Tile’s VP of People & Workplace on One-Size-Fits-One (Not All) Learning
As we think about Learning & Development (L&D) in 2019, one of the main challenges to keep in mind is the huge constraint on time. It’s getting harder for everyone—whether they’re leaders, managers, or individual contributors—to get away for a typical learning situation that’s a full-day course or several extended courses over a period of time. What’s becoming more prevalent—and practical—are small bites of learning that can be easily digested and put to use right away. Due to the complex nature of our jobs, most people have different learning needs at work, which means it’s also essential for L&D programs to be personalized to each learner.
Shifting to the “one-size-fits-one” approach
We’re getting to a place where it makes more sense to take a “one-size-fits-one” approach, rather than the “one-size-fits-all” approach we’ve seen in the past. New technologies facilitate one-size-fits-one learning because they help us identify individual needs and enable us to provide personalized learning at scale. As we move away from the traditional classroom, there are many ways of customizing learning through online learning platforms, 360 assessment tools, and individualized coaching. See Why Personalization Is the Future of L&D.
I see the “one-size-fits-one” approach as a blend of several tactics: 1) Making use of technology like 360 assessment tools, 2) Scalable coaching, and 3) Leader circles that promote social learning. In this post, I’ll look at each of these tactics in more detail and provide examples of how we’re making them part of our one-size-fits-one L&D program at Tile.
Workplace Learning Predictions 2019: Interview with Lissa Minkin, VP of People & Workplace at Tile.
1. 360 assessment tools can identify individual skill gaps
I’ve been looking into 360 tools that enable managers to assess themselves and be assessed by their direct reports, peers, and managers. This type of tool is powerful because it allows managers to identify the gap between how they perceive themselves and how others perceive them as a leader, both in terms of character qualities and actions. They may discover a growth area, and it also helps them to identify areas where they’re already strong and where they can continue to build on those strengths.
Once we launch the 360 tool here at Tile, I plan to create a two-tiered program. First, I will identify the skill gaps I’m seeing in aggregate across all the 360 assessments and create learning modules around these recurring topics or themes. These modules will be taught by me or an external expert over Zoom, which serves as our virtual classroom. Our program will follow the format of learning a concept, practicing together, debriefing, and then taking it out into the real world. I’m also looking into how we can leverage curated online learning courses to scale our L&D programs.
2. Scalable coaching can offer one-size-fits-one learning opportunities
The second part of the program will involve punctuating learning with individualized coaching. The coaches should be familiar with the employee’s specific skill gaps and what they’ve already learned as a cohort.
I’m also looking at opportunities for scalable coaching. It won’t be a six-month engagement with face-to-face meetings every week, but more likely an online meeting every two weeks over Zoom with a rigorous plan of topics for discussion and goals to achieve. As a result, we can implement individualized coaching at a lower cost, tied to the 360s, and to the learning that we’ve prescribed to fill their specific skill gaps. I believe this scalable one-size-fits-one approach can help accelerate learning and behavior change on the job.
3. Provide social learning opportunities through “people leader circles”
Research has shown that the majority of learning that happens in the workplace is informal or social learning. You can encourage this type of learning by creating spaces for employees to share their experiences and seek advice from each other. This also helps employees get personalized advice and tips from their coworkers, further promoting a one-size-fits-one approach to learning. See 4 Ways to Launch a Successful Social Learning Program.
Here at Tile, we currently organize learning around monthly “people leader circles.” During these sessions, we meet to discuss a concept like situational leadership. How do managers give the right amount of direction without micromanaging their direct reports, or provide support without leaving newbies too much on their own? We combine the people leader circles with learning modules on the foundational material like leadership models, concepts, psychology, etc.
Once we get grounded in the concepts, we meet as a leader circle for some role-playing practice, and then we debrief to discuss what we learned. Leaders later apply these new skills and concepts with their teams. When we meet the next time, we discuss how it went out in the wild. We share what we learned, what worked, and what didn’t. These conversations allow leaders to learn from each other and help reinforce the idea that learning is an ongoing process rather than a one-time event. I plan to enhance our monthly leader circles by introducing the 360 tool, online learning, and one-on-one coaching.
Measuring the impact of learning programs
Our performance management process gives employees the opportunity to review their managers with an upward review that has specific questions tied to manager behaviors and company values. This is not a performance rating—the goal is really to help people managers learn and grow. Managers can see how feedback from their direct reports changes over time.
We require that our people leaders follow these Manager Behaviors:
- Focused on Impact
- Speak the Truth
- Build a Great Team
- Hold People Accountable
- Growth and Innovation
- Recognize Great Performance
We teach these behaviors to both people leaders and individual contributors so leaders know what is expected of them and individual contributors know what to expect from their manager. If ICs aren’t getting expected management, then it is encouraged for them to speak up and ask for what they need.
We don’t currently require participation in people leader circles or learning modules, although we get a healthy 60+% of managers joining on a monthly basis. We hold managers accountable for being good managers, but they have the ability to opt into our programs.
Once we launch the 360 tool, then we’ll have the opportunity to measure the impact by conducting a 360 before a manager has participated in the program and again afterward to see if the gap was closed. For example, we can track to see whether managers moved from “meets expectations” to “exceeds expectations” in a particular area. We can then build individualized coaching plans based on what we learn from this process. Learn more about how other companies measure the ROI of learning programs here.
It’s never too early to launch learning programs
One of the key learnings I have discovered throughout my career is the importance of creating formal learning opportunities as early as possible. Even if your company is still small or at an early stage—don’t wait. If you wait until your company is already thousands of people, you’ll be behind the eight-ball. Create an L&D focus as soon as possible and start thinking about the skills your people will need to scale.
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