TTMWL: Episode 4 — “The Importance of Social Learning in Workforce Training and Talent Development” with Extra Space Storage’s Lyn Wright

Training the Modern Workforce Live is a weekly show discussing training and talent development solutions and best practices. Hosted by Allogy CEO Colin Forward, each episode features an informative conversation with a prominent guest in the training world.

Watch the full video interview above, listen on any of the platforms below, or continue reading to see the full transcript (edited for clarity).

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About Lyn Wright, Senior Director of Learning & Organizational Development at Extra Space Storage

Lyn Wright is the senior director of learning and organizational development at Extra Space Storage. Lyn received her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and spent time at Boise State studying organizational performance and workplace learning. She’s held many roles in operations and L&D leadership, but her passion is advocating for employee experiences at every level.

Episode Transcript

Adam Wagner: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Allogy’s podcast, Training the Modern Workforce Live, the weekly show discussing training and talent development solutions and best practices. Each episode, we’ll talk about a different training topic, and make sure to keep your eye out for special guests and interviews from top training professionals.

With me, as always, I have Colin Forward, CEO of Allogy. For the last decade, Colin has provided major U.S. hospitals and federal agencies with distance learning solutions. He’s an alumnus of UCF’s Institute of Simulation and Training where he studied mobile technology under Dr. David Metcalf while earning a degree in computer science and his MBA.

And joining Colin this week is Lyn Wright, the senior director of learning and organizational development at Extra Space Storage. Lyn received her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and spent time at Boise State studying organizational performance and workplace learning. She’s held many roles in operations and L&D leadership, but her passion is advocating for employee experiences at every level.

This week, we’re going to be talking about the socialization of learning, its importance, how to promote “good” socialization, and how to track it with data.

We’ve got some great questions on deck already, but feel free to ask any questions that may come up in the chat, and we’ll get to as many as we can. Alright, Colin, over to you.

Colin Forward: Great, thanks, Adam. And thanks, Lyn, for joining us. We spoke a little bit before this conversation, and I think it’d be really helpful if you could share some of what you told me about the recent projects that you’ve been working on within your organization where you had a chance to apply some of what we’ll be talking to you about today.

How Extra Space Storage Used Social Learning to Combat the Difficulties of 2020.

Lyn Wright: Yeah, I was actually really happy that we landed on social learning as a topic because I think it’s had such a role in the success of some of the things that we’ve done this year. Social learning, I think, is most useful when you’re using it to help you change quickly, and I think that’s just such a huge understatement for what we’ve all been through in 2020. Businesses who are challenged are trying to innovate and iterate really quickly, and businesses who are stable are still innovating really quickly to adapt to a changing marketplace.

So, here at Extra Space, we’ve had to make a lot of changes to the way that we interact with customers and the way that we even conduct business in a social-distancing environment. So social learning has allowed us to adapt more quickly than I think we would have been able to without it.

So social learning can happen at any time. It can happen between people and often can get the training done before the learning and development department has a chance to step in. So I would say it’s been absolutely critical for this year.

Colin Forward: And so, have you had any projects where you really saw that play out in a positive way this year?

Lyn Wright: Oh, absolutely. So one of our scheduled projects—something that has nothing to do with the pandemic—was rolling out a new software platform. So we were already in progress with this. We rolled it out to pretty much everyone, and our goal was to roll it out to all 3000-plus users without a single training class.

And we did that in a software-based way, which is great, but you can’t do it without any kind of interactions. So we used social learning to help us with resource groups. So giving people spaces to ask questions and seek help in a way that was really safe and really on-demand while also having access to subject matter experts.

So I would say that’s absolutely our biggest win because it had such organizational impact and one that we hope to model in future roll-outs.

Colin Forward: Yeah, that sounds like a pretty huge accomplishment. I mean, a lot of the times when we talk to folks who are interested in learning technology, they’re very concerned that you are going to try and replace face-to-face learning. So a lot of the times the conversation is, “Well, it doesn’t have to; this can just be a way to augment it.” So actually doing it without any in-service trainings—that sounds like quite an achievement. Do you feel like that’s something that is attainable for groups that don’t have established learning and development professionals like yourself on staff?

Lyn Wright: You know, I think it is. I think this is a technique we probably should have been using way longer in a really kind of intentional way. You know, for me, there’s social learning, which is all of these ways that you learn in the workplace from the people that work around you: observing, asking questions, getting help.

But the socialization of learning is really when organizations do it intentionally and they’re planning for it. So I think if we were still a smaller company—and we’ve doubled in size in the time that I’ve been here; I remember when we were a smaller company—I think we could have used it because it’s such a low-investment way of getting people the help and the answers they need.

Colin Forward: Can you define that a little bit? So let’s just assume that anyone listening isn’t really familiar with social learning or the socialization of learning, and you can kind of lay out the boundaries for them.

Can Social Learning Be Both Formal and Informal?

Lyn Wright: Yeah, so I think social learning, again, is really all of that on-the-job learning that happens with the people that you interact with. So taking in that knowledge from the people around you—again, asking questions, observing others. This, in itself, is actually social learning for anyone who’s dialing in live because it’s not something that you’ve been told to do or you have to do or we’re measuring the outcome, but it’s a group of likeminded people coming together to talk about a common subject.

