Sometimes L&D leaders have a hard time recognizing their own successes. Instead, we tend to fixate on all the times when things didn’t go quite right. For every nine times you knock it out of the park, that one foul ball is the thing that sticks with you the most.
It might be a KPI you couldn’t reach, or a training session that didn’t quite pop. Sometimes, you can’t help but focus on the negatives. Well, we want to give you a reason to smile instead.
As part of our CLO Connect series, we asked eight leading experts to share their greatest L&D achievements. From leveraging specialist IT training to helping NASA shoot for the moon, here are eight success stories to serve as inspiration for every L&D leader.
Let’s kick things off with something everyone remembers: delivering your first training.
For experienced L&D leaders, delivering great training programs is your bread and butter. But when Art of Shaving L&D Director Genevieve Bochanty was just getting started, her first program was a real source of pride and excitement.
“My proudest moment was definitely delivering my first large-scale product knowledge program,” she says. “Not only did I write the program, including all of the product sheets, but I also launched it company-wide, rolling it out to every single team.”
“This was ten years ago, when I was really just starting out in my career. I had to collaborate with all the teams, get the material to the right places at the exact right time, and make sure all the trainers were ready.”
According to Genevieve, the biggest thrill was seeing how much her learners appreciated the experience. “The most exciting thing was to go into our stores, hear how much everyone loved the program, and see how much of an impact it made every day. That’s what made it so rewarding.”
A lot of L&D leaders bring a depth of specialist experience with them when they step into a learning role. For Gaurav Maheshwari, Senior Director of Content and Knowledge Management at Visa University, his IT background has helped him create amazing learning experiences.
“I have a well-rounded experience, and I can bundle that in with my IT experience,” he says. “I started off as a software engineer and then moved into L&D. This experience has been tremendously helpful for me in creating the right conversations with stakeholders, because I know what they need.”
As Gaurav explains, this specialist training gives him a deep understanding of the different roles within L&D, making it easier to create effective company learning. “I’ve been a facilitator, a learning consultant, a learning partner, and a content designer. This experience helps me create the right impacts for a range of people. It’s something I’m very proud of.”
Like most organizations, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has had to adjust its training delivery in the age of COVID-19. For Cassandra Lux, Director of Learning, this has been a challenging shift–but a gratifying one.
“This last summer, we really had to improvise,” says Cassandra. “We had to take live or on-demand programs and turn them into something better suited to the virtual environment.”
As she explains, the crisis was a chance to strengthen bonds within her team. “There have been a lot of concerns about losing our face-to-face connection during the pandemic, but I saw the opposite. Everybody in my team communicates well, and we’re all supportive of each other.”
“It was encouraging to see so many people jump in and offer to help with the pivot. This transition is something I’ve been really proud to see in action.”
In some industries, it can be tough to get people excited about new ways of learning. As Kelli Dunaway, Director of L&D at law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner explains, her Business Academy initiative brought a much-needed dose of creativity to legal L&D.
“The Business Academy was something new and different and creative, which isn’t something that law firms are often known for,” says Kelli. “We brought in an element of design thinking, and we took associates on a different learning path than they’d experienced before.”
Bringing this fresh approach to learning in the legal sector wasn’t easy, but it helped to generate a lot of attention. “The Business Academy has attracted a lot of press for Bryan Cave, and it has generated a lot of buzz amongst our teams,” says Kelli.
“We’ve now completed the Business Academy for several classes, and our graduates are already helping to bring a new perspective into the firm. It’s something I’m really happy about.”
For Adam Oppegaard, Director of L&D at Tower Loan, seeing how his contributions have helped others is the most meaningful part of his job. “Seeing a team grow is the best thing, especially when it helps their lives outside of work as well.”
His proudest moment of all? Seeing graduates make a contribution to global diplomacy. “I used to teach at the Korean National Diplomatic Academy. After the course ended, I stayed connected to many of these learners on social media.”
“Every once in a while I’ll see updates from them about networking, writing UN resolutions, and building international networks. Seeing them thrive in their careers, and understanding that my team might have had a positive impact on them–that’s a very proud feeling for me. It’s why I got into L&D.”
According to Sarah Cannistra, L&D Career Coach and Chief Learning Officer at the Overnight Trainer podcast, her greatest achievements are all about supporting people to grow. “My proudest moments have to do with my team. I’ve seen people come into training roles with zero L&D experience, but they come because they’re great at their jobs. That’s how I started too.”
As Sarah explains, students can progress quickly if they have the right support. “Recently, I had a former employee join the L&D team as a subject-matter expert. In less than a year, she was overseeing systems training for an entire organization.”
“To be able to watch that and be part of it was really special. It’s why I’ve transitioned into being an L&D coach, because seeing other people grow in L&D really lights me up.”
Working in L&D offers plenty of chances to improve organizational learning, but it also gives people to contribute to the wider learning community. For Matt Donovan, Chief Learning and Innovation Officer at management consulting firm GP Strategies, this has been a real source of satisfaction.
“There are moments when you manage to get the confluence of your work life and personal life just right,” says Matt. “One of these moments is the opportunity I’ve had to work with the International Society for Performance Improvement to create a case competition that allowed us to recognize a wonderful set of emerging practitioners.”
“We brought in graduate teams from top universities focusing on performance improvement and ed-tech. They competed against each other in simulated but authentic client experiences.”
As Matt explains, this case competition gave him the chance to offer his expertise to help emerging professionals. “It was a dynamic exercise, and at the end, the teams pitched their solutions. It was a powerful experience for the students, and it gave us the chance to greet them as a profession. It was a real privilege to have played a part.”
Organizational learning can definitely be exciting–we wouldn’t be here otherwise. But for some lucky learning advisors, L&D can become an otherworldly experience. Just ask Heidi Kirby, Manager of Learning Solutions at Datatrak International.
“My very first instructional design job was at NASA,” she says. “I ran a small needs assessment which got the attention of our curriculum director. It’d been ten years since they’d launched their curriculum, and she wanted to run focus groups to find areas for improvement.”
As Heidi explains, what started off as a modest project soon turned into something far bigger. “Initially, I was helping to write the protocol and the focus group questions. Then I was asked to attend focus groups and take notes, so I got to travel to all ten major NASA centers in the US.”
“Besides being really cool, it was a great experience as a brand new instructional designer to be hearing all of this candid learner feedback, and to notice themes and patterns. It was a hugely formative experience, and it helped me to understand how to improve learning outcomes.”
As L&D leaders, we’re always looking out for new and better ways to support learners and help them grow. This is all part of Collaborative Learning: there’s always room to improve, and always something to be gained from listening to what your peers have to say.
So, take these eight stories of L&D success and think about how you could apply these techniques to your own learning strategies!
And if you’re looking for more inspiration, our #CLOConnect interview series is a great place to start. Here, I interview a new L&D leader every week to find out how they’re driving better learning outcomes by connecting their teams together. You can subscribe (below 👇) to our weekly newsletter to receive our latest posts directly in your inbox.
Thanks again to our eight L&D experts for taking the time to share their tips and insights!