Chief Learning Officer - April 2017

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April 2017 |

➤ What Skills Will Leaders Need in the Future? ➤ Executive Education Tops List of Effective Investments ➤ Blend East and West for Effective Leadership Development ➤ 6 Strategies to Create Digital Learning Success ➤ Regulatory Upheavals Coming? No Problem

Thomson Reuters’



To Err Is Human M

istakes happen to everyone. I was reminded of that inconvenient fact as I watched the astonishing and dramatic conclusion of the Academy Awards ceremony in February. For those living under a rock or allergic to all things Hollywood, the Oscar for Best Picture was awarded to the musical movie “La La Land,” a heavy favorite coming into the night. The “La La Land” contingent stormed the stage and the producers began their acceptance speeches only to be stopped short as they learned that the biggest win of their careers had turned into a stunning loss. The producers of “Moonlight,” in a state of shock and disbelief, were called to the stage to accept the award that was rightfully theirs.

Are learning systems set up to make the most of mistakes as opportunities for performance improvement?

from them? To be clear, one isolated mistake is a learning opportunity. Several consistent and ongoing ones is a talent management problem, a sign of misalignment between a person and a role or a management problem ready to explode. But, assuming they’re isolated, are our learning systems set up to make the most of mistakes as opportunities for performance improvement? The answer was easy when apprenticeship was the primary means of education. A novice worked in close proximity to an expert, observing, imitating and making mistakes quickly corrected in the moment. As we moved to mass public education, the classroom replaced the apprenticeship. Ample opportunities to make mistakes remained but our ability to correct them and provide individualized feedback was diluted. In corporate environments, that became even more the case as classroom training sessions focused on transferring knowledge rather than applying that knowledge on the job. That focus has shifted, rightfully, as more and more learning happens closer to the job rather than as an isolated event. Investments have followed. Learning departments have upped their spending on performance support systems, content curation and bite-sized learning chunks or microlearning to make learning a part of the workflow of many employees. Companies are discarding annual performance reviews and replacing them with more frequent performance “conversations.” But without careful planning and execution, the opportunity to learn from mistakes may be minimized or lost entirely. Learning on the job means an employee is being held accountable for their performance while simultaneously working to acquire the skills and abilities to make them more successful. Absent the feedback loop of coaching and ongoing manager interaction, mistakes become an opportunity to punish rather than learn. No doubt, the first instinct of the Academy was to find out who’s to blame for the mistake. We all do that. But the more important point is to learn how to do it better. That’s a lesson worthy of an Oscar. CLO

The error, as it turned out, wasn’t a result of a miscalculation of votes or a diabolical plot worthy of a Hollywood thriller. The award presenters were simply handed the wrong envelope as they stepped onto the stage. Mistakes happen, even to the best of us. If there’s one true statement to be made about all of human history, it would be that mistakes were made. Small and large, strategic and tactical, inconsequential and monumental, our history is laced with errors from time immemorial. At some point, one of our poor ancestors plucked a ripe but poisonous mushroom from the forest floor, took a bite and keeled over. We all benefited from his tragic mistake. To put in the terms of software development, mistakes are a feature of our development code, not a bug. While they can be embarrassing, painful and even tragic, mistakes are our most powerful learning experiences. The lessons are vivid. The results durable. No forgetting curve here. Ask yourself what your most powerful learning experience was and it may well come accompanied with the blinding light of insight or hot flash of embarrassment that attests to how alive that memory remains. That’s why mistakes are such a powerful educational tool. As individuals, they provide us with our most significant development experiences. As organizations, they become part of company lore, retold to generations of those who come later. But as we continue to evolve our Mike Prokopeak learning models and integrate the process of learning Editor in Chief with performance, are we risking our ability to learn 4 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

Running Training like a Business. Proven Approach. Transformative Results.

As business leaders deal with rising customer expectations, lower productivity, and severe cost pressures, there is increased pressure on training functions to reduce costs, increase value, become more relevant, and focus on the strategic elements of the business. NIIT’s managed training services are built on the principles of running training like a business and help leading global companies demonstrably transform the effectiveness and efficiency of their training. Learn how running training like a business can work for you –







April 2017 | Volume 16, Issue 3 PRESIDENT John R. Taggart



EDITORIAL INTERNS Mia Mancini Camaron Santos




DIGITAL COORDINATOR Mannat Mahtani LIST MANAGER Mike Rovello BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION MANAGER Melanie Lee CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Stan Beecham Josh Bersin Dave DeFilippo Holly Downs Michael E. Echols Sarah Fister Gale Bravetta Hassell Lily Kelly-Radford Alan Landers Ana Sánchez Linares Samir Mehta Jack J. Phillips Patti P. Phillips Rebecca Ray Evan Sinar






CHIEF LEARNING OFFICER EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Cushing Anderson, Program Director, Learning Ser vices, IDC Frank J. Anderson Jr., ( Ret.) President, Defense Acquisition Universit y Cedric Coco, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Lowe’s Cos. Inc. Lisa Doyle, Vice President, Learning and Development, Lowe’s Cos. Inc. Tamar Elkeles, Chief People Of ficer, Quixey Thomas Evans, ( Ret.) Chief Learning Of ficer, PricewaterhouseCoopers Ted Henson, Senior Strategist, Oracle Gerry Hudson-Martin, Director, Corporate Learning Strategies, Business Architects Kimo Kippen, Chief Learning Of ficer, Hilton Worldwide Rob Lauber, Vice President, Chief Learning Of ficer, McDonald’s Corp. Maj. Gen. Erwin F. Lessel, ( Ret.) U.S. Air Force, Director, Deloit te Consulting Justin Lombardo, Interim Chief Learning Of ficer, Baptist Health Alan Malinchak, Executive Advisor, Talent and Learning Practice, Deltek Universit y Lee Maxey, CEO, MindMax Jeanne C. Meister, Author and Independent Learning Consultant Bob Mosher, Senior Par tner and Chief Learning Evangelist, APPLY Synergies Rebecca Ray, Executive Vice President, The Conference Board Allison Rossett, ( Ret.) Professor of Educational Technology, San Diego State Universit y Diana Thomas, CEO and Founder, Winning Results Annette Thompson, Senior Vice President and Chief Learning Of ficer, Farmers Insurance David Vance, Former President, Caterpillar Universit y Kevin D. Wilde, Executive Leadership Fellow, Carlson School of Management, Universit y of Minnesota Chief Learning Officer (ISSN 1935-8148) is published monthly, except bi-monthly in January/February and November/December by MediaTec Publishing Inc., 111 E. Wacker Dr., Suite 1200, Chicago IL 60601. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Chief Learning Officer, P.O. Box 8712 Lowell, MA 01853. Subscriptions are free to qualified professionals within the US and Canada. Digital free subscriptions are available worldwide. Nonqualified paid subscriptions are available at the subscription price of $199 for 12 issues. All countries outside the US and Canada must be prepaid in US funds with an additional $33 postage surcharge. Single price copy is $29.95 Chief Learning Officer and are the trademarks of MediaTec Publishing Inc. Copyright © 2017, MediaTec Publishing Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of material published in Chief Learning Officer is forbidden without permission. Printed by: Quad/Graphics, Sussex, WI









What Skills Will Leaders Need in the Future?


Your Brain on Learning


Blend East and West for Effective Leadership Development

Rebecca Ray and Evan Sinar When it comes to leadership development, learning leaders should consider common ground before deferring to oft-overstated generational differences.

Bravetta Hassell To design experiences where information isn’t just transferred but inspires transformation, learning leaders should have a basic understanding of how the brain works.

Lily Kelly-Radford Consider cultural, national, local and familial dynamics when crafting a leadership development strategy that blends Eastern and Western cultures.

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6 Strategies to Create Digital Learning Success Holly Downs and Samir Mehta Digital learning is more than a convenient, technology-based way to share information. With the right planning, it can be a cost-effective strategy to deepen workforce and leadership capabilities.

Do You Know How to Create an Actionable Learning Strategy? Alan Landers It’s an evergreen problem: How do leaders ensure their efforts align with organizational priorities? It’s all in the strategy.

8 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

The Week That Was Each week, we compile a list of the top five stories on as well as the week’s top business and industry news so you can catch up on what your peers are reading. Look for this section in every Friday’s newsletter, or visit us on the web and tell us what you’re reading. ON THE COVER: PHOTO BY DAVID LUBARSKY







22 Profile Oh, the Places Learning Happens Bravetta Hassell At Thomson Reuters, Michele Isaacs has her eyes on informal and formal learning and experimentation — if that’s what will drive business results.

50 Case Study Regulatory Upheavals Coming? No Problem Sarah Fister Gale Guild Mortgage Co. used custom training and a new LMS to prepare for regulatory change.

54 Business Intelligence Executive Education Tops List of Effective Investments Ana Sánchez Linares But according to one survey, metrics on corporate learning investments are often not conclusive in proving outcomes.

Michael E. Echols The CLO’s Dilemma


Josh Bersin Do We Still Need the LMS?


Jack J. Phillips & Patti P. Phillips CFO, Friend or Foe?


David DeFilippo A CLO at 50


Stan Beecham Better Is the Enemy of Best

Resources 4 Editor’s Letter

To Err Is Human

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Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •



The CLO’s Dilemma Coding is the latest urgent answer to all digital problems. Or is it? • BY MICHAEL E. ECHOLS


Michael E. Echols is principal and founder of Human Capital LLC and author of “Your Future Is Calling.” To comment, email editor@

oding is being advanced as the answer to an important part of today’s organizational skills gap. It’s anything but. While Donald Trump cleverly reduces answers to complex world problems to 140 characters, this speculation about coding makes the lives of all learning executives much more difficult. When the CEO reads about coding as a skills gap solution, it does what simplified answers do, it resonates intuitively. Why? It’s painfully obvious to even the digital Neanderthals among us, digital technology has infiltrated every dimension of our lives. We search online. We shop online. When we have a problem to be solved, we get targeted learning on YouTube. We create communities on Facebook. We even find marriage partners on

Coding is not a learning strategy. Instead, explore what skills create real digital device value. Those facts not sufficiently compelling evidence? Take a few minutes to look around at fellow passengers on the subway or those waiting to board an airplane. What are virtually all of them doing? With heads bowed, they are interacting with their smartphones, oblivious to all else. It’s a total digital immersion. This modern manifestation of the digital body snatchers has every organizational leader from bankers to retailers and educators scrambling to get to the head of the parade to the digital future. Why? It’s obvious to all but the most remote natives of Papua New Guinea that failure to successfully compete in the digital world will lead to almost certain organizational death well before the end of the coming decade. And it’s no fun being on the endangered species list. Here is one additional element for consideration. Coding is the digital translation of the messy, ever rapidly changing human world to machines that reason in the language of zeros and ones. A coder is a translator. Coders write in the syntax and vocabulary of digital machines. 10 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

So, here is the dilemma for CLOs. Were we successful at fully deploying a coding learning strategy, we would have an organization largely composed of translators. Now, I could be wrong about this, but I am not familiar with any successful competitor composed of translators — not even Google or Facebook. I know, I know, at this point you’re thinking: “Don’t be absurd Echols. We’re not talking about everyone becoming a coder.” I agree, but herein lies the dilemma. If coding is not the goose that lays the golden egg, what is? Here is one suggestion for at least a partial answer to this digital dilemma. The real value creation is not in the role as translator. For evidence of this simply plug the job title translator into the search box on any job site and see how many open positions come up and at what salary. For instance, a quick job search on CareerBuilder shows Japanese translators at $45,000 $65,000 per year. What makes coding so hot is not the translation skill per se, but the massive explosion in digital devices as we dash headlong into a world of billions and billions of devices in the world called the “Internet of Things.” The point is, at least a part of the huge demand for coders is the need to have enough capacity to communicate in the language of those billions of digital devices. All of this brings me to a preliminary recommendation for CLOs. In the spirit of our new POTUS, I will toss out a simple position, and then explore the details later. While coding is an immediate priority for learning, that priority is fundamentally an investment in translator capacity. It is not a learning strategy. Instead, explore what skills are required to create real value in the population explosion of digital devices. For now, a few items on that list are: problem solving, critical thinking, communication skills, the ability to successfully work on teams and the ability to understand and prioritize tidal waves of new information. Note, those waves grow taller every day. This priority list is not new. Its presentation here is made not as an “aha!” moment, but as a recalibration of what remains important to learning in the face of coding — one of the latest shiny objects. Let’s not even start talking about issue identification and recommended solutions. For now, think Google AdWords and big data. CLO

Gain a competitive advantage with a dynamic talent strategy.