So it can be as formal as this—where it’s this kind of event, and we still walk away with our own learning—or it can be as informal as a group chat between a couple of coworkers talking about something that they’re all working through. So the social learning itself takes many many forms, but I think one of the most important things to understand is that it can be both formal and informal.

There’s the group-chat version where people just kind of go to each other very informally. And then, there’s the formal version like this and other things like this where an organization or some person arranges it in a very intentional way.

Colin Forward: Yeah, and it seems like that informal learning is really starting to gain a bit more prominence—people are starting to appreciate the value of it. What do you think is driving this change?

What Is Driving the Current Social Learning Trend?

Lyn Wright: You know, I think it’s because people are starting to see just how effective it can be. I think, in the past, people, if they were looking to learn something, really wanted to go to the professional. And I think the internet has given us so much access to real professionals. I mean, I can Google anything and hear a top-ranked expert tell me all about it for free.

That’s something that a lot of people have, but I think, especially in a year like this where we’ve had to rapidly change, seeking help from people that are close to you, especially in your own workplace, has become such a necessary part of the way that we get work done.

And I think people are starting to recognize that. You know, social learning is something that people don’t even realize that they’re doing all the time. It’s learning when L&D isn’t involved. But I think the value is that people are like, “Wow, that’s actually a lot of how I’ve learned new things this year is by talking to Adam, talking to Colin.” Those are the people I’ve learned from as opposed to the training-content-type things that I’ve learned this year. So I think it’s just, it’s more of like, “Oh, wow, this is starting to be a trend for people.”

Colin Forward: Right? And so we’ve got the convenience, we’ve got the cost, we talked about not having to do the in-service training. What other advantages are there to social learning?

What Are the Advantages of Social Learning in a Socially Distanced World?

Lyn Wright: You know, I think a lot of it is speed and agility. Again, these kinds of high-growth, high-change environments allow us to get training and learning done in a more expedited way because you’re addressing questions and stuff on the job. But I think from a much higher level and the reason that organizations of all sizes should invest in it is that it’s very much related to culture.

You know, in a dispersed group and an undispersed group, people want to be connected to each other. And by providing opportunities for them to interact and learn from each other, you’re not just helping people grow and do their jobs better, you’re helping them build a better culture in the workplace.

It’s one of my favorite side effects of social learning and something that shouldn’t be discounted as a piece of the engagement puzzle.

Colin Forward: That sounds especially important but also especially difficult in a time where a lot of people are working in a socially distant environment.

Lyn Wright: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more because, in a dispersed environment, you don’t necessarily have those easy kinds of connections.

You have to be very intentional with bringing people together because those kinds of passing each other in the hallway or saying hi to each other in the morning, those things are gone. So you have to arrange those in a very intentional and specific way. So it’s a challenge, which is why I think that socialization piece where the organization is getting involved becomes even more important. If you’re not doing social learning, it’s not on your roadmap, add it now so you can start getting those benefits right away.

Adam Wagner: I’m actually gonna jump in here; that brings us really nicely to Cristian J’s question. He asks, “How do you make the socialization of learning work with a distributed workforce? Does it change?”

How Do You Track Social Learning Across a Distributed Workforce?

Lyn Wright: That is a great question. I think with a distributed workforce, you’re going to see different things than in an undistributed workforce because the way that people seek information from each other is going to be a little bit different. Maybe they’re not working synchronously on the same thing.

Dispersed workers tend to actually be doing independent-type work, whether you’ve always been dispersed. Maybe you’ve been in an industry where working from home is really normal, and it’s been that way for a while. The work that you’re doing is typically pretty independent. Maybe you’re going long stretches where you’re kind of iterating or creating on your own, and then you occasionally jump back in with a group. Or maybe you’re dispersed for the first time, and you’re working in an isolated way, in a new way, and you’re only coming together when things get really, really complicated or you have to. So when you’re dispersed, I think organizations need to build in all of those channels for collaboration.

But I think the most important thing is that you have to be better at listening. Dispersed employees are not going to come together all at once. You’re going to see some of those social interactions maybe trickle in or happen a little bit more ad hoc, which is even more true if you’re distributed across countries or time zones. You’re not going to have that kind of synchronous peer-to-peer learning.

It’s going to be a lot more asynchronous, which makes, as an organization, it a little bit more difficult to identify trends. So by being a better listener and making sure you’re getting a little bit more involved in those interactions, you can get that learning. But I think with dispersed learners, you have to make sure that you’re meeting them where they are.

So, doing a better job of listening, finding out what they need, and creating channels that work for them because that’s going to be different than the groups that are in the same spot.

Colin Forward: On a tactical level, what does being a good listener look like so that your employees don’t feel like you’re spying on them?

Lyn Wright: Exactly. Yeah, so I think a really good example is something that we did this year, again, with this technology rollout: we gave people a space to answer questions, and that was something we had to do really, really carefully because, you know, we wanted people to be able to admit like, “Hey, