L&D Plus Animalz Cassie Naji Haley Bryant
Management & Mindset

How L&D and Operations Can Empower Talented People to Reinvent Themselves at Work

It’s a sorry fact that a lot of talented people will at some point grow bored with what they’re doing. And no matter how great you are at something, when you start to feel over it, you need to find a new challenge. In many cases, this means saying goodbye to your current job. 

But what if that didn’t have to be the case? What if your workplace empowered you to reinvent yourself and find new ways to contribute to everyone’s success?

Recently, we sat down for an episode of the L&D Plus podcast to chat to Cassie Naji and Haley Bryant of content marketing agency Animalz about this very situation. Fortunately for us, Cassie and Haley were happy to share their story of frustration, support, and reinvention.

L&D Plus Collaborative Learning Stories

Saving the episode for later? We’ve broken down the key interview takeaways below.

The Bill Hader effect: Talent doesn’t always equal job satisfaction

These days, Cassie is loving her role as Director of Learning & Development at Animalz. But as she explains, she started her life with the company in a different role entirely. 

“I started out with Animalz as a writer, a content marketing manager, and then moved into a content strategist role. But slightly before the COVID-19 pandemic, I had this feeling that maybe I wasn’t quite in the right position.” 

For Cassie, this wasn’t an easy place to be. “The pandemic really unchained a whole series of doubts. I started to wonder: is this even the right company? Is it the right industry for me? What am I doing? It was a real existential crisis, but I was lucky enough to have Haley as my manager, and to be able to talk about this problem.”

Fortunately, Haley was there with the right support. “I was amazed by Cassie’s vulnerability and bravery in letting me know things weren’t working. I already had a great level of trust in her, because she’s consistently performed well, she embodies our values at work, and she’s a great team player. I wanted us to be open and curious in how we talked about this problem.” 

For Haley, it was important to recognize that talent doesn’t always equal job satisfaction. “We need to understand that what a person is good at might not be energizing for them. For example, in the States, one of the most famous comedians on Saturday Night Live, Bill Hader, hates live television. It doesn’t energize him.”

So, what did Haley do to help Cassie out? “We needed to find a way to share options and let Cassie lead the way by following her passion for L&D. It’s about taking a situational leadership approach to meet the person where they are and make the reinvention collaborative.”

Here’s how they made that happen.

Related: How Gong Built a Performance Management Approach to Attract, Reward, and Motivate Ambitious People

We need to understand that what a person is good at might not be energizing for them. For example, in the States, one of the most famous comedians on Saturday Night Live, Bill Hader, hates live television. It doesn’t energize him.

What should you do when someone wants to make a change?

Saying you want to reinvent yourself at work is one thing–actually following through with it is something else entirely. When Cassie raised the possibility with Haley of moving from content strategy into L&D, they knew they had some work to do. 

They started where all great decisions start: how do the numbers stack up?

1. Let the numbers tell the story

“We wanted to demonstrate the business impact of the change,” says Haley. “We look at People Ops as this huge expense, when really it’s something that can increase our margins pretty significantly and make people feel more fulfilled.”

Cassie agrees. “We were able to talk through my areas of interest and expertise, and how these might interlink with what the company needed. I had to have a strategy for getting buy-in from the rest of the leadership.”

“It was a sort of pincer movement. We first created the inspiring narrative, then we showed we really understood the potential impact on the bottom line. We looked at the costs of losing me as an employee and replacing me, against the costs of me moving into a new role, then the impacts of L&D on our revenue.”

Once Cassie had the numbers sorted, it was up to Haley to provide the support she needed to make this change.

It was a sort of pincer movement. We first created the inspiring narrative, then we showed we really understood the potential impact on the bottom line.

2. Provide the support they need to make an immediate impact

“It was really important that Cassie got started really quickly to make an immediate impact,” says Haley. “She started our Lunch and Learn program, coordinated that across the team, and started acting as if she was already our Director of L&D.” 

For Cassie, having this support allowed her to really prove her value in this new role. “In all those 80s movies, they say dress for the job you want, and then the protagonist comes out with enormous shoulder pads or something. But it was the middle of a pandemic, and we were all in our tracksuits.” 

“The remote pandemic equivalent of big shoulder pads is to just start doing the job. Show that it’s justified, and show your impact. So, I started showing the positive impact on our numbers as a result of our learning projects.”

Finally, Haley did everything she could to show Cassie she believed in her.

In all those 80s movies, they say dress for the job you want, and then the protagonist comes out with enormous shoulder pads or something. But it was the middle of a pandemic, and we were all in our tracksuits.

3. Show them you believe in them–no matter what they want to do

“When people get to a stage where they’re ready to explore, where they’re consistently performing by supporting their team and helping their customers, we want to help them figure out what’s next instead of flying the coop,” says Haley.

“We really want Animalz to be a home for creatives. We want to open doors for more people, and help them realize their ideas, which then impacts the company positively. We want to do more of that at Animalz, and to explore our curiosity in a much more structured way.”

Related: To Increase Top Performance, You Must First Define It: A Lesson From Zapier's L&D and Ops Partnership

We really want Animalz to be a home for creatives. We want to open doors for more people, and help them realize their ideas, which then impacts the company positively.

Don’t let your top talent walk out the door

People shouldn’t have to leave a job just because their passions lie elsewhere. And as this example from Animalz shows us, they don’t have to. All they need is the right support.

So, if you’re looking for a change, why not look to other opportunities available within your company, rather than looking elsewhere? And if you have the chance, why not find new ways to support ambitious people while still contributing to your company’s objectives?

Thanks again to Cassie and Haley for joining us to share their story! And don’t forget to listen to the rest of the interview.

Looking for even more expert advice on how L&D can help you support your teams and grow your company? Of course you are! Check out our first volume of collected CLO Connect expert insights right here:

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