We are back with our Webinar Series – Experts on Employee Experience! 🎉 It is a monthly webinar series where Jade Choy, Epoch's CEO, has conversations with leaders and innovators in the Employee Experience and engagement space.
In case you missed it, here are some key learnings and takeaways from our webinar featuring Christopher Vanisi, Learning, Development & Diversity at Bluevine. View the full recording here. Scroll on for notes! 👇
Christopher (he/him) is responsible for Learning, Development & Diversity at Bluevine. Chris had previously been in customer experience for 30 years before transitioning to a learning and development role for the last 10 years. He’s stayed in this part of the industry for so long because he’s enjoyed wearing many hats. There are so many challenges you face in your career as you go through life. One common struggle is during the first month or two of onboarding. You’re trying to be the best you can be while learning about the organization. A lot of the positive and negative impacts happen because of recruiting and onboarding, especially within the L&D part of the organization. Hearing why people don’t feel safe and comfortable has motivated Chris to help improve their onboarding experience. He wants them to feel they were hired for a reason, and give the information they need to know while allowing them to add their touch. Chris loves seeing how people transform throughout the onboarding experience.
Bluevine is a FinTech company. FinTech is fairly new and was born out of the 2008 financial crisis. FinTech found a way to build confidence again in the financial world using technology. When they do that at Bluevine, even if it looks like a big company, there’s still a lot to build. What’s great is the types of people that join are the ones that want to help transform the company. The mindset of knowing they need to grow together is important. At Bluevine, Chris is currently on a team of 5 and they’re making miracles happen. They took the time to find the right people for the team and are seeing the L&D team make great strides since.
Learning and Development teams are always looking at where the company needs to be. This consists of how to get from point A to B. For example, they found the need for a Learning Management System (LMS) to allow for asynchronous along with live learning and upskilling opportunities. To them, it was important to understand the capabilities of the systems they were shopping for. It’s like going to the store hungry. You need to eat before you go to the store or you’ll end up getting everything. They figured out what they needed from an LMS before they went to get one. They knew they needed a way to collect feedback, data, and more. They also needed to have the LMS companies pass security tests.
It’s about being honest with yourself and asking if you’re meeting the needs of the company with what you have. At a previous company, Chris pulled the plug on an LMS to switch to another one because the one they were using had too heavy of a lift to developing content. Once they’ve checked all the boxes with a system, it’s about going all in with the one that best fits. Chris also suggests leaning on LMS support systems. You will know you’ve outgrown an LMS when it no longer fits your needs. When they collect feedback from anyone who is assigned content, they always deep dive into it to celebrate the good and look at how to improve the bad. It’s about seeing feedback as a gift. Often you might find out from feedback that your challenges are not because you’ve outgrown the LMS but how you’ve written the content. By continually adjusting LMS content, it gets better and better every time!
Feedback is hard to get. Everyone asks for feedback. When you ask someone for their time to give you feedback when they don’t necessarily need to, it’s important to show them respect. If you build the conversation up front and treat people the way they wanted to be treated and engage them, they look forward to giving feedback. Chris likes inspiring and motivating at the beginning, and then celebrating at the end of overcoming or achieving something. This results in more people giving meaningful feedback! People don’t mind giving a couple of minutes for feedback as long as you do your best. Feedback helps you grow as a person, especially in the learning & development environment. The more you take feedback to heart, and people see you’re implementing changes based on your feedback, the more people will give more going forward.
Often, trainers get energy extremely high at the beginning but when the session starts it drops. Some trainers want to get down to business. Leadership is about being open and understanding what works and doesn’t work. What Chris has realized is that people want to be a part of training. Nobody likes sitting in a seat and listening to someone speak the whole time. Lectures don’t make for effective and engaging training. If you can keep people engaged in the journey from the start it changes things. Chris has an ice breaker to have everyone introduce themselves and asks simple questions such as, “What’s your dream concert?”. That opens people to start thinking and open up. The very next thing they do after opening up is to set mutual expectations as a group. Chris expects people to have expectations for him, and he has expectations for them. Honoring these expectations makes fun, engaging, honest, and transparent training.
Onboarding is the longest training which can take 3-4 weeks along with on-the-job training and activities. In-classroom training is about 2 weeks altogether. In addition to asynchronous learning, there are also lecture-led sessions. For in-person sessions, they’ll still use the LMS to have knowledge checks and other checkpoints to engage learners. That way, you aren’t just sitting in a classroom and listening to people speak. When it comes to on-the-floor learning, L&D makes sure everyone gets training for compliance, processes, procedures, and anything else they need to know. Within the LMS they have elements that allow you to build skills. Time management and project management courses can help guide you on a path to figuring out where you want to fit in the organization. The team allows employees to take charge of their growth and their destinies.
There are times when you can be fully engaged with the class but the class is not engaged with you. For some people, when they’re excited they just smile and others might yell. Success in terms of engagement requires getting feedback. Chris makes an effort to meet with people to get their feedback. But, it’s important to provide those engagement opportunities beforehand too. To Chris, engagement means face-to-face, speaking to each other. To others, it might mean just using the chat. When you build a supportive environment, people can push through boundaries and be more willing to participate. Without fail, as long as you can keep engaged, people will follow. Until employees are ready to take ownership themselves, allow them to read slides, participate in the chat and engage in other ways. Schedule a one-on-one to make them more comfortable if they don’t like discussing in groups.
There’s always something to do 2 weeks ahead of time, a week before, and the day before. Creating lists of the tasks that need to be done is important to help keep you on track. Preparing beforehand minimizes the pivots you need to take. If one person out of 100 gives feedback to do things a different way, they’ll be cognizant of that but may not restructure an entire training.
The hardest thing for L&D on the participation side when returning to the office or hybrid is engagement. You’ll never get the same engagement in a remote session as you will in person. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. You can get great engagement and deliver great experiences through remote sessions but you need to use more tools. There are countless games online as well. Fitting the game with the session goals can greatly increase engagement. If you’re going back in person fully, take advantage of having people there to engage them in the classroom. It can be as simple as giving candy to people that answer the questions right.
Chris has experienced companies going through restructuring. Depending on how much value they bring, L&D is often the first to get cut because there’s an assumption that managers can train employees. But, there’s a difference between content delivery and engaging new hires. Starting with icebreakers and looping them in on a journey is key. It’s important to analyze onboarding programs and figure out how to implement improvements. L&D is a support function for the business. Building out programming from an L&D perspective with a bigger human focus, allows training to improve. Even if metrics indicate training is then 1-2% better, that may be just over one week. Over time, L&D can have large benefits.
Chris wants to make sure nobody has to go through a negative experience. Even if people take a job to get money, he hopes to support them within the organization. It’s important to have grit and do as much as you can, and then let things be. You can’t take bad experiences home to your family. Chris does what he does for himself, to support his family, and because he loves people. When you do things for the right reasons you’ll shine through even though you have bad days.
Connect with Christopher on LinkedIn if you want to chat with him directly. Sign up for Epoch’s newsletter to be in the know for our next Experts in Employee Experience webinar and other Employee Experience events!
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