a donkey and an elephant and they’re in a rowboat. They’re in the same rowboat and they’re both kind of rowing erratically in different directions. And I don’t recall which one, but one of them turns around to the other and says, “You know what? We’re never going to get anywhere if we’re not on the same page.” So really if they’re not aligned, they’re not going to get anywhere. So, one of them begins to call out “Row, row, row, row.” So now they are in alignment, right? Their paddles are hitting the water at the same time, but they’re still going in different directions. So, while they are now aligned, there was no strategy to it whatsoever other than to ensure that their paddles are hitting the water at the same time. It’s just a very interesting commercial, but it speaks volumes about how we can be in alignment, but still not have a strategy to figure out where we’re going. [You’ve] got to be going towards the same dang place.

Taryn Oesch DeLong:

That’s such a great analogy. Yeah, I think we can all relate to that, especially in this season, Coleman, like you said. And how can learning leaders identify and align their training initiatives to key business goals, especially at a time when business priorities are constantly shifting, like what we’ve seen often this year?

Coleman Williams:

Yeah, again, I think you have to have a seat at the table, right? And I know people have heard that before and [you have to consider], what does having a seat at the table actually mean? It doesn’t mean that you’re going to the executive meetings [or] that you’re helping drive all the decisions for the business … but [it’s about finding] that strategic partner in the business that you can align yourself with. Who is that executive that you can align yourself with, that whenever there are decisions being made for the business they’ll speak up for you? And I know a lot of people are probably like, “Well, what about my direct leader? What about…” I reported into the chief people officer, so what about him or her? And I think that, yeah, that’s a great person to do that, but who else in the business can you align yourself with who can also speak up for [you] and acknowledge learning has a place here, too, and we have to think about the resources for learning; we have to think about the timing that learning needs to help make that impact.

Maggie Redling:

Think about it. Learning leaders actually need to think about themselves differently, especially now more than ever. So, historically we’re always a pretty traditional department and we sometimes are order takers, but learning leaders needed to start to see themselves as consultants and as partners to the business who do so much more than just deliver on some sort of solution … because it’s really that consultation that helps to not only hear directly from leaders, whether it’s leaders or even teammates sitting down [each other], getting a coffee, hearing what their issues are really helps to see where there may be misalignment and you help them tell the story of their own strategic alignment, of their own strategic plan to drive performance, that helps you as that leader figure out what do we need to really do. And it’s a little bit different and scary if you haven’t done that before, but that consultancy is what helps you really get that understanding of what the business needs.

Coleman Williams:

Right, and I’ll add that business priorities are always shifting. They were shifting for our current environment with the virus, and our L&D teams should have already been an integral part of the business and the teams that they partner with, and if you’re out there and you’re like, “Oh, hey I’ve not been aligned. We’ve kind of been doing this.” Or, “We’re always hoping to get that seat at the table.” Use this as that opportunity. Now is a great time to set up time with someone else in the business, or set up time with one of these leaders and say, “Hey, I just want to grab 15, 20 minutes of your time and have a discussion about how we could partner differently or how we can partner better.” Understand what it is that you’re doing in the business and what your role in the business is.

Maggie Redling:

This makes me think of what’s been happening over the past five months. The world has changed. What our businesses have done has changed and AvidXchange we mobilized in three days to get every single person working from their home office with new equipment. We all had desktop computers, so everyone got mobilized, and it was amazing. It made us all think about how do we actually keep work moving, and so L&D didn’t necessarily play a large role. We were often big people actually delivering communication, but we weren’t actually part of “how do we build a plan to communicate.” So I, as we started to shift to home, work from home, I as leader of L&D started to meet weekly, sometimes more, with our head of teammate communications, the head of employee communications. They’re the ones who are managing all the emails, our big company meetings. We had one every single day when we first started. There’s specific ones for people leaders, and this was the perfect time for us to actually realize we should be having this partnership all the time. Since talent and HR and especially learning leadership are some of the biggest communicators, why aren’t we working with teammate communications more often? And that was a way for us to really understand what we were communicating, why we were communicating and how we were going to do it maybe a little bit differently. The leader, her name’s Allison, and she hears a lot when she … that’s her role. She’s there to talk to our CEO, to talk to the executive. She heard a lot about what was happening. I heard a lot from teammates because of learning programs that are happening, what’s coming into talent and HR and we were able to align that to make sure that we were delivering. And while I hate that the catalyst of this was COVID, it really showed that having this type of alignment with each other just makes all the difference.

Sarah Gallo:

Definitely, I think effective communication while it’s always important, it’s especially important right now. Are there any other soft skills or other competencies that you think learning leaders need right now during the crisis?

Maggie Redling:

Yes, I think, I know it’s kind of a buzzword, so disclaimer, disclaimer, we’re saying the buzzword right now! But being agile, and maybe I’m going to say it differently as having agility and not feeling as if you need everything perfect. We always want it to be beautiful and as learning, we like it to be flashy and engaging and bright colors and make sure [it has] the right words, but sometimes that holds us back. So, being able to be reactive very quickly and deliver something that’s made at 60%, 70% is enough right now, and really because on the other end, our audience probably wouldn’t necessarily know. We are setting these major expectations for ourselves and I think being able to say, “We’re going to be agile, it’s going to be iterative, it’s going to be okay.” Actually, okay is okay.

Coleman Williams:

And I think for me, the part of it and part of being agile is the ability to be open to trying new tools but not just to try the new tools, but to use them at their best, right? So, there’s been a shift in the use of technology. We were using Microsoft Teams prior to removing to really this work from home workforce but people weren’t utilizing Teams in the way that they should. A couple of folks were told how great, how powerful the tool could be, but what the shift did was it forced people to learn the tool in just a matter of days, and I would say we’ve become a more productive company because of that. Interestingly enough, had the virus not happened, had we not been forced to move to work from home, I do not think that we would be utilizing Microsoft Teams in the way that we are today. So, I think even as things return to normal, whatever normal may be, we have now adapted, and we need to keep that mindset. How do we ensure that people can adapt and change quickly and are willing to adopt new strategies or new tools?

Sarah Gallo:

Yeah, and as we mentioned before Training Industry Research identified strategic alignment as the most important process capability of great training organizations. Why do you think strategic alignment is so vital for great training?

Maggie Redling:

I really think it’s vital because you need to build something that matters, and you need to be building education and resources that make a difference. That are not just there because they’re fun and engaging and it’s a great new offering tool that we found, but then it actually makes some sort of impact.

Coleman Williams:

You have to be the L&D partner they need, not just the one that they want. And for all of you superhero fans out there, that’s a take on a Batman quote. He’s the hero that the Gotham needs, not necessarily the one that they want, but I think it rings true. Sometimes the L&D partner that they want is the order taker … and you don’t need to be the order taker. Maybe sometimes, but not all of the time.

Maggie Redling:

Training can be great, any training can be great. We can make a great training, and I think anyone listening to this and, probably you, can make anything really fun. How do I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? That can be a really cool simulation. It can have a flash; it can have a theme song to teach you; it can have a lot of different things but again, it goes back to … does that even matter? Do we need that in order for our organization to be high-performing, to have higher engagement, to satisfy our customers more quickly and better? That’s where that strategic alignment comes in so, it’s interesting. I think a lot of folks, especially in the business, go straight to “I want a really cool great training” when really, content is content is content but it’s that alignment that’s valuable.

Coleman Williams:

So, I have a question actually for Maggie. When is the last time you’ve seen an organization train their people how to learn?

Maggie Redling:

Probably never. Taryn, have you ever had an organization teach their employees how to learn?

Taryn Oesch DeLong:

As far as my own personal experience, we talk about that a lot at Training Industry because that’s the industry that we’re in, but outside of that I don’t think so.

 

Maggie Redling:

I know that in middle school, in homeroom, we had a lot of study tips and strategies [that we were taught]. I mean, really at the end of the day those are metacognitive strategies that you’re teaching. That’s a big word for you, but it’s true. I don’t know the last time that an employee we’ve taught sit down and help our employees learn how to learn.

Coleman Williams:

Yeah, and I guess the biggest reason I ask is it’s a strategy that we can apply, we should apply but again, I think it goes back to the topic of the day around strategic alignment. If you’re not a key part of a business or a business unit when you say, “Hey, I actually going to teach your people how to learn,” you might have a business leader look at you like you’re crazy. And it ultimately comes down to no, we [do]  need to teach people how to learn because a lot of times what any of us has probably heard back is, “Well, my people don’t learn like that.” Then you’ll hear that they’re a visual learner. But you hear that and maybe that was the way they were taught to learn. So, maybe there’s a different opportunity to teach people how to learn, so that we can move faster, and we can be in alignment.

Maggie Redling:

That brings you back to, is not letting your business ….You’re playing this partner, so that your business leaders don’t dictate how you develop your training or your learning resources so that they aren’t saying, “I have a visual learner. I need only a video.” When realistically, you know that they can do something hands-on. There’s so many different ways to learn, different types of content but it goes back to you’re having the business leader partner with you to figure out what the actual need is. What strategically will make a difference so that their teammates are doing their job faster and happier and more satisfied, is I think the difference, is to pull them away from dictating what we are delivering and get them focused back on the business, which is why they’re there. That’s why we’re not there.

Taryn Oesch DeLong:

Yeah, those are some great points and Coleman I loved that question. I went to college originally to be a teacher and so that’s something I thought a lot about but don’t necessarily see a lot of in the real world, so to speak.

 

Coleman Williams:

I spent my first three years in the real world as I teacher. I taught high school, and it’s definitely not something that comes naturally even to students, especially when they’ve never been taught how to think about how to take notes or how to listen for keywords or “Hey, you need to read the next five pages” doesn’t actually mean you have to read the next five pages, but you need to be able to pick up the key concepts as you skim through a page.

Maggie Redling:

Couple of years ago, Coleman and I, we were at Learning 2018, Elliot Masie’s learning conference, and our topic was how to teach, teaching our employees how to learn. I think it had a better name than that … but the folks who joined the session, I think we all had the same [idea], like “Yeah why don’t we… why aren’t we using jingles more to help our teammates remember our winning moves or our big, hairy audacious goals?” because it’s hard to remember so, why aren’t we helping them figure out how to remember?

Taryn Oesch DeLong:

Right, so we know one of the challenges in achieving training outcomes and strategic alignment is making sure that our learners know how to learn, but we know that there are other struggles that learning leaders have with making sure that their training is strategically aligned with their business goals. What are some of the other key challenges that you find associated with strategic alignment?

Maggie Redling:

I think one of the things that is a challenge is having a common language. So, as learning nerds, which we are, we’re experts in our field, and so we know a lot of words like metacognitive strategies or whatever it may be that we tend to use instead of trying to use the language that the business leaders know. And I think that’s one of the ways that we build up walls between ourselves [and the business]. That we say we’re different, we don’t need to know your language but you need to know ours, and it’s [about] how do we build that common language and when I say that I don’t mean losing our expert learning psychology language. No, keep using it but tell a story in order to help someone understand. So it’s really simple, but just realizing now, I had to fall back to middle school homeroom when we all had to sit there and figure out how to learn a new studying strategy. Just that, I gave context for a word that maybe some folks wouldn’t know, “metacognitive.” So, I’m able to still be the expert that they need me to be, because that’s why they’re using me. That’s why they’re using my team is because we know this but I’m also helping make a connection to something that they know, and I think it goes the other way. So, there’s a lot of things that I’ll be real honest, that I don’t understand as part of the business even at AvidXchange. But I need leaders to take a little bit longer to explain to me so, that I can then do what I need to, but it’s building that commonality between us that I think is one of the biggest challenges and I think both sides don’t necessarily want to give.

Coleman Williams:

I’ll add to that. I think most of our businesses are moving very quickly and it’s interesting. I think if you were to talk to anyone, at any business right now, they would say, “Oh, we’re moving so fast.” I don’t think anyone understands how fast we’re moving and that sentiment echoes across multiple businesses. So, I’m sure that there’s someone that can empathize with them in real life, but it’s because we are all moving fast or we always believe we’re moving so quickly that we have to remember to slow down. Because if we move too fast, we are going to leave someone or some group, a department, whatever it may be, or maybe even our customers behind. And so, it does become increasingly important to be able to at least take that moment to pause and so that is a challenge, and we have to be more vocal about asking for that pause.

Maggie Redling:

And that can even come with, how do you build that relationship to be that partner? [It] makes me think, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I asked a newly, she’s now in our organization, she has a new team supporting some onboarding activities. So some functional onboarding, [which is] not her strong suit. She doesn’t know a whole lot. [I just said], “Look, can we get coffee? How’s it going? I just want to know, how are you as a leader in this new space? What’s happening with your new team? Are there challenges?” And even spending … we only talked for 20 minutes, literally we had coffee at 9 o’clock in the morning. I was able to hear that she was seeing some dips in the attrition or I guess spikes in attrition, some dips in morale and she thought that maybe something that could fix it was fixing the onboarding program. So, she was going to go ask for more resources. Get some cash to get a new tool to help with some virtual instructor-led training and so I said, “Okay, that could be a solution. What are you asking for? What tool, Zoom, Adobe Connect?” She goes, “I have no idea.” And so, right then and there you realize oh okay, you really don’t know. So even if… The moment of just slowing down for 20 minutes to have that conversation, I could give her some advice to say, “I don’t even know if it’s a tool. Have you thought about getting some more instructional designers who have virtual experience, because they create that content on whatever platform?” Yes, there are platforms that make it easier but they can really do it in any way and so it’s that slow down, taking that moment and just talking and connecting, made it so that she was able to ask for the right things instead of something that she really didn’t need.

Sarah Gallo:

Yeah, so thanks for breaking down all those challenges. We know strategically aligning training the business goals is not easy but when we are successful with it, how can it lead to a greater return on investment for training?

Maggie Redling:

I think it’s interesting, because I see a lot that learning programs are very reflective and a little bit insular. So, looking really only at blank, if we’re thinking of Kirkpatrick, those four levels from just smile sheets. Did I like it to true ROI, and we’re really only focused on “[What] did you learn in the program?”  I bring that up because I think that’s one of the biggest things holding us back, is that we’re stuck in that area of saying, “I need to prove that this moment in time mattered.” instead of actually the longer term investment [in training].

Coleman Williams:

I am in a pretty new role for myself with our HR operations, our talent operations team, and this is one of the things that we are continuing to look at closer and closer and recently we have built out a dashboard affiliated to see more trends than anything. But, with that, what we also want to do is make sure that there is an ROI when we invest a lot of time, where we invest money in launching a new program, and one of the things that is missing, and this goes back to what Maggie just said, is we kind of just look at ourselves and what are we doing and why are we doing it, and not being an integral part or not being integrated into that business unit, you’re probably not going to get the numbers you want or you’re not going to ask yourself the right questions to build out that dashboard to be able to show, “Hey, here’s where we started; here’s where we’re going; here was the investment; here’s how we’re performing a day.” And honestly, if the business is coming to you with an issue or a challenge that they already have, they’re likely not just engaging you but they’re engaging other folks and they’re already planning on rolling out other programs. So now it turns into, I can’t just look at myself and how I’m making an impact. I need to look at the bigger picture. I need to look at how am I impacting the program? How am I impacting a specific department and how do I fit in longer term to see how we move the needle?

Maggie Redling:

So, I’ll tell you a little [to] bring this to life a little bit, because as you say that it makes me think of a program that really Coleman and I spearheaded over the past year and got launched in February, right before the world changed. Where we call it My Career at AvidXchange, it’s a philosophy for career development but it is also a tool that is, what is it? How do we describe it? A teammate development tool or platform?

Coleman Williams:

[It’s] a people experience tool.

Maggie Redling:

People experience tool. It’s a bridge for anyone who wants to go look it up. It’s a really amazing platform that has lots of functionality from engagement scores, to help facilitating one-on-one conversations. It can hold your development plan. It can have skills, it has your LMS. It’s really this one-stop shop for development. So, I say all that as we launched this program because we saw an engagement score as part of last year’s assessment that said 51% of our teammates saw growth in development opportunities. So 51, that’s great. But that means 49% of our teammates did not. So, what do we do? So we could, as learning leaders, we could just help the leaders figure out what they want to do, give them their results and move on. Maybe create some training around something communication but instead, what we’ve done over the past couple of months is really think through, how can we use the metrics that the business is already using? So, we already have as engagement score, so that’s one barometer to see if on an ongoing basis, if that changes. But we can also now use this amazing tool to help facilitate something that’s already an expectation of our teammates and leaders, which is having a one-on-one at least every other week, maybe once a month for some of those really big teams. This tool gives us a way to track that. We’re then able to build a ton of communications and resources about, “How do I have an effective one-on-one?” “What should be a part of it?” And then, we’re also able to start tracking our development goals. How many of our teams actually have a documented development goal in this new tool, My Career? So again, these are expectations that the business already had on themselves. We just are now able to integrate ourselves as learning into that, so that we can help track it and then help solution when we see dips. So, there’s an organization or a small business unit that is not having one-on-ones. We can work closely with our talent business partners and say, “Hey, what’s happening? Why? Is it I don’t know how? Is it I don’t know how to use the tool? Is it I don’t want to talk to my leader.” What is that thing that then we can build some resources and communications around it that really has given us a whole different seat at the table. I’m going to take it back to that. We are looked at completely different than we were six months ago, because we are no longer just delivering on a tool or throwing out some random resources. Now we’re doing exactly what they need when they need it. but it’s still giving us the information that we need and learning to drive us forward.

Coleman Williams:

Right, and with that seat and talking about the seat at the table too, two things kind of come to mind for me. One, we also track internal moves within our company. So, not only are we now just looking at engagement scores, but now we can also look at these internal moves to see what impact [we’re having], making sure that people understand how they can develop and grow in their career. And so, there’s one business unit specifically [where] that’s very important to them, right? And they have a lot of entry-level employees and so the jobs can be repetitive. You can actually have a lot of high turnover. We now, when we hire folks that a year, year and a half into it they are going to be looking, they’re going to be looking for that next thing. Again, the role can be kind of repetitive. And so, if we’re doing a good job and if My Career is making an impact, we should be seeing an increase in internal moves because these folks are getting the skills that they need, they’re getting the training around the skills that they need. They are getting the support they need, the coaching they need to be able to move to that next role when it opens up within the organization. And the other side of the coin is, we have a seat at the table at the executive level now, and not just with our chief people officer, but with our chief information officer as well. She’s also drinking the Kool-Aid because we have a great partnership with her and she sees how we’re moving and how we’re partnering to move the needle within her own team and how we’re partnering to help develop her teammates to move them to the next role or even move teammates outside of the group that she leads into her team.

Maggie Redling:

And that’s where the value comes in. That’s what they start to see and how you start to see that in return.

Coleman Williams:

And just to add one other thought to this, going back to the very beginning, none of this happens without relationships. So again, if you don’t have those relationships it’s pick up the phone [or] send a meeting invite, whatever it may be, but connect with someone. Connect with someone new and just start to have those discussions so that you can understand how what they think moving the needle forward is and then you can also share your opinion.

Sarah Gallo:

Yeah, very cool. Those relationships are definitely important right now. As we record this episode, the coronavirus pandemic has of course taken a toll on business outcomes across the country and the world. How can creating and delivering strategically aligned training initiatives help learning leaders prove their value to the business, when it’s more important than ever that they do so?

Maggie Redling:

That value I think, comes in the change in our role. So, [now it’s] no longer [about] just the trainers, just the instructional designers or just eLearning. Yes, learning is still at the heart of everything that we do but the way in which that happens I think, has completely changed or you have the opportunity to change it. I think learning leader’s scope has broadened. So, no longer are we just the people that do the learning but we’re the consultants that help businesses figure out really what’s at the heart of it. The coaches that help leaders build their own confidence, figure out where their strengths and opportunities are and shift how they lead and then it’s really being a leader in communication. I would say that probably a good 60% of my job now is communicating. It’s not necessarily building content in my team too because now we have to figure out one, how do we get buy-in from different leaders or different teammates? How do I make it exciting for teammates to want to join a career fair virtually but still there for their development, but I have to do it differently. So, we have to think a lot more about communication strategy, which is really fun and really does use a lot of what we know about cognitive learning and all of that. It just hasn’t always been part of how organizations have seen L&D before. So, I think that’s where our value really is driven, especially in these uncertain times, is to say we can kind of step into these different spaces and have a much bigger impact on the organization.

Coleman Williams:

And going back to our tools or our platforms, do they work? Do they work seamlessly? Do they integrate into other system’s platforms we have across the organization? Because if they don’t or if it takes me more than four or five clicks, I’m already done. I’m not going to keep clicking to try to get to what I want or where I want to go. I’m going to send an email. I’m going to call somebody. I’m going to ping somebody, whatever it may be. So, there’s already a breakdown in my tool or the way that I’m communicating and now there’s even a mistrust in whatever platform there was that I was using. So, we have to make sure that as Maggie thinks about the communication, how is she going to get that out there? Is it going through an email? Is it going on to a website? Is it being sent through one of our HR platforms? But again, if they don’t work, they only have to not work once for someone to lose trust, right? And sometimes we can explain that away for disruptions in service, everything, and people can be forgiving but when it becomes repetitive or there has to be work-arounds every single time you use it, people will lose trust in systems, tools, platforms and will not return to this. And so, we just have to think about that and then also thinking about what roles our people have, right? I can only have folks that are on the phone all day long. Phone call after phone call, after phone call and they don’t necessarily have time to read their email and their volume of emails can be pretty low but if they’re on the phone, sending an email out as a communication is not the right platform. But oh wait, guess what? I know that they work in Salesforce. So, is there an opportunity for me to somehow get that message out to them through Salesforce knowing that’s where they spend 90% of their time? And if we don’t partner with the business, they’re not integrated in with the business, we don’t think about that, right? We just say, “Hey, this works for majority of the company.” Well [even if it’s the] majority of the company, when you leave out 30% [of the company], that’s still not good.

Maggie Redling:

We want to make their lives easier.

Taryn Oesch DeLong:

Well, thanks so much for joining us today, Maggie and Coleman. Are there any final thoughts or takeaways you’d like to leave us with?

Maggie Redling:

Yes. Only one thing that I want everyone listening to this and you as well Taryn, to keep in mind is that we kind of talked a lot of learning business today. I know that’s the point of the podcast but I want to remind everyone to have fun. This learning space is a really fun place to be. We get to do some pretty ridiculous things sometimes and don’t forget that just because the world is a little crazy right now and that it feels really heavy, that maybe this is the right time to do something a little bit more light-hearted to get your message across because I think you’d be surprised at the reaction.

Coleman Williams:

And I’ll add to that, smile. So, Taryn, if you would smile right now. I’m smiling, Maggie’s smiling. If you’re listening, smile, right? It’s that ability, just take a step back, think about who you’re bringing to the office environment. Who you’re bringing online, what is that presence that you have? What’s your character? You don’t have to just be so upset and hardened about everything going on. There’s a lot of heavy stuff going on in the world so, how can you bring that little bit of joy back to the people that you work with and partner with to give them the brain breaks? Again, like Maggie said, everybody’s running a business and running a business it can be hard, it can be serious but there is time for those moments of joy. Celebrate and bring your best self.

Maggie Redling:

Our company does a daily huddle. It’s a 15-minute huddle on Fridays. A couple days a week, but Fridays, it was about a month or two ago, Coleman and I were asked to lead it. We weren’t given any real direction, so we took our brains and went in a really interesting direction but we wanted to have a purpose because we wanted to make sure that we were aligned to how the business was working and what we wanted out of it was to help our teammates run their meetings more effectively. We are a very meeting heavy organization, especially now more than ever and so, it’s hard. So, we wanted to help people learn the best practices: Shut the meeting down early; make sure there’s an agenda; do you have the right people and how did we do it? Coleman, tell her how we did it.

Coleman Williams:

Yeah, so we locked our chief people officer in a tower, and he was locked in the tower by a meeting monster, right? So serious topic, not so serious way to approach it. So, he had to ultimately be saved from the meeting monster by teaching people best practices.

Maggie Redling:

So, the doctor, that’s me, and the fan…

Coleman Williams:

That’s me. So in case you’re wondering, “fan” are my credentials, right? So, it’s Coleman Williams, F-A-N and that means professional fan.

Maggie Redling:

He’s a wrestling fan. We built these characters and had a comic book. These comic book characters saved our chief people officer from the meeting monster in a tower by setting an agenda, canceling the meeting or shutting it down early and it seemed dumb and it seemed superficial but it actually has penetrated into even our company-wide weekly operating reviews to say how are we looking at the amount of time that we’re in meetings and people are using the word, “All right, I don’t want the meeting monster to take a hold of us. I’m going to let us end five minutes early.” So, it seems like it’s so superficial, but even just bringing a little bit of levity into it, you can still teach. I mean, you do it all the time elementary school teachers. You have the most creative minds, bring it into the workplace. Adults like to have fun too.

Sarah Gallo:

I love that. It sounds like you guys have a lot of fun over there. Thank you both for joining us today on The Business of Learning.

Maggie Redling:

Thank you so much.

Coleman Williams:

Thank you.

Taryn Oesch DeLong:

Yes, thank you. Great tips I think for learning leaders in particular, but really for everybody bringing some joy and levity into the workplace during a difficult year. To learn more about strategic alignment and other key best practices that define great training organizations check out our recently launched report, “What Makes a Training Organization Great?” You can find the link to the report and other resources on strategic alignment in the show notes for this episode at TrainingIndustry.com/TrainingIndustryPodcast.

Sarah Gallo:

And if you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to rate and review us on your favorite podcast app. Until next time.

Speaker:

If you have feedback about this episode, or would like to suggest a topic for a future program, email us at Info@TrainingIndustry.com or use the Contact Us page TrainingIndustry.com. Thanks for listening to The Training Industry Podcast.

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