As L&D leaders, we’re operating in an ever-changing world. And let’s be honest: trying to connect employees in different regions while driving the right learning impact can feel a little overwhelming.
So, how can we take a step back, pause for a moment, and focus on the fundamentals? And how can we harness new technologies to help people keep learning in a changing world?
Carol Sinko, Senior Vice President and Marcel Classes Global Lead at Publicis Groupe, is bringing together the company's 90,000+ creative minds to share their expertise and solve problems together. In the latest episode of L&D Plus, she told us about her accidental path into L&D, and how Publicis Groupe is using technology to get back to the basics.
If you’re saving the podcast for later, we’ve distilled the main takeaways below.
Like a lot of L&D leaders, Carol has noticed the new range of demands learning teams are facing in the context of COVID-19 and the shift to remote work. To help her get perspective, she’s thinking back on her unexpected journey into her first L&D role: training administrator.
“L&D isn’t the kind of job where kids are sitting down dreaming: ‘one day I will be an instructional designer’, or ‘one day I will lead the learning management administration for a global network of advertising companies’. But I was lucky to get a chance to work in L&D right out of university.”
“It was a very basic pattern in that job: you had to do the standard ‘train the trainer’ model, and there were teach-backs involved before I was ever put in front of a group of students.”
“I think that's something that a lot of practitioners can still rely on–those basic practices. Don't just try to wing it. Make sure you don't read the bullet points as though you've never seen them before. I think we in this industry know these basics really well, but in challenging times, it's easy to forget.”
As Carol explains, this first role gave her the opportunity to practise and make sure she mastered the learning material. “I was still terrified the first few times I taught any of those courses, but before I was out there, I had the preparation.”
So, how can we take that step back and start with the basics? As Carol says, it helps to capitalize on all the attention L&D is getting right now.
Speaking of getting back to the basics–are you looking for a better way to prove your training impact? Check out our free ROI calculator.
I think we in this industry know these basics really well, but in challenging times, it's easy to forget.
As Carol explains, L&D is facing a lot of high-level attention as organizations look to meet the challenges of the moment. “What we need to do as practitioners in this field is capitalize on that attention. We don't really need to turn away from what we already know.”
“As organizations face more issues with retention, there’s a general awareness that one way to keep people engaged with your company is through development. For those of us that have been doing this for a long time, this is something we’ve already known.”
“Now is the moment for us to take advantage of the fact that we have this spotlight. It feels like a crisis but it's not, because we know a lot of how to build engaging learning programs. We know how to make a career path, and how to make sure people are getting what they need when they need it. Now, we just need to apply that.”
Carol is not suggesting, however, that we go back to where we were 20 years ago. “The methodology and the delivery models have changed, but we shouldn't feel surprised by this. We're just leveraging what we know in shorter programs, but using the best practices we've acquired over all these years, as well as some newer technologies.”
As Carol explains, one of her key priorities right now is helping leaders demonstrate positive learning behaviors.
Now is the moment for us to take advantage of the fact that we have this spotlight.
Currently, Carol and her team are finding new ways to support leaders to learn, too. “I think that not just in any one company but universally, the more we see leaders in companies modeling and making time for learning the better that's going to be for our industry.”
“We know that learning cultures develop in companies where employees see their leaders participating, sharing on internal social networks, and highlighting recent events where they might say, ‘I read this article, or I attended this conference, or I spoke at a conference’. That’s what it means to get back to basics.”
As Carol explains, the more we see leaders learning, the more it gives people permission to make time in their day for learning. “What we need to teach people is going to constantly evolve, but the methods and the application go back to the basics. It's that idea of giving people permission and having leaders model it so that they know it is important.”
But how do Carol and her team match this permission with the right learning experiences?
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We know that learning cultures develop in companies where employees see their leaders participating.
To create the right learning experiences at the right time, Carol and her team are defining the topics that are the most critical for the largest set of their employees.
“We're doubling down on the core essential skills of management training,” she explains. “A lot of the information hasn't changed much when we think back over the last 20 or 30 years. Discovery sessions and working within your team–these have been around for a long time, but people are finding them more valuable than ever.”
“We're bridging this gap between up-and-coming information which is always changing and information that we've known for a long time but people maybe haven't taken advantage of. 20 years ago, someone might have done a discovery workshop, and now we have employees coming into corporate worlds that are needing to get that information for themselves.”
But, how do you choose the right topics for getting the information to those employees who need it most? It comes down to getting material out quickly and then refining it with new technologies.
In Carol’s experience, there’s always an ongoing evolution of the most important topics to cover–especially within a company like Publicis Groupe.
“There are always core skills to focus on,” she says. “What are the fundamentals of emotional intelligence or team management? But technology is always going to change. So, what I encourage people to do in terms of the latest news is get material built quickly and then refine it.”
“For example, in advertising there are a million different ad server tools or ad optimization tools. There's no way we can expect any of our junior employees to always be certified and experts in all of the different potential options out there. So, what we try to do is provide access to as many partner trainings as we can, and keep iterating on those.”
As Carol explains, that process is going to change all the time. That’s why she and her team have to make space for their employees to understand they are going to learn some of it on the job, going back to the 70/20/10 rule.
“And what we need them to understand at the beginning is the basics of how it works: here's some training on this particular tool or a different particular tool. Then it's our responsibility to help them keep up to date with changes on those tools. We're never going to get ahead of that curve, so we need to do our best to stay in the middle of that curve.”
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We're never going to get ahead of that curve, so we need to do our best to stay in the middle of that curve
One overarching bit of advice for worried L&D leaders? Remember that while the world is always changing, nothing has changed about the fundamentals of how we deliver great learning experiences to our audiences.
“To all the L&D practitioners out there: relax, you got this. You know what you're doing. And maybe if you're a brand new practitioner in this field, you still need to practise. And maybe if you've been doing this for a couple of decades, you need to think back to some of those basics.”
In Carol’s experience, a lot has changed in how we build the right content to grab learner attention. “But the core principles of what's in it for the learner–giving them examples, having time to practise, letting them ask questions–this is all material we know. And we can rely on that foundation of understanding.”
“We don't have to throw everything out and start from scratch. I think that's what helped keep me calm during the chaos of the last two and a half years. That’s an important thing for people to remember.”
We don't have to throw everything out and start from scratch. I think that's what helped keep me calm during the chaos of the last two and a half years. That’s an important thing for people to remember.
Thanks again to Carol for joining us and sharing her experience and insights!
For more inspiring and actionable L&D stories like this one, be sure to check out our other episodes of L&D Plus. And if you're looking for more great L&D resources and insights, come and join the L&D Collective and connect with other learning leaders!