DeVryWORKS congratulates our partners, The Adecco Group and Compass Group, for earning the 2017 DeVry TEACH Partner Award. If you plan to attend CLO Magazine’s Spring Symposium, we invite you to attend their presentations!

Technologies, markets and industries evolve quickly and often unexpectedly. Today’s corporations face pressing challenges brought by rapid change and the resulting skills gap. An organization can thrive with an engaged workforce prepared to meet its current and future needs, as well as developed leaders who can deliver on strategic priorities. The right talent initiatives can help you energize a business growth strategy—that’s why a DeVryWORKS partnership is strategic too. Our partnership lets you tap the leadership, tools and resources you need to build a brilliant workforce and drive success across your organization.





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Do We Still Need the LMS? Digital learning components have more or less taken its place • BY JOSH BERSIN


Josh Bersin is founder of Bersin, known as Bersin by Deloitte, and a principal with Deloitte Consulting. To comment, email editor@CLOmedia. com.

ccording to CB Insights 2017 research, venture capitalists and corporate teams invested $1.85 billion into various types of learning and training companies in 2016, and the number appears to be going up in 2017. Why all the investment? Well, over the past 15 years we’ve witnessed a revolution in corporate training. Saba Software, one of the pioneers in enterprise learning technology, was founded less than 20 years ago, and since then the market has exploded. Our research shows there is more than $4 billion spent each year on learning management systems; that doesn’t include new platforms and tools for content development, video authoring and distribution, assessment, content integration, curation and learning marketplaces. Employees want to learn in personalized, microlearning bursts. Over a given week our research shows that people spend about 1 percent of their time on learning. That’s less than 30 minutes a week, typically five minutes here, 10 minutes there, and occasionally a 30-minute or hour slot to sit down and go through a course. About 30 percent of corporate training is instructor facilitated or done in a classroom, and even that is complemented by prerequisites, reading assignments and online exercises that demand technology. I’ve seen the LMS or learning technology market go through four stages. In its earliest stage (1980s and 1990s) we bought training management systems to schedule classes and classrooms. In the early 2000s these became e-learning platforms; we used them to manage courseware and course libraries. In the mid2000s platforms became talent management systems as we tried to focus training around roles, skills and careers. Now, as we enter a world of always-on social media, video and mobile computing, these systems have become video learning systems, curation platforms and tools to integrate various digital assets. I still believe learning technology is among the most complex and problematic areas of all HR technology. We have to deal with every possible form of content, programs as short as a minute or as long as many hours, and a wide range of learning styles and interactivities that address different content and learner types. The LMS market has never been easy, and this fourth wave is turning out to be harder than ever. Over the past few months I’ve been diving back into this space, and after talking with many large com-

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panies about their digital learning strategies — and headaches — I’ve found the good old learning management system is starting to fade into the background. When we first started building LMSs we had visions of people using them for learning all day. You would log in, the system would intelligently recommend learning, it would connect you to people, and you would learn all the time. But these systems’ architecture has not worn well; their focus on courses and programs cannot keep up, and now we all need a digital learning dashboard that brings every possible learning opportunity to our phone. Companies like Oracle, SuccessFactors and Workday are doing great things to extend this model, but the days of the LMS being the “place people go to learn” are more or less over.

The LMS is like a backoffice mainframe. It does important things, but we don’t see it often. A whole tapestry of necessary systems took their place: curation systems, content management systems, collaboration tools and social learning platforms, all of which complement the LMS and create a true learning experience for employees. Thanks to the increasingly well-adopted X-API standard, you can track employee interactions with any digital content, so there isn’t much need to load content into an LMS. Now, I don’t believe the learning management systems market is ending by any means. Companies of all sizes need a platform to manage training activity, track compliance and store all the licensed content we purchase. But the LMS is no longer the center of learning; it has become more like the back-office mainframe we use to run payroll. It’s there, it does important things, but we don’t see it that often. Digital learning is an exciting and emerging new world — one every company wants to take advantage of. This is a time of change, and I recommend that you think differently, so you can build a learning platform that’s current, modern and ready to deal with the digital world of work. CLO


CFO, Friend or Foe? Learning and finance should not be at odds • BY JACK J. PHILLIPS AND PATTI P. PHILLIPS


Jack J. Phillips is the chairman, and Patti P. Phillips is president and CEO of the ROI Institute. To comment, email

peaking at a Human Capital Analytics Conference in New York, the chief learning officer for a large telecom made an interesting comment about her relationship with the CFO: “Two years ago, I usually tried to avoid meeting with our CFO. I didn’t want any involvement with that part of the organization. Now, I consider the CFO a colleague, an ally and a partner as we drive value from learning and talent development.” The relationship with the finance and accounting function — and the CFO in particular — can be contentious. In most organizations, the CFO is gaining influence and is now more involved in learning and development than any time in the past. The CFO is one of the most critical jobs in an organization; that person will steer the organization properly through economic cycles. Gartner Research shows the number of HR executives who now report directly to the CFO has been increasing and now stands at almost 20 percent. In many organizations, the CFO is often one of the contenders to replace the CEO. The CEO looks to the CFO to manage the organization’s financial performance. Profits can be enhanced by increasing revenue, decreasing costs or both. The CFO has limited influence on revenue, but can increase profits by reducing costs. With that in mind, CFOs are relentless in making sure the organization is efficient and lean, particularly in times of uncertainty.

trol costs. To conserve cash to develop two new aircraft models, the CFO asked to suspend all training, consulting, off-site meetings and recruitment — functions perceived as costs, not as investments. It is easy to see the CFO as a foe and not a friend. But, not so fast. CFOs haven’t asked for the additional responsibility to measure success for other functions. For more than 100 years, CFOs have been using ROI for capital expenditures. Now the CEO would like to see the same approach for noncapital expenditures, such as learning and talent development. Some CFOs are uncomfortable with this responsibility. One told us, “They already hate us because of the budget process, now they are going to hate us even more when they perceive us as measuring their performance.” To keep the relationship friendly: 1. Consider them to be metrics experts. If you are having difficulty securing additional funds for metrics, analytics and measurement, you may have a sympathetic ear because the CFO understands the power of analytics. 2. Show them how you tackle major projects. For example, show the results for a major leadership development program at the impact level. CFOs may have no idea how to connect leadership development to a financial ROI, but chances are, you do. 3. Involve them, don’t avoid them. Bring them into major projects you are tackling, addressing the challenges and issues you are facing. Discuss the projects you want to evaluate. 4. Have them review program costs that would be included in an ROI analysis. 5. Secure their help developing an executive-friendly learning scorecard that moves the accountability reporting beyond inputs, reaction and learning to There are often two extremes when working with include data on application, impact and ROI. financial leaders: friend or foe. Some CLOs see the 6. Routinely review progress with the CFO team, CFO as being increasingly involved and unwelcome, even if you are not reporting to them through HR. requiring approvals for expenditures that previously You may be surprised with the reaction. You’ll find did not require approval. For example, it is almost im- a helpful team who appreciates your efforts to show possible to purchase a learning management system business value. without CFO approval. In fact, the CFO usually has The telecom CLO embarked on a program to meaapproval for the budget before the CEO approves it. sure the impact and ROI for major projects and conIn downturns, CFOs focus on cost reductions for nect programs to the business, using many of the functions perceived as a cost and not as an investment. aforementioned steps. She involved the CFO’s team, For example, the CFO for a Canadian aircraft company and it made all the difference in the relationship and sent a memo to all employees expressing a need to con- the support she received. CLO

Involve CFOs. Bring them into projects, address the challenges, and evaluate with them.

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A CLO at 50 When you hit a milestone, reflection can be a good thing • BY DAVE DeFILIPPO


Dave DeFilippo is the chief learning officer for Suffolk Construction. To comment, email editor@

turned 50 this past year. Apart from the mental shift when saying, “I am 50” or selecting my demographic group on forms and surveys, I realized with nearly 30 years in the workforce I have had the good fortune of a multitude of experiences. These events range from the formative ones in the early part of my career to those that represent a culmination of knowledge from being exposed to several firms, industries and many wonderful colleagues. Chief learning officer moniker aside, in simplest terms, I consider my role that of teacher and coach. So, as someone who is now officially wise, I’m left to think about my own learning as I enter this new decade as a CLO. Even though I did not believe it and disliked hearing it in the earlier part of my career, experience is the one dimension of career development and progression that cannot be accelerated as much as it can be planned and learned from. There are roles, projects and situations that you have to perform to gain the skills, knowledge and judgment that result from new circumstances. Situational learning is one of the best teachers, as being able to say, “I’ve been there and done that,” can create invaluable learning throughout a career. Several points of reference have educated and informed me at times in my career. For instance, being part of a merger between firms and having to work with my counterparts during the premerger phase can be nerve-wracking and uncertain. That was followed by the post-merger integration process, which included cultural assimilation, financial synergies and building a new team to set the stage for the combined organization. Further, dealing with the fallout from unexpected CEO and senior team transitions and the ripple effect that moves through an organization was unsettling, but it provided good lessons on values and leadership. I can literally remember where I was when these situations occurred; they are the types of experiences that are instructive when the next situation arises because you are better prepared because you’ve had prior experience. These unanticipated and diverse career experiences offered lessons that shaped a valuable sense of perspective for my role today. This point-of-view provides both a sense of calm from having faced similar situa-

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tions and enables me to recognize patterns from these earlier experiences. For instance, I distinctly remember back in the late ’90s when e-learning was on the rise as a delivery vehicle for programs and courses. At the time, learning and development practitioner anxiety was growing as we worried the era of classroom training would soon be over. Well, we know how this prediction turned out.

Experience cannot be accelerated as much as it can be planned and learned from. Blended learning emerged as an integrated approach, which only reinforced the need for facilitation and the more recent curation of online content. This pattern continues with new approaches such as microlearning, machine learning and the like. These innovations expand and improve our menu of learning design and delivery options. However, as history shows us, the new learning methods will not completely replace established practices. It’s consistent with the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I now think more and more about my role as an educator, not only in the formal sense of my role with our firm’s workforce, but also with a goal to perpetuate my colleagues’ capabilities. This plays out in a few ways, including regular use of my whiteboard to discuss and map out issues and potential solutions with teammates. Also, it pushes me to ask better questions to elicit discussions and options versus simply giving direction or providing answers. Finally, it has made me a better listener and learner because as much as I have to teach, my own learning continues, and I am more comfortable knowing what I do not know. As I contemplate the next 50 years, I plan to continue to prepare the next generation of practitioners. But more importantly, I am driven and inspired by my past and present colleagues to continue my own journey as teacher, coach and learner. CLO

What Skills Will Leaders Need in the Future? When it comes to leadership development, consider common ground before deferring to oft-overstated generational differences.

18 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •



or learning leaders charged with developing leaders who will assume positions of increasing complexity and scope, the task has seldom been more daunting. As leaders find themselves in both a VUCA world — volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous — and a BOCA workplace — a workplace characterized by blurred boundaries, an overload of work, complexity and technology addiction — their preparation to lead as well as the mechanisms to support them become critical levers in any organization’s growth and success. Demographic tipping points are already here. Baby boomers continue to exit the workplace, and those in Generation X are too few in number to fill

all open positions. Millennials are assuming significant leadership roles, sometimes at a pace faster than they and the organizations they serve would otherwise embrace. Indeed, the millennial generation — one of the most globally connected and diverse in U.S. history according to 2015 census data — working in global multinationals, regional powerhouses and local firms, are rapidly approaching 50 percent of many organizations’ workforce. In many technology and financial services firms, they have already crossed that line. Senior leaders in these organizations recognize and are proactively looking for a response to millennials’ growing influence and impact. Research offers a few actionable options. How leaders are best developed was a focus of

Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •


leadership development research conducted by Development Dimensions International and The Conference Board’s “Global Leadership Forecast 2014/2015.” Leadership, particularly millennial leadership, was also the focus for a research study The Conference Board conducted in partnership with RW2 Enterprises, “Divergent Views/Common Ground: The Leadership Perspectives of C-Suite Executives and Millennial Leaders,” released in January. Identifying, selecting, preparing and supporting long-term success for leaders of any generation is challenging. Leaders have to succeed, and they must grow into the kinds of leaders an organization will need in the future, even when the future is viewed through a murky glass. What kinds of leaders are millennials, who might they become, and what imperatives might drive their choices, if their values are different? What leadership attributes will they embrace, and how might they best be developed? Every generation leaves its mark. Will the millennials lead differently once the inevitable demographic tilt is complete? Trendy, popular headlines about millennials and their impact should be taken lightly. Each of-age generation has been the recipient of disparaging commentary by its elders at least since Aristotle. Defensible, quantitative research about millennials is rare, however, and research about millennial leaders is even more so. Learning leaders need to better understand which differences — if there are any — are attributable to generational, life-stage or leader-level differences; in which case, changes would be roughly similar for leaders of any generation. In spring and summer of 2016, the “Divergent Views” research conducted interviews, focus groups and surveys with chief executive officers, members of their C-suite teams as well as their millennial leaders to understand leadership now and what leadership is needed. Respondents answered questions about their leadership journeys, how they developed and the values they held that shaped them as leaders. The study also surveyed and interviewed those responsible for developing leaders about what they do and, perhaps, do differently. Fourteen organizations participated: Aetna, American Express, athenahealth, Boeing Co., Cardinal Health, Humana, Johnson & Johnson, Kindred Healthcare, KPMG, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, United Rentals, UPS, Verizon Communications, and Xerox. In addition to the 14 CEOs, more than 2,800 leaders at various stages in their careers and of different generations participated in the study.

Will Future CEOs Be Different? The study asked leaders at all levels, including CEOs, for their views on what skills future leaders would need to be successful. Their responses suggest that millennial leaders will certainly reshape the CEO role. CEOs and millennial leaders paint distinctly different profiles of an ideal future senior leader. Each selected a different set of skills for success (see Figure 1). For millennial leaders, the prototypical leader is an inspiring coach, a compelling communicator and one whose choices and actions are informed by an intercultural perspective. Their future CEO leads and succeeds globally through interpersonal skill and has an inclusive decision-making style versus “command and control.” One millennial leader focus group participant said, “You don’t tell people what to do, you empower them.” By contrast, CEOs’ ideal future leader focuses less on interpersonal influence and more on efficient decision-making and business savvy. Also critical to CEOs was skill in stakeholder management, such as board members, shareholders, regulatory agencies and media. This disparity may reflect the leader level more than generational cohort as the millennial leader exposure to stakeholders may be more limited.

Defensible, quantitative research about millennial leaders is rare.

20 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

How Do Millennial Leaders Grow? A mix of experience, education and exposure drive growth, but that road map may not match the traditional path for leaders. Research participants selected five experiences (from a list of 14) that are likely to drive a successful journey to top leadership positions. CEOs and C-suite leaders could speak to what helped them FIGURE 1: FUTURE LEADERS’ SKILLS CEOs and millennial leaders differ on their views of future leader skills CEOs Millennial leaders Critical thinking

Leadership impact

Stakeholder management Business/management skills

Interpersonal skills

Leadership impact Interpersonal skills Global/cultural acumen Technology savvy Data/analytical skills Workforce economics knowledge

Global/cultural acumen Critical thinking Business/management skills Technology savvy Data/analytical skills Stakeholder management Workforce economics knowledge

Source: “Divergent Views/Common Ground: The Leadership Perspectives of C-Suite Executives and Millennial Leaders,” The Conference Board, 2017

the most in the past; others, including millennial leaders, could respond with what they thought would help them most as they look forward (see Figure 2). There was full agreement on the top spot, “Leading Through a Strategic or Cultural Transformation” as well as on the No. 3 spot, “Guidance From a Mentor.” Interviews revealed numerous examples on the importance of mentorship. One millennial leader said all four of his promotions were due to mentors who were able to show him “what it takes to be a leader, to find his core values.” One CEO talked about an early experience as an executive assistant to a past chairman and CEO who served as a key mentor for a nine-month experience. “You learned that you can’t do everything yourself. The job is about them, not about yourself.” Millennial leaders and non-millennial leaders agreed 100 percent on the top five experiences in order of importance. Then ideas began to diverge. CEOs were the only ones to select, “Growing a New Business” as a critical experience, and placed greater value on “Managing Through a Crisis.” In focus groups, the impact of crisis came up often; their perspectives and resilience changed within the context of a business crisis or through a personal one, like a serious illness or the loss of a loved one. Part of this difference can be explained by experience. Most CEOs have spent several decades as leaders and, during their careers, they likely have had exposure — purposeful or not — to a greater and more strategic variety of experiences, not to mention the natural course of experiences gleaned from simply living. This raises the question, how can early-career leaders — of any generation — gain exposure to the high-stakes experiences that mold CEOs most?

How Can Organizations Develop the Next Generation of Leaders? The research asked leaders as well as those responsible for leadership development programs about the frequency and effectiveness of a variety of programs and approaches. There was little difference among the groups. Developmental assignments were at the top of the list. Several leaders commented on the value of multiple assignments. Coaching from current managers placed second in terms of high-effectiveness/ high-frequency development activities. Coaching from internal coaches/mentors was of relatively high value for both leadership groups. Organizations can do a much better job of formalizing the coaching process, however, especially for early-career leaders. In today’s information-rich and constantly changing business environment, a network of coaches and mentors for early-stage leaders is likely to have a high payoff.

FIGURE 2: TOP-FIVE EXPERIENCES FOR LEADERS The top five leadership experiences that shape leadership competence and motivation

Millennial leaders

Non-millennial leaders


Leading through transformation




Feedback from manager




Guidance from a mentor




Shifting from one business unit to another




Managing through a crisis




Growing a new business





X = Not a part of this cohort’s top five leadership experiences Source: “Divergent Views/Common Ground: The Leadership Perspectives of C-Suite Executives and Millennial Leaders,” The Conference Board, 2017

Formal workshops and training still carry a relatively high value and are used somewhat frequently. One millennial leader praised her company’s early-leadership career program, as it helped her learn how to expand her network and provided opportunities to learn from other managers. Low on the list was self-learning or mobile learning; surprising for a generation reliant on technology, but this may indicate that when “on your own” learning programs go too far and disconnect a leader from chances to practice, receive feedback, and engage in shared learning experiences with peers, the learning payoff simply isn’t there. When it comes to leadership, social interaction is an important facet of the learning environment. In many ways, millennial leaders aren’t that different from other generations or from CEOs. All leaders recognize the formative power of mentorship and growth through transformation, and they value development assignments, coaching, and formal learning while viewing self-study learning as unproven as a primary learning method. However, there were exceptions — particularly when both CEOs and millennial leaders looked over the horizon at future leaders’ needs. Overall, learning leaders should carefully consider the common ground before deferring to oft-overstated differences among the generations. Research shows that learners grow through similar methods and means, even if the skills they are growing appear to be shifting. CLO Rebecca Ray is executive vice president at The Conference Board. Evan Sinar is chief scientist and vice president at Development Dimensions International. To comment please email Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •


PROFILE Michele Isaacs

Oh, the Places Learning Happens At Thomson Reuters, Michele Isaacs has her eyes on informal and formal learning and experimentation — if that’s what will drive business results. BY BRAVETTA HASSELL


onnecting people to information and take something from that, understand the implication opportunities to develop professional- of it and apply it — that’s how learning happens in this ly is a value that is deeply interwoven organization — from and with and through people into Thomson Reuters Corp.’s vision and experience.” for the future, said Michele Isaacs, vice Over the past 25 or so years, Isaacs has worked in president and global head of learning and develop- learning and development as well as in broader talent ment for the company. management roles. She said her career thought process For an organization in the answers business, con- was: Sometimes in one’s career, a person wants to make tinuous learning is an imperative. Thomson Reuters is an impact on everything. Then, “There are some times a mass media and information firm that employs when you just really want to go deep and solve some roughly 45,000 people in 80 countries. The compa- capability constraints that an organization has.” ny’s internal social platform provides one example of For the past four years at Thomson Reuters, this continuous learning. On it, employees can find Isaacs chose the latter. other opportunities based on their skills and other factors. There are discussion forums and blogs, and as employees interact, they learn. Her learning organization includes roughly 300 For example, in one post, a business unit president professionals around the world, and Isaacs leads a team recently returned from vacation wrote about the of 30 employees in the company’s New York headbooks he read during his quarters where they direct time away. He asked oththe corporate learning ers to join the conversafunction. There are smalltion about what they’d er learning teams based read on their time off. within business units or The entry elicited close to regions with specific func1,000 posts. tional objectives but be“It was just a very disginning last year, Isaacs tributed, very global consaid she has been guiding versation around what the disparate departments — Michele Isaacs, vice president people were learning and toward a more unified orand global head of learning and what they were reading,” ganization with agreed development, Thomson Reuters Isaacs said of the engageupon standards, a learning ment. “There’s a part of philosophy, a framework me that’s like ‘Let’s not get in the way of that learning for the technology platforms used and a vision for experience, but let’s help people understand that is a their own professional learning and development. learning experience.’ The extent to which they can Vera Vitels, senior vice president for talent and de-

“Learning happens in this organization — from and with and through people and experience.”

22 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •


Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •


PROFILE Michele Isaacs

velopment at Thomson Reuters, said the company has a clear growth strategy toward 2020. She said business leaders see opportunities where learning can bolster the company’s ability to compete in high growth-oriented markets. “We have the right energy from our executive leadership,” she explained. “We have the right investment. We have the right thought leadership from Michele and her team.” Isaacs said Thomson Reuters’ strategy is built around its customers in industries like finance, law and government, delivering the best experiences, products and services it can to them. This has two implications for learning: looking at what capabilities the company’s vision requires of employees and how those skills can be built in a fast and meaningful way; and workforce development. Just as Thomson Reuters has its external customers’ experiences to consider, its learning and development organization is concerned about training experiences for its own customers — the company’s employees. Isaacs thinks about how her team can help learners have a better learning experience. She said industrywide there’s still a gap between how people learn and how organizations support learning. “There’s certainly a tradition as you think about work and how it happens and frankly, how we’re brought up in the school system.” With employees spread around the globe, relying on a traditional learning model where an instructor lectures a class full of people is unrealistic, and best practices show it’s not effective. Everything a person might need to learn is now in their back pocket, Isaacs said. This makes her question the role of the learning function in an organization and its movement from content creation to content curation. “Connecting people to information rather than sort of opening their heads and dumping information in — that’s the transition a lot of learning leaders are making.”

Isaacs said she seeks to strike a balance between getting out of learners’ way and delivering the formal learning experiences needed to help people do their jobs. A team of learning professionals from across the company works to stay attuned to employees’ learner experiences. Employees are the department’s customers, she said. Ultimately, meeting business goals requires making sure the customers’ experience with learning products and programs is engaging but also unencumbered. To grow the capabilities the company needs to compete in the future, Isaacs and her team work closely with business leaders to understand their strategy, understand the skills the business units have in great supply and identify the critical areas where they are lacking. From there, Isaacs’ team uses its resources and expertise to design solutions that address the disparities.

Isaacs said Thomson Reuters emphasizes developing managers and leaders. The learning organization uses formal and informal programs to communicate what is expected from these leaders, what their role is and how they can be successful. The Management at Thomson Reuters program starts with a summit where people come together in person or virtually for a daylong session. They learn about their role, how it benefits the customers and company, and how it ties to the company’s values and the company’s strategy. During the summit, managers spend time exploring expectations, and they can attend 90-minute skill sessions to boost their performance. Sessions cover topics like giving feedback, coaching and setting goals, having difficult conversations and unconscious bias. To supplement this programming, leaders have “booster sessions” where they continue conversations with their peers about things they’ve learned or challenges they’ve encountered via online discussion groups. Isaacs said the boosters are self-directed. A manager or other leader will volunteer to host a session, and Isaacs’ team assists them in setting up the engagement. The leaders guide the conversation, creating a community where people share experiences and strategies, and learn from one another. Isaacs said the booster sessions grew out of an experiment the learning organization ran a couple of years ago. “We thought, ‘Who knows if people will take their own time to get together with their peers and find out what they do.’” A key program component is its acMichele Isaacs wants learners to have a better experience, which will ultimately drive the company toward its goals. countability loop, in which all managers, 24 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

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“The moment I realized my organizational goals were Wharton’s priority.”

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PROFILE Michele Isaacs

as part of their performance management process, participate in a manager effectiveness survey. At the end of the year, direct reports answer seven questions about their manager based on seven behaviors for which the leader was receiving development support. Isaacs’ team measures the impact of the program by analyzing that data as well by looking at managers’ productivity, performance, engagement and attrition numbers. In addition to getting feedback from direct reports, the learning team talks to the managers as well as their bosses. “We find that if people go through Management at Thomson Reuters, their scores will improve from year to year,” said Isaacs, who also discovered that high performing managers who participated in the training saw their scores neither increase nor decrease. She said the finding underscores the point that everyone doesn’t need training or to be painted the same color. “But you need to have access to the ability to develop your skills when you have a need.” Vitels said Isaacs has introduced rigor and discipline around measuring her work’s effectiveness. For AMaTR — Advanced Management at Thomson Reuters — a program for experienced managers, Vitels said Isaacs’ team created profile studies on what participants took away from training and applied “If the company is investing the on the job. They looked in people as heavily as it is, at productivity increases, revenue increases, I’m the steward of that cost reduction and cost to monetize the investment, and I need to be savings overall impact. The verheld accountable for that.” dict, Vitels said for every dollar invested in AM— Michele Isaacs, vice president and aTR, the business gets global head of L&D, Thomson Reuters $2.48 in value in return. Being able to quantify how well learning initiatives work is crucial, Isaacs said. “If the company is investing in people as heavily as it is, I’m the steward of that investment, and I need to be held accountable for that,” she explained. Thomson Reuters acquired several companies since its most significant and publicized transaction — when Thomson Corp. acquired Reuters Group PLC in 2008. Isaacs wasn’t with the company then, but she said a shared value for learning among the parties involved has only helped her work leading Thomson Reuters’ learning and development strategy. “When Thomson acquired Reuters, both had strong histories around learning and both believed in the power of learning,” she explained. “There’s a real strong belief that this is a place where people can grow 26 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

Isaacs believes in quantifying the success of initiatives via business results.

and develop their careers.” With that as a center, for Isaacs, every day brings learning, experimentation and of course, application. Did it work? Yes? No? Wash, analyze, rinse and repeat. While studying psychology at the State University of New York at Geneseo, she stumbled into a discussion about the psychology and motivation of workers: the thinking behind large groups of people in organizations, how an organization works with the people within it and how that ultimately leads to the organization’s success and customer success. Isaacs’ interest prompted her to seek out a professor doing work in this area. She assisted him with research and went on to pursue a master’s of science in organizational development at Johns Hopkins University. Having spent time working in a psychiatric environment, which she said she found difficult, organizational psychology and development offered something the Buffalo, New York, native saw she could do for a living. It had everything she liked: Learning, what that meant for a work setting, and its implications on a large scale — all with the psychological bent that she found so interesting. “I’ve always been the kind of person who’s got a couple of ideas kind of roaming around either waiting to be proven or disproved,” Isaacs said. That kind of curiosity about the world and a willingness to make connections in new ways will increasingly be an imperative for learning leaders charged with helping their companies grow and compete. CLO Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. To comment, email


industryinsights External training shouldn’t be an afterthought Why extended enterprise training is a critical component of your learning strategy By Tim Harnett

Organizational success today relies on developing strong, reciprocal relationships with all audiences in your business ecosystem. Yet some organizations miss out on opportunities to optimize business performance by inadequately training members of their extended enterprise, including partners, distributors, franchisees and end customers. Training the extended enterprise — offering outreach and support to external audiences — helps organizations increase revenue and brand loyalty. “Extended enterprise training makes everyone feel connected to your organization,” says Caitlin Bigsby, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Saba. “The message you can offer with training to the extended enterprise should be ‘Let us help you learn how to get the most value out of your relationship with us.’” Benefits from training the extended enterprise include improved customer experience, increased partner productivity and greater revenue.¹ Since training can be directed toward any number of external audiences, it’s important to recognize which segment you’re targeting. Each is unique and responds to initiatives differently. “Extended enterprise outreach is important,” Bigsby says, “but before developing programs you need to identify which audiences you’ll be trying to reach.”Training initiatives will vary between your customers (people who have bought your product and want to maximize their investment) and your partners, distributors and franchisees — anyone you’re doing business with and who needs to be equipped to best represent your brand. To establish an extended enterprise learning initiative, Bigsby suggests starting by identifying the scope of the initiative. “Identify what you want from the people you’re trying to reach with training,” Bigsby says. “What behavior do you expect to influence? What kind of resources can you offer to drive that outcome? Will you offer formal classes? Job aids? Informal discussion groups or forums?”

Connect with customers: Customer training initiatives should be aimed at a broad audience. “There’s a delicate

balance to making sure everyone understands the message,” Bigsby says. “Don’t assume the same baseline of knowledge. You don’t want to bombard customers with more information than they’re ready to absorb. It can be a tough line to walk; making available enough information without confusing customers. Allowing customers the option of testing out of training can prove useful in keeping everyone engaged, regardless of their level.”

“Companies that effectively train their customers report… increased customer satisfaction, retention and revenue” Customers may expect training courses be made available free of charge. “Customers are savvy and want to make sure any paid training will be beneficial,” Bigsby says. “Your customers who pay for training want high-caliber content. One option might be a tiered training system; making available a set number of free training courses and charging a fee for premium content. However, premium training must demonstrate obvious value to secure customer buy-in.” Companies that effectively train their customers report improved product adoption, which directly translates into increased customer satisfaction, retention and revenue. One measurable outcome for successful customer training is the reduction in customer support cases. “Giving people proactive answers reduces the number of tickets on the back end that need to be resolved,” Bigsby says. “Fewer support cases may also lead to happier customers, because they didn’t have a problem; they found a solution.”

Saba is a global leader in next-generation cloud solutions for talent management. The company helps organizations transform the way they work by enabling the continuous learning, engagement and development of their people network. Supporting the new world of work, Saba delivers learning, performance, succession, career development, workforce planning and compensation solutions that incorporate modern technologies such as social, collaboration, mobile and gamification. Saba solutions are based on the Saba Cloud platform, a highly scalable architecture that exceeds industry scalability, performance, and security standards. Saba currently supports over 31 million users from 2,200 customers across 195 countries and in 37 languages.

Enable partners, resellers and service providers: Extended enterprise training initiatives help develop consistency, loyalty and brand awareness. “For partners, communication is much more of a formal process than with customers, as the training is more likely to be required,” Bigsby says. The more partners know about your product, the better they’ll be able to represent your brand. As such, sales increases are good KPIs to measure with suppliers. Training and certifying channel partners, resellers and service providers can increase financial performance and provide a solid return on investment. “You ultimately want your partners to be selling your product better and in greater numbers,” Bigsby says. “Successful training should then correlate with an increase in sales. Focus on providing training that will arm them with the resources they need to make their numbers, such as product knowledge, information about the target buyers, and key differentiators.” Partners need to know your content exists to take advantage of it. “Craft your message so users understand both the availability and value of the training you offer,” Bigsby says. “Once training is complete, follow through with post-training surveys to assess program effectiveness, making adjustments as needed.”

Champion dealers, distributors and franchisees: Distributed organizations must quickly and cost-effectively train their extensive network of franchisees, owner/operators, dealers and distributors to ensure compliance with corporate standards and provide customers with a consistent brand experience. One way to support training of these groups is to know and address their pain points. “Before rolling out any new training initiative, first identify the behavior you want to address,” Bigsby suggests. “Training for the sake of training won’t


drive real value for you or for them. But if your goal is to fix a problem or improve on existing results, then training should address that. For example, if your requirement is to have standard cleanliness at all your franchise restaurants across the board, then your training should address the behaviors that will lead to higher levels of cleanliness.” The embedded nature of franchisees also means training for this segment may be compulsory, giving franchisees permission to represent your product once they have completed a certain number of courses. For franchisees, the resulting value in learning comes from the permission to sell the product or service, while the organization can be sure the brand is best represented. “Organizations with franchisees often do periodic assessments, and they’re looking for consistency in performance,” Bigsby says. Extended enterprise training succeeds when all members of your business ecosystem – including customers, partners, distributors and franchisees – all feel like valued members of the organization. Through learning and engagement, organizations can target external entities with training programs, strengthening bonds and driving performance. When implementing external training programs, it’s important to identify which segments you want to reach with training, establish targets and evaluate metrics to ensure you’re achieving your goals. “No matter what external audience you’re engaging with, make sure your internal teams are also equipped to support what you’re offering,” Bigsby says. “This may require separate tools. Can your current LMS handle separate domains for your different external segments? Ensure that all members of the organization — both internal and external — have the tools they need to be successful, whether that’s using, selling or reselling your product.” Saba can help you train any audience in your business ecosystem. Learn more about Saba Extended Enterprise at

Engage Customers, Channel Partners, And Associations In Extended Enterprise Learning. Forrester. 2015.

Your Brain


LEARNING To design experiences where information isn’t just transferred but inspires transformation, learning leaders should have a basic understanding of how the brain works. BY BRAVETTA HASSELL


hen the brain learns, it acquires information through a person’s various senses, and this information travels along the synapses to the short-term memory. After the information has been processed in working memory, it is carried to the brain’s core where it is compared with things we know or have experienced, and then stored in long-term memory. This process is certain. But using an understanding of it to drive change in adult learners is not. Corporate learning and development is only in the early days of understanding the science behind learning, said Britt Andreatta, a learning and leadership development consultant and speaker, and an author for LinkedIn Learning courses. “The Neuroscience of Learning” author said growing interest in neuroscience — the study of the brain and nervous system that draws on disciplines like psychology — coincides with the increasing popularity of the positive psychology movement in the early 2000s, as well as continuing advances in MRI technology that offer greater detail about the human brain and body. But only in roughly the past decade have conversations on how the brain learns appeared in talent management circles. Gradually, vendors have begun developing learning products backed by this science, and companies have been paying attention, tapping into key principles to boost corporate learning initiatives’ impact. But there’s a great distance learning organizations can and should travel regarding what is known about the brain and adult learning, Andreatta said. “Right now, it’s still a little hodgepodgey. It should be the core of your entire learning strategy, not just one little cool product that you buy.” She said professional learning can be broken into three key phases: learn, remember and do. Sitting down to learn, getting information into learners’ memory and then applying that information in practice, ultimately changes behavior. Learning leaders must spend more time on that “do” phase if they want learning and development experiences to stick and fuel change. Andreatta said she’s gone into company management trainings countless times where content might be taught around skill development — coaching, for instance — and a discussion on the skill is facilitated. But there is no skills practice. Participants often return to work without so much as a demonstration.

30 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •


“Most trainings fall down because we leave it up to the employee to go back and change their behavior when they go back to an environment that’s already rigged to have them execute the old habit,” she explained. “If they don’t have some intentionality, some chances to develop repetitions of doing it correctly, all the best intentions in the world will fall down.” She said it takes on average 40 to 50 repetitions of a behavior to form a habit. An instructor may not have time to ensure a learner struggling with a skill practices it a few dozen times before the end of a learning engagement, but they do the learner and the organization a disservice to overlook at least some supervised skills practice before turning a learner loose.

There’s no getting around the brain in learning. It truly is the heart of the matter. In the University of Arizona’s Eller Executive Education program, the initiatives and programs designed to help corporate leaders address pressing business problems are created with an eye toward how the brain works, said Joe Carella, the program’s assistant dean. For instance, the school developed an Advanced Leadership Development Program, a one-time engagement for corporate client DP World. The program for senior managers tapped for future senior leadership ran over a period of 18 months in 2015-16; it had multiple in-person modules shaped by neurobiological insights about the brain and corresponding with leadership behaviors. The program included an in-market experience where leaders weren’t just taken to other countries and exposed to executives at other organizations, they were forced to navigate their way through new and unfamiliar terrain by way of activities like a pathfinding scavenger hunt meant to stimulate both discomfort and discovery. The program also had simulations where leaders were set up for what Carella called “empathetic failure.” Executives were placed in situations similar to those they would encounter in their role; “We’d get them to fail so they can see the limitation of their current ways of doing things to prime them for change,” he said. These exercises are empathetic because they’re done in safe, caring environments that do not shame leaders or force them to lose face. In this learning environment, failure is recognized and acknowledged, and so are the contributing factors that lead to failure. This enables leaders to rebuild with less resistance to change, Carella explained. “We encourage them to fail several times — neurobiology tells us that repeated and purposeful attention to what we do leads to long lasting change.” 32 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

He described the program as a transformational journey, one that wouldn’t have been nearly as impactful without help from coaches who use neurobiological insights to support executives in thinking through their perspectives and actions, helping them to better understand themselves, and even reframe past experiences. With coaching, there is no limit to how much better we can become, Carella said. Further, researchers have said this type of developmental activity has neurobiological benefits. “Working with a coach allows us to have somebody else to hold the mirror,” he said. “When somebody else holds that mirror, they might tweak it and move it in different positions and different ways that we with our own arms and capabilities are not necessarily able to do.” That type of mindfulness is critical for companies that want to meaningfully build up their talent. Poring over all the scientific information available can be exhausting. But learning leaders have to be willing to dig into how the brain works if they want to work with it, and deliver learning experiences that change it. Andreatta recommended learning executives find a few trusted resources to help them navigate and distill neuroscience studies, and make an investment in this type of learning to drive their work. Also, she said it would be beneficial to attend some brain science workshops. “Understanding human biology and how we work as humans is the key to any industry’s success. Neuroscience will shape a lot of industries in the future, and certainly learning is one of them.” There’s no getting around the brain’s impact on learning, she said. “It really is the heart of everything.” By drawing on what we know about how the brain works — to fine-tune learning and development products and initiatives — learning leaders can transform workforce development by highlighting principles around exposure, impact and novelty in adult learning.

Exposure When developing or mastering skills, the amount of learning exposure and skills rehearsal employees receive is crucial to knowledge retention, said Kim Ruyle, president of Inventive Talent, a Miami-based talent management and organizational consulting firm. The former vice president of research and development for executive search firm Korn Ferry said a lack of rehearsal and memorization in learning today is an unfortunate byproduct of technology like the internet. With an unquantifiable amount of information at a person’s fingertips, tools like Google are undermining the discipline of people physically searching out information and not relying on external mechanisms to search for them. “We learn primarily by rehearsal, and that’s memorization,” Ruyle said. “That’s a very important thing that exercises our brain.”

But who needs memory when Google is readily available? Consider how a person completes a task. After completing the task, a neural pathway or likely pathway specific to that action is run. The more it’s run, the stronger it becomes; The less it runs, the weaker that connection gets, found researchers at University of California Irvine’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Simply put: “You always have to strengthen the things you want,” said Andreatta, who offered a few tips learning organizations can build into programming to improve retention, and help workers form new habits. Processing: Information overload is real. The hippocampus part of the brain needs to process about ev-

Your Memory Glossary


here are a number of ways to categorize memory, said Kim Ruyle, president of Inventive Talent, a Miami-based talent management and organizational consulting firm. An awareness of how they work is advantageous for learning leaders who develop and deliver educational experiences.

Short-term memory: Can hold a small amount of information in an active and readily available state for a short period of time. Working memory: Is responsible for the temporary holding, processing and manipulation of information. Long-term memory: Where information can be stored for an indefinite amount of time. Semantic memory: Includes a collection of general knowledge that has been accumulated over time, like the knowledge that grass is green. There may be no emotional pegging to these memories, Ruyle said. Episodic memory: Includes the collection of past personal experiences that occurred at a particular time and place, like the experience of seeing and rolling around in grass. Ruyle said this type of memory is all about experiences. “It’s personal, and carries an emotional tagging with it,” he said. “The earliest memories are likely the ones that have strong emotional tagging.” Semantic and episodic memory comprise declarative or explicit memory, which is the conscious, intentional recollection of factual information, previous experiences and concepts. Implicit memory: Includes knowledge acquired and used unconsciously, and can affect thoughts and behavior. Explicit and implicit memory are the two main types of long-term memory.

—Bravetta Hassell

ery 15 minutes, Andreatta said. Talk to people for an hour nonstop, and they’re only going to retain about 25 percent of what was covered. This is why she intentionally breaks up her training. She may be with a class for two hours, but she isn’t talking to them for more than 15 minutes before she leads learners in a processing activity. Having students talk in a dyad, take a quick assessment, or reflect over the material helps the brain process the content introduced. Retrieval: Andreatta said instructors can help learners retain information in their long-term memory in a number of ways, including helping them make connections between what they know already and new content. Take learners through memories of an experience to a moment of insight, or use social learning. Impact: People remember what they can connect personal meaning and strong emotions to for good reason. “Emotion is an on/off switch for learning,” wrote learning science author and researcher Priscilla Vail in the article, “The Role of Emotions in Learning.” “The emotional brain, the limbic system, has the power to open or close access to learning, memory and the ability to make connections.” For sensory information to get to the cortex — where decisions are made and other executive function tasks are carried out — it must go through the limbic system, where people’s responses to threats and rewards are generated, Ruyle said. But whether that data makes it to the cortical area depends on how the limbic system interprets it, based on things like past experience and memories, and whether it’s positive, neutral or negative. Vail wrote if the information is interpreted as negative, entry to the cortex isn’t granted. The opposite is true if the information is interpreted as positive. Subsequent access to the cortex facilitates thinking and learning. Ruyle said the cortex and limbic system operate like a seesaw. When one is in control or active, the other tends to be inhibited. That’s why it’s difficult to make sound decisions when experiencing extreme emotions and subsequently why making judgment calls while in the throes of emotion is discouraged. A facilitator’s plans to deliver well-crafted content to a group may fail if people aren’t in an emotional state conducive to learning. Emotions are powerful, able to sabotage learning engagements or to enhance them. Emotions strengthen memories, researchers at Duke University reported in a 2004 study, “Interaction between the amygdala and the medial temporal lobe memory system predicts better memory for emotional events.” Participants were more likely to remember pictures shown to them that evoked an emotional MEMORY continued on page 56 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •



EAST AND WEST for Effective Leadership Development

34 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

Consider cultural, national, local and familial dynamics when crafting a leadership development strategy that blends Eastern and Western cultures.



earning in the East comes with cultural frameworks that are fundamentally distinct from Western learning paradigms. To develop effective leaders, learning leaders must not only understand those differences, they must respect them. Whether conducting in-house learning initiatives or designing MBA curriculums, CLOs should become familiar with Eastern complexities around family, nationalism and degrees of personal empowerment — all of

Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •


which must be negotiated for successful learning engagements. The West offers many cutting-edge leadership strategies, but to remain relevant, they need to be presented using localized lenses. Globalism is accelerating cultural exchange through popular entertainment, youth trends and political movements. Millennial workers in Asia are commonly more Westernized than their older co-workers. This often renders certain inherited cultural customs and markers of formality less important to younger generations, including the concept of lifetime employment.

The spectrum of behavior people can engage in while motivating learners in the development process can be wide or narrow based on culture. As a result, millennials in Asia are more actively job hunting to advance their careers and to increase compensation at a more accelerated rate than in past. In recent years, China has experienced a boom of wealth, and as a result, more people under the age of 45 are constantly on the lookout for the next opportunity to maximize their earning potential rather than stay loyal to one company their entire career. Development is a part of that career mobility. There are six key dynamics to confront to build effective learning in Asia: • Leadership philosophy. • Learning culture. • Cultural and family values. • Need for empowerment. • Risk tolerance. • Social deference.

Define a Leadership Philosophy Nationalism in some Asian markets plays a greater role, and at times it outranks corporate interest. This is particularly true in the People’s Republic of China where nationalism is first, and corporate allegiance is second. As educators groom and develop leaders, it is important to depoliticize learning conversations. In the Academy of Management Perspectives article, “In the Eye of the Beholder: Cross Cultural Lessons in Leadership from Project GLOBE,” Mansour Javidan, Peter W. Dorfman, Mary Sully de Luque and Robert J. House advocated cultivating leadership behaviors that produce results and show effective leadership in differ36 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

ent cultures and settings. Essentially, learning leaders should build a more inclusive leadership philosophy with a keen business performance focus.

Establish a Learning Culture “The Western teacher must be a learner, too,” said Randall P. White, a psychologist and professor of leadership in global executive MBA programs at Duke Corporate Education. White is also an HEC Affiliate Professor for Paris, Doha in Qatar, and Beijing, and he teaches leadership for the TRIUM Global EMBA program. He said general expertise is often bound by a lack of specific expertise in the local culture. “In that sense, we have to create a space where everyone in the room is learning and sharing those cultural differences. In making it fun — like learning new expressions from the students — the classroom becomes a safe environment to experiment and practice where everyone is learning.” The spectrum of behavior people can engage in while motivating learners in the development process can be wide or narrow based on culture. For example, the freedom to incentivize and encourage people is ingrained in U.S. organizations, but this trait is not typically as broad in the East. Therefore, classroom examples need to be tailored to account for this distinction. A Westerner must continually consider how to develop leaders in ways that are locally acceptable and culturally appropriate. Discussions involving personnel reprimands, initiating change, coordinating group incentives and dealing with the rights and privacy of workers and management are typically more restricted in Asian organizations.

Respect Cultural, Familial Boundaries The way leadership education is structured also should prioritize the different ways people interact with and prioritize their families in the East. Family support is often more available in Asia and the Middle East than in the West. Employees often have significant support to meet fluctuating job demands and to attend learning engagements. Working professionals have access to child care, and it’s more common to structure careers to stay near relatives and parents. Americans often struggle to afford the kind of support Asians receive for child care. On the other hand, as structured meal times have historically been more common in Asia, adult children are expected to eat with parents and grandparents. While a lot of women work, they are more likely to go home at normal hours and spend time with extended family and children. Meanwhile, men are expected to frequently partake in “ying chou” during the week, or networking dinners. However, in recent years, women have begun participating in ying chou more as well. That’s why

having extended family nearby is so important; while both parents work or network, grandparents look after the kids, take them to tutoring, and make sure they complete their homework. For example, if training is conducted off-site in Asia, such as a five-day engagement retreat, employees will consider bringing others based on how the family ecosystem supports the professional contributor. Further, the end of the training day may be understood differently in the East. Offsite training programs need to set clear expectations well in advance on what is required and what is optional with regard to networking after class.

Facilitate Learner Empowerment So much of Western-based learning involves being assertive in the classroom environment. Asian learners may need more time to become comfortable speaking up, and Western learners may need to listen more. Part of this discrepancy is due to the way in which conversations occur, either face to face or electronically. “Sometimes the translation from English into another language happens via the use of a smartphone in real time,” said Pasquale Mazzuca, managing director for TalentWorks Group, a global management consulting firm. “If the educator is not aware of this they may interpret it as not paying attention to what is being said.” Conversely, when speaking face to face, Westerners tend to speak in clear, overt tones that can be considered rude in many Asian cultures where subtlety is valued more than directness. As such, educators need to become adept at understanding culturally specific communication styles, such as pauses in speech and differences in speech patterns. Educators also should exercise great care when expressing opinions, and practice etiquette with strong prohibitions against interrupting and preferences for polite pauses. These considerations encourage bright people to contribute.

Consider Risk and Innovation Risk and innovation — elements commonly addressed in executive education — are tolerated differently according to culture. In Asia, stability is greatly valued. This is counter to the concepts that emerge when teaching risk, innovation and change management. One must teach these subjects in a way that helps people tolerate the anxiety they feel when things are not always predictable. Being vulnerable is not always advisable. There is a saying that “the tack that stands up gets hammered down.” People tend not to do things that put themselves at risk emotionally or competitively, which can make thinking outside of the box difficult. In the classCULTURE continued on page 56 38 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

Build Leadership Skills Through Non-traditional MBA Programs demand for executive-level education Increasing programs to fill knowledge gaps and develop soft skills

has inspired newer online and specialized programs, giving executives greater flexibility to build global learning into their busy schedules. The flexibility of newer programs actually may be pulling from the traditional MBA candidate pool, according to the 2016 “Application Trends Survey Report” from the Graduate Management Admission Council. Options include:

The midcareer MBA: Several one-year, full-time programs that confer the MBA distinction for midcareer professionals exist. They include the USC IBEAR and Johnson at Cornell one-year MBAs, the MIT Sloan Fellows, London Business School Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy, and Stanford MSx Program. Part-time and executive MBAs: More flexible than full-time programs, part-time and executive MBAs allow busy professionals to work full time while pursuing the degree on nights, weekends or dedicated residential weeks. Learners can apply their knowledge immediately to organizational challenges. Specialized programs: Careers at the intersection of traditional sectors and technology, such as FinTech and EdTech, have spurred a proliferation of tailored programs to meet the demand for specialized knowledge. For instance, NYU Stern School of Business unveiled a FinTech specialization, while MIT Sloan welcomed its first one-year MBA cohort, addressing the fastest-growing segment of graduate management education. Online learning: The most flexible and least time-intensive option is online learning. Price, quality and depth vary by course, although some certifications are available. At the high end, Indiana University Kelley School of Business offers an online MBA. Harvard Business School, on the other hand, offers a comprehensive, case-based, collaborative learning platform: HBX. Its CORe offering allows professionals to gain a credential in business fundamentals while developing strategic thinking and business communications skills. Students also can target shorter courses offered by MOOCs, such as edX and Coursera, on topics ranging from organizational leadership to design thinking.

—Salma Qarnain is a senior MBA admissions consultant with Stratus Admissions Counseling, a global admissions counseling firm.

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40 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

6 STRATEGIES to Create Digital Learning Success


Digital learning is more than a convenient, technology-based way to share information. With the right planning, it can be a cost-effective strategy to deepen workforce and leadership capabilities.


echnology has changed the way corporate learning and leadership development happens across the globe. Organizations increasingly rely on digital learning for a portion of their leadership development and training needs. Whether the delivery method is a massive open online course, a small private online course, virtual instructor-led training, microlearning, blended learning, or other digital tools that allow participants across multiple locations to learn together or independently, it’s critically important to maximize employees’ time and company resources.

Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •


However, getting a return from digital learning experiences on an ongoing basis requires far more than just providing a library full of innovative content. Before jumping into developing or reinvigorating a digital learning initiative, learning leaders should consider the following six ways to maximize effectiveness. Embrace the “less is more” principle for online learning. Many organizations pitch their learning initiatives with the concept of having “something for everyone,” and then they offer up thousands of choices. These kinds of broad initiatives often lack focus and are rarely successful. Utiliza-


Getting a return from digital learning experiences requires far more than providing a library full of innovative content. tion rates for noncompliance courses, in particular, tend to drop significantly as time passes. To boost utilization rates and ensure learning efforts are worthwhile, consider employees’ unique needs, and have them set clear goals around challenges they want to address. For instance, what specific leadership skills do they need? What skills do they want based on specific roles or functions? Limit program content based on these needs and wants. Then provide targeted digital learning offerings that align with them. Enlist and creatively publicize support from the C-suite. To be effective, digital learning initiatives need support from upper management. First, learning leaders must make the business case to senior leadership that time spent on digital learning will lead to new skills that will make employees more efficient and effective long term. Provide specifics related to established business objectives. Then, provide ways for senior leaders to publicly support the learning program. Videos are typically better received than e-mail. For instance, if a senior leader comes to address a group of learners participating in a face-to-face learning initiative, make a video and then put it on the company’s primary digital learning platform. That support can do a lot to boost participation rates. Use learner-centric design. Would leaders benefit from a monthly online seminar? Or, would a virtual lunch-and-learn program be more effective? Talent leaders must find ways to make learning initiatives a part of the technology employees already use. Having ongoing gaming elements embedded into the experience, such as recogni-



42 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

The Benefits of Virtual Reality on the Job irtual reality has clear benefits for the learner. Vemployees By creating realistic environments in which can learn by exploration without physical risk or hefty travel fees, outcomes are improved and engagement is increased.

But many learning leaders will want to walk before they run into VR and augmented reality. A tangible solution with which to test the waters is 3-D learning, which allows businesses to create virtual worlds and real-life simulations. Consider the following three simulations and how they enable on-the-job learning. Data Center installations are some of the most difficult places on Earth to secure access to. A high-fidelity 3-D simulation allows analysts to check on machinery, test readings on dials in the air conditioning, or even survey the outside of the installation — all from a web-based simulation. When onboarding millennials, engagement is key. Employees can navigate key buildings in the corporate campus, and learn about the culture through employee and mentor video greetings. In this case, a 3-D map represents the entire town complete with locations that would frequently take insurance agents out into the field. In the food service industry, consistency is key to the customer experience. Combining 3-D simulations, learning games and a leaderboard ensures that every employee can hit the ground running as they walk through the essentials of working with key pieces of equipment.

—Doug Stephen is senior vice president of the learning division at CGS, a global enterprise learning and outsourcing company.

tion and competition incentives, can help keep learners engaged and coming back. For example, promote and focus on one leadership topic each month or quarter; couple that with a means to recognize learners’ achievements around specific content offerings, such as a LinkedIn badge. This type of engagement is more likely to be impactful. Make leaders into teachers. Leadership concepts and behaviors should be reinforced. Learning leaders should ensure that managers get the tools and support they need to become effective coaches, and that they are encouraged to share what they’re learning with their direct reports. To reinforce learning, ask managers to train additional front-line leaders, and have them provide follow-up training modules for skill refreshment. Tap into the power of learning partnerships. Learning doesn’t happen just once. Takeaways learned from a webinar or in an interactive session must be practiced and refined for employees to retain the information. Establishing accountability partners connects peers who learn together so they can share experiences, and discuss chal-



face environments can overcome weaker content alignment on satisfaction ratings with a charismatic nature and likable delivery style. The digital environment doesn’t provide the same connection between instructor and participants, so measurable objectives are vital to assess how well content is received and covered. B. Previous experience: When collecting data on the learning content and experience, consider the participants’ previous experiences with that learning delivery method and technology platform. If a participant had to first learn the platform before absorbing the content, this might negatively affect his or her overall experience. C. Corporate culture: A learning strategy built around metrics must align with the company’s strengths and cultural preferences to succeed. For example, simulation-based e-learning like gamification will work if the culture encourages competition. However, if competition is not part of the corporate culture, there would be a risk in creating an environment where people are likely to be embarrassed, resulting in people checking out completely. Similarly, setting a goal like “complete three e-courses in the first quarter” on an individual development plan will work if that is

A learning strategy built around metrics must align with the company’s strengths and cultural preferences to succeed. lenges and goals. In this way, development experiences create a bond between participants, and they foster an interest in helping each other succeed. This bond also promotes accountability. Measure what matters. Remember that what gets measured is what gets done. One of the most difficult but crucial ways to determine an initiative’s success is to perform ongoing evaluation. Measurement provides data that can be used to refine and strengthen ongoing digital learning efforts. Looking at the return on investment and expectations, and linking these to top-line business metrics such as sales, retention and promotion rates can be a powerful way to account for program impact beyond participant satisfaction. Further, digital learning initiatives offer data insights such as participation rates and timing that typical face-to-face developmental experiences don’t. Linking these pieces to business objectives also can be informative. Evaluate digital learning initiatives to track and measure success in the following areas: A. Program objectives: Ensuring program objectives are clear and measurable is critical to explore both expected and actual outcomes. Instructors in face-to-


a cultural preference within the organization. If not, it’s likely to become a check-the-box activity that employees click through quickly but don’t necessarily absorb or use on the job. D. Business objectives: Employees are more likely to commit to a learning initiative that is aligned with the organization’s business objectives. Learners often need to see the connection between their participation in learning, the work they do on a daily basis and the company’s big picture goals. Technology offers paths for developmental opportunities in real-time and across broad geographic locations, and leadership-focused digital learning and development is growing rapidly. With proper planning, these initiatives offer a cost-effective way to deepen workforce development to ensure learning is sustained and ROI is delivered. CLO Holly Downs is a senior evaluation faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership’s Evaluation Center. Samir Mehta is a manager for digital learning products at the Center for Creative Leadership and an adjunct faculty member at NIIT University in India. To comment, email Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •


44 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

Do You Know How to Create an

Actionable Learning Strategy? BY ALAN LANDERS

It’s an evergreen problem: How do learning leaders ensure their efforts align with organizational priorities? It’s all in the strategy.


art of the learning leader’s job is to develop organizational learning strategies. Yet, the results of the efforts to achieve this goal are not encouraging. For one thing, organizations aren’t reviewing their learning and development strategies very often. “The State of Learning and Development 2014: Coming of Age,” a study from Brandon Hall, revealed that less than 18 percent of organizations reviewed or revisited their learning and development strategies at least annually over the past five years and 28.8 percent revisited strategies once or not at all. For another, when they do review and/or develop learning strategies, those strategies don’t always mesh well with business priorities. “Building Competitive Advantage With Talent — Part 1: An Introduction to Talent Strategy,” an April 2015 Bersin by Deloitte report, showed that only about 10-15 percent of companies possess learning and development programs that are properly aligned with strategy and outcomes. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development’s 2015 learning and development survey offered a similarly dark picture: Twenty-five percent of respondents indicated their learning and development efforts were aligned with the business needs of their organizations. In some sectors, alignment was less than 10 percent. The bottom line is that even though the need for strategic alignment with organizational strategies is acknowledged as very important, it isn’t being done very well. Why? There are five possible causes for failed alignment and results: 1. Ineffective reporting structures for learning functions: According to the CIPD report, alignment is lower in organizations where learning and development is part of generalist HR activities. It’s higher where all learning activities are separate from the HR function with different reporting lines to the C-suite. Organizations where the CLO reports to the

Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •


CEO are more likely to help the business to increase employee productivity, but few CLOs report directly to the CEO. 2. Inappropriate focus: In a learning and development world being shaped by technological advances, it is not surprising that learning leaders concentrate on delivery and e-learning strategies. But too often they invest too much time and effort on the wrong things. Learning delivery is important, but strategic alignment between learning and the business should be a key focus. 3. Lack of in-depth understanding of corporate strategies: Many corporate strategies are stated in generic terms, such as “capture 15 percent of the

Engaged, accountable employees: Employees should demonstrate something called organizational citizenship behavior. That’s when employees go above and beyond what is normally expected. Engaged employees are proactive, supportive, willing to teach others and help them learn. Open social networks: Most learning takes place socially, through daily interactions with peers and others, outside of formal learning events. Work teams are the primary source of learning about norms, values and expectations. Supportive learning technologies: According to ATD’s 2015 “State of the Industry” report, slightly more than half of all organizational training takes place

Tactics to achieve strategic objectives need to be detailed. However, learning leaders may not fully understand strategies and tactics in depth. industry’s widget market.” Or, “generate 1,000 more leads a month.” Tactics to achieve strategic objectives need to be more detailed. However, learning leaders may not fully understand strategies and tactics in depth. 4. Failure to relate effectively with stakeholders: Learning leaders communicate using learning-centric terminology such as learning objectives, instructional modalities and course completions, instead of business terms. Further, CLOs need to know how learning drives business-centric concerns like revenue and market penetration. Employee engagement and satisfaction are important, but those common learning metrics make it difficult to relate learning efforts to business objectives. 5. A focus on learning objectives versus business objectives: Learning leaders should use training needs assessments to identify skill gaps and pain points. Then, if the identified needs don’t gel with specific organizational or business objectives, don’t create elaborate learning interventions to address them, as they are not likely to advance key business priorities. An organizational learning and development strategy should provide a road map of sorts to help leaders align and leverage learning resources to improve the organization’s overall human capital related capabilities and systems; this helps the organization to achieve competitive advantage. Learning resources include: Skilled trainers: Each trainer may have specialized competencies or areas of expertise. 46 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

in a classroom led by a facilitator/instructor. However, learner-directed e-learning, webinars and other online delivery methodologies increase annually. Supportive leaders: Executive support is essential to create a learning organization. Executives provide the finances and direction necessary to guide the organization’s learning efforts. Leaders also can be valuable mentors and coaches. Subject matter experts: Every organization has highly experienced, talented individuals who are content and process experts. Their expertise can be incorporated into learning programs. Accurate, up-to-date documentation: Policies and procedures establish the standards for acceptable behavior and business practices. They provide valuable reference materials to support learning and development efforts. External vendors, consultants: Myriad external learning and development resources are available, some at little or no cost. Once learning leaders have the right tools, to make the most out of the resources available they can combine, recombine and restructure resources in innovative ways. But, the aforementioned Brandon Hall study reports that strategic leveraging of learning resources must be done consistently. Consider the following seven steps to help develop a strong, actionable organizational learning strategy that will have an impact on the business: 1. Understand the business: Learning leaders must understand the business, its structure and key processes in the organization. They need to know how profits are generated, how front-line

employees interact with customers, how teams function in various parts of the organization and more. They also need to build relationships with key leaders and influential employees throughout the company. Finally, they must be conversant in the lexicon of the organization to gain credibility and trust. 2. Internalize the organization’s strategic objectives: The learning function must be viewed as a business partner that understands what the organization is trying to do. Its strategies must readily demonstrate how learning and development will help employees accomplish business objectives. To understand the strategic issues affecting various parts of the organization: • Identify the strategic objectives for key departments to ascertain what progress has been made, what’s working, what isn’t. • Identify the major concerns for department heads and their employees. • Identify the competitive advantages and disadvantages the company has compared to competitors. • Conduct a force field analysis to identify the strengths and weaknesses in various departments

Develop a detailed understanding about the organization’s customers. • Learn about future growth intentions. • Review productivity and other reports to determine how well various departments are functioning. • Evaluate existing technology to learn if new purchases will be made. • Determine competency levels for existing personnel. • Determine what is expected of the learning and development department. 3. Assess the learning department’s current capabilities: Before committing to anything, understand the capabilities and limitations in the learning function. • What are the capabilities of the learning staff? • What is the current state of learning technology? • What learning resources are available? • What is the learning department’s reputation among executives, management, employees, outside contractors and suppliers? STRATEGY continued on page 57

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Regulatory Upheavals Coming? No Problem BY SARAH FISTER GALE


n the mortgage industry the acronym TRID will send shivers down the straightest spine, and rightfully so. TRID, or TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure, replaces the Truth-in-Lending Disclosure and Good Faith Estimate regulation for mortgage loans, and it is driving sweeping change across the home loan environment. TRID was enacted to better control predatory lending practices in the banking industry and to create greater transparency for borrowers, both of which were badly needed. But adapting to the new regulation was incredibly disruptive, said Catherine Blocker, executive vice president of operations for Guild Mortgage Co. in San Diego, one of the largest independent mortgage banking companies in the United States. “Getting ready for TRID required a major overhaul of all of our systems and procedures,” she explained. “It was the single biggest regulatory change to happen since we’ve been in business.” The regulation set new requirements for reporting, waiting periods, liability rules and other elements of the loan process that impacted every aspect of how the company works with customers and with its business partners. To prepare for the change, Guild had to update all of its technology and workflow processes, and develop extensive training for the company’s 3,300 national employees — before the rule went live on Oct. 3, 2015. A final draft of the rule was released Dec. 31, 2013, giving the mortgage industry less than two years to prepare.

One Line at a Time In January 2014, a team of Guild compliance and operations experts sat down to figure out exactly what the rule said and how it would impact their operations. “We spent four hours a day for weeks going through the regulation,” said Erin Langevin, vice president of national sales operations. Combing through each line, they identified what parts of the rule would impact the business and employees’ workflow, then organized them into three training buckets: what employees need to know about the rule, how it will impact daily tasks, and what changes are out of their control but still need to be managed. The third category had to do with tasks rel50 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

SNAPSHOT Guild Mortgage Co. used custom training and a new LMS to prepare for a massive regulatory change and establish themselves as an industry leader.

egated to partner agencies. For example, real estate agents used to be responsible for delivering a final cost to the title company two days before closing, now TRID requires that amount to be delivered three to seven days prior to closing; it puts the onus on the mortgage company to make sure that happens, Langevin explained. In response, the Guild team determined they would need to offer additional training programs for real estate agents to ensure they understood the change. The learning department was simultaneously updating the company’s outdated learning management system with a more robust solution that could customize content for specific employees, allow managers to track their team’s progress, and integrate with Guild’s broader human resource management system. “Having an intuitive and flexible LMS was important for TRID because we were developing a lot of training paths for different employee groups,” said Dave Robertson, director of training. They ultimately chose Absorb LMS. While implementing the new tool, Robertson’s team worked closely with subject matter experts to build TRID content, including webinars, train the trainer courses, lunch and learns and interactive online training modules. He was directly involved in designing nine online modules for the course, which offered most of the baseline information about TRID in fun, interactive ways using cartoons, videos, drag-and-drop exercises and quizzes. “We could have gone with a basic read-only format, but it would have been harder to retain,” he said. “So, we invested the extra time to make it more engaging.” The SMEs occasionally pushed back on certain elements that didn’t accurately reflect the rule, but relied on Robertson to define the flow and learning environ-

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ment. By the third module they had the design process down to a routine. “We began to understand each other, which made things run more smoothly.”

#DontGetTrumpedByTRID In February 2015, they began rolling out training in incremental stages. “TRID is so complex that we knew we needed to take a layered approach,” said Lisa Klika, senior vice president of compliance and quality assurance. They started with a big picture, 30-minute course

ensured our sales people understood the rule enough to teach it, and it gave them an opportunity to get in front of our business partners to demonstrate their expertise in TRID. That earned us a lot of credibility.” As the go-live date neared, the learning team targeted leaders in each operation center with a final test: complete three mock loans using the updated processing system without making any mistakes. Once they passed the test, they became the resident experts, holding their teams accountable to complete the same challenge, Lan-

“For industries facing similar regulatory upheavals, start early.” —Catherine Blocker, EVP of operations, Guild Mortgage Co. introducing the new rule to the company via live webinars where participants could call in and ask questions. Those events were recorded and offered through the company’s learning management system for anyone who missed them, said Carolyn Frank, vice president of HR. “Over time the training got more granular.” Later courses were customized to specific roles and responsibilities, including loan officers, funders and underwriters. The learning team created a matrix of job roles and training topics that integrated into the LMS to ensure everyone was assigned the necessary courses, and that managers could track their progress and hold them accountable if they weren’t completed. As courses rolled out, the operations, compliance and training team launched a TRID training communications campaign with hashtag themes, like #dontgettrumpedbyTRID, and email trivia contests that challenged employees to answer TRID questions based on recently completed training. Trivia challenges reinforced newly acquired knowledge and let the training team know if content wasn’t sticking, Langevin said. “Based on our response analysis we could see where we needed to make changes.” The training team also kept employees constantly updated on what courses they needed to complete, how it would help them in their jobs, and details on their long-term training plan. “They always knew what was coming so there were no surprises,” Robertson said. It also set the tone that this was an important program, and that the company’s leaders were paying attention to their progress. “That message was very important to the success of the program.” Along with teaching employees about TRID, the team taught sales reps to train customers and partners about the rule, and how it would impact their business relationships. This served a dual purpose, Klika said. “It 52 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

gevin said. “It was one last opportunity for everyone to practice for TRID in a safe environment, which gave them a sense of confidence that they were ready.”

Better than the Competition Based on initial results, they were right. “By the time October 3 rolled around, our people were proficient in TRID,” Blocker said. “The training program saved us from making critical errors and enabled us to bridge the gap from the old way of doing things to the new.” By December 2015, the company had delivered 6,400 hours of TRID training, and every employee had taken part in at least one course. The content is offered to new employees and to anyone who wants a refresher course through the LMS. Klika said the first months were hard, but by December employees were closing loans on time, with fewer errors, changes and delays than many of their peers. Guild became known throughout the banking industry as a company ready for this disruption. “We have received feedback from a number of industry partners that we ‘get TRID’ better than any other company, and that our sales force is very prepared,” said Blocker. The company also has experienced rapid growth since TRID, adding roughly 700 new employees in 12 months. “It is another indication of our success,” Klika said. Learning TRID and developing training to prepare the company was a long and grueling process, but it was worth it in the end, Frank said, because it set-up Guild and its employees, for success. “They felt empowered by this training, and they saw that we were investing in their future.” CLO Sarah Fister Gale is a writer based in Chicago. To comment, email

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Executive Education Tops List of Effective Investments But according to one survey, metrics on learning investments are often not conclusive in proving outcomes. BY ANA SÁNCHEZ LINARES

xecutive education is the way to go if an orga- dinal survey also came from randomized quesnization wants to improve its business pros- tions on investments in employees that improve pects, according to a majority of companies business outcomes. polled in the “Corporate Learning Pulse” study According to the research, nearly three-fifths released in May 2016. of respondents — 59 percent — say investing in The study, published in London by Financial employees “drives change and innovation” in Times and IE Business School Corporate Learn- their businesses, rising to 65 percent among ing Alliance, asked more than 600 business lead- C-suite respondents. ers and learning and development specialists reSome investments (Figure 1) are more strategic sponsible for influencing, planning and delivering than operational, such as hiring new talent and IT executive development programs in small, medi- systems investments. However, the survey showed um and large organizathat 57 percent of comtions in the U.K., panies believe investing FIGURE 1: THE BEST TALENT INVESTMENTS? Fr a n c e , Ge r m a n y, in the development for Spain, the Netherexisting executives is the These were the top investments lands, Norway and top investment an orgachosen by the respondents: Sweden, how they nization can make to measure change, and improve their business which talent investprospects. This com% ments rank highest for pares with 44 percent Health and wellness More personal who are in favor of hirthe learning and devel- Executive education programs time opment community ing new talent. % and the senior C-suite The belief that emChild care executives who hold ployees are change services Hiring new them to account. Reagents for innovation talent New/updated IT sults from this attituis strongest among se-



40 %32

44% % 43

54 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •


Figures’ source: “Corporate Learning Pulse,” 2016


Taken at face value, this data might suggest that senior managers see less value in executive education. However, it could be the opposite. Senior managers, especially those in the trenches, may be keener than ever to find learning programs that help organizations achieve their goals and objectives. The challenges they say they face — including effective executive education — demonstrate their business priorities over the next two to three years. (See Figure 3.) The corporate learning sector’s real challenge is well illustrated by one key finding: 47 percent of survey respondents fail to see how corporate learning investments add value to their bottom line. Where they do see the link, organizations are most likely to gauge the impact of their investment in two areas: employee satisfaction and engagement. Further, organizations surveyed have at some point sought to measure corporate learning impact on: • Employee satisfaction and retention (74 percent of respondents). • Employee engagement (73 percent). • Customer satisfaction (69 percent). • Revenue and profit (64 percent). These findings sound a clear call to action for learning leaders: Close the gap between expectations and reality by improving how learning impact is measured against performance. CLO


Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the Nordics see investment in executive education as achieving the best results for their organization.

57 58 61 49 50 55






All markets











35 %

30 %

25 %

20 %

15 %

10 %


nior professionals working in Spain, the U.K. and Germany. Further, Spanish professionals feel most strongly that corporate learning programs achieve the desired results for their organization. From senior managers upwards, belief in the power of employees is strong, and strongest among those in the C-suite. While more than half of survey respondents believe senior leaders understand the value of corporate learning, slightly less than half (47 percent) believe it has had a positive impact on their organization. Surprisingly, a similar number (46 per- Ana Sánchez Linares is director of programs at Financial cent) say their organization’s senior leaders see no Times and IE Business School Corporate Learning added value in previous executive education pro- Alliance. To comment, email grams because their outcomes are hard to meaFIGURE 3: BUSINESS PRIORITIES OFTEN REFLECT BUSINESS CHALLENGES sure. When examining Innovation views according to se32% 27% niority, the data show Leadership notable variances. For in29% 25% stance, the most senior Strategy development and execution 36% respondents — C-suite, 33% presidents and managing Executive education 24% directors — believe that 23% Adapting to advances in technology corporate learning has 28% 27% had a positive impact on International expansion their organization, and 20% 21% that past investments Financial management 26% were worthwhile. How27% ever, fewer senior learnIn-market growth 33% ing and development 35% Managing costs professionals who are 30% more focused on day-to33% Organizational change day operations within 24% 32% their organizations agree. Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •


MEMORY continued from page 33

CULTURE continued from page 38

response than they were to remember images that did not strike an emotional chord. It’s also worth mentioning that when it comes to static things like the brain, in comparison with, say, employee engagement, which changes year to year, older studies are not less influential. Research like that previously mentioned provides the groundwork for researchers to delve into other areas without duplicating their efforts so that neuroscience can continue to advance. Want to defuse an emotional situation that could inhibit learning? Activate positive emotions in learners by doing things like establishing trust, incorporating choice into engagements, and removing threats. Or, if things go off track because of bad feelings, Ruyle said ask learners to meet a negative emotion with a thoughtful question that requires a thoughtful response to reengage their thinking cortex.

room, learners should be given explicit permission to be different. If the tone can be recalibrated when confronting change so that it fosters support and helps each person to learn, the environment will become less competitive, and people will be more likely to engage and answer questions. When learners understand that different opinions will help the team, they become more likely to propose innovative ideas. In any culture, people won’t do things unless they trust the other party. In the East, there is greater emphasis on forming relationships to earn that trust. It is the learning leader’s job to create a classroom environment where participants feel safe participating collaboratively.

Novelty If all else fails, employ a little novelty. What is unusual is often attractive. Psychologists have long asserted that when people experience something novel in the midst of what is familiar, they are more likely to commit the experience to memory. Why? Novel stimuli tend to activate the brain’s hippocampus — which is involved in memory formation, organization and storing — more than familiar stimuli. When the hippocampus compares incoming sensory information with stored knowledge and the two match, the University of Michigan’s Biopsychology Program found the brain kicks out the new memory as duplicative. On the other hand, if the new information differs from what is stored, the brain works hard to explain the discrepancy, ultimately storing the memory if it could be useful later. In a report published in Nature in September 2016, a team of researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Edinburgh found the reward-seeking chemical dopamine released from a specific region of the brain may be responsible for the boost novelty gives to memory retention. The discovery helped approaches to improve learning and memory forward. In the short term, learning leaders have an expanding vista of insight into the brain at their disposal to enhance their strategy to reach and transform their workforce. The literature may be voluminous, but one needn’t try to embrace all of neuroscience’s principles at once, Eller’s Carella said. “From a certain perspective, it’s impossible to unravel all of this in one learning journey. The first step is truly awareness.” CLO Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. To comment, email 56 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

Don’t Forget Egalitarianism: Age, Gender, Class and Deference In the West, older people are often labeled unfairly as being resistant to change. But in many Asian cultures age is considered an advantage. Those who are younger are unlikely to challenge an elder since age is generally associated with wisdom. For instance, being assertive in a way that contradicts a superiors’ opinions could cause them to lose face or be embarrassed. Thus, being subtle is important so that superiors can “save face” while the younger person gets their message across. Millennial employees often are challenged when leading people who are older. Learning to lead older colleagues or subordinates can start with simply maintaining the social customs already in place. Formal titles and avoiding first names when addressing senior employees maintains decorum and respect, but they do not have to compromise directives from young executives. “Enabling the more senior members to become mentors to the younger generations helps in the building of a positive relationship,” Mazzuca said. In Africa, Asia and the Middle East, a person may be of low rank within the organization but be a significant community leader. It’s a reminder that an organization’s culture only trumps national culture during the workday. After 5 p.m., one’s personal ethnic culture may become primary. Western approaches to executive education have much to offer, but they must be localized and adaptable to the home culture. Learning engagements are best when the process is reciprocal — a cultural exchange that improves communication with Western offices and strengthens the global organization. CLO Lily Kelly-Radford is a psychologist and partner at Executive Development Group LLC. To comment email

STRATEGY continued from page 47 4. Evaluate the organization’s available learning resources. They determine what can and cannot be done. The key is to be creative. Think about ways to combine and recombine resources to increase capabilities. 5. Supplement steps 1 and 2 — an operational organization assessment — with a training needs analysis. To accomplish this, focus on the departments that need the most help to make the company financially successful; identify the mission-critical knowledge and skills that need to be improved to better achieve business objectives; provide specific, tangible, measurable key performance indicators, KPIs, with a process to measure and report results; and provide individual development plans for individuals within targeted departments. 6. Share identified training needs with department heads to ensure understanding and alignment with their goals and expectations. If the needs are focused on mission-critical competencies that deliver financial results, and the


KPIs are in terms the department heads use, support will be readily offered. 7. Determine a visionary organization learning and development strategy. • Ensure everyone in the learning function is aware of the identified training needs, KPIs, and engage them in the strategy development process. • Develop a training curriculum for each targeted department/ function. • Establish a blended learning strategy to ensure effective allocation of learning resources. • Communicate the plan throughout the organization. • Implement, evaluate, readjust, report on results The aforementioned process is not easy. But if done thoroughly, with vision and creativity, it will deliver significant learning and productivity results. CLO

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Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •



Better Is the Enemy of Best Better is a criticism. Best is an encouragement • BY STAN BEECHAM


Stan Beecham is a sports psychologist, director and founding member of the Leadership Resource Center and author of “Elite Minds: How Winners Think Differently to Create a Competitive Edge and Maximize Success.” To comment, email editor@

e live in a culture that is obsessed with better. No matter what we have or how well we are doing, we want more. We passionately believe the desire to do better or have more is critical to being successful. We blindly embrace the mantra, “You have to want it to get it,” but we should also acknowledge that relatively few people have actually put this to the test. Think about it this way: Do we actually get better because of our desire to improve? Or is our actual growth and development caused by something else? Further, we have a grave concern that if we ever become happy with our current status, we will somehow lose our edge and plummet into mediocrity. Because of this, most of us are taught to never be content with where we are and to always strive to be better. Our obsession with better can be heard before every practice — “Let’s be better today” — and in every performance review in corporate America — “We need to see better numbers before we can promote you.” The paradox of our rising desires and expectations is that as we want and get more money, better services and increased luxuries, the quality of our life doesn’t increase.

ourselves we should do better, we are also critiquing ourselves, judging ourselves as not enough. This type of judgment is not helpful when developing skills. I frequently ask the groups I speak with to think of the best career advice they ever received. Once they have identified an answer, I ask them to categorize the statement into either an encouragement or a criticism. Consistently, the majority of the group report the best advice they ever received came as encouragement. Better is a criticism; best is an encouragement. What most of us desperately need is not to get better and tell ourselves we aren’t good enough. We need to tell ourselves to do the best we can, and that our best is good enough. I ask my clients to tell me which of these two statements more accurately portrays how they talk to themselves: “I need to get better,” or “I am good enough now.” The vast majority of us say: “I need to get better.” It doesn’t matter how successful we’ve become, most of us want to get better. Yet the reason we want to get better is our belief that we are not yet good enough. Growth is a natural process; it happens whether we desire it or not. The belief that one needs to be better hinders this process. Our consistent criticism and failure to make peace with who we are now has detrimental effects on both mind and body. Most of the talent development executives I work with are focused on helping their people do and get better. The usual corporate response to leadership development is to offer some type of training or program focused on teaching others how to become better leaders through a traditional didactic protocol; more and better information leads to better leaders. This is not true. Having more knowledge or learning the latest and greatest leadership recipe will not lead to long-term behavioral change. Instead, we must offer leaders a seWe are not getting happier as we strive to be more ries of experiential exercises that allow them to see successful. Instead, statistics suggest we are actually go- themselves more clearly and less critically. ing backward. How do we stop this reverse trend? We Since I have changed the way I work with leaders replace better with best. to a more experiential versus didactic process, the reLet better go. Pursue your best instead. Better is a sults have been astounding. This is the learning experisubjective judgment. When someone tells you that ence leaders want and need. We must help them unyou can or should do better, you are not encouraged derstand they are good enough now. The challenge is by that critic. Instead, you feel judged. When we tell to do one’s best each and every day. CLO

The paradox is that as we want and get more money, better services and increased luxuries, the quality of our life doesn’t increase.

58 Chief Learning Officer • April 2017 •

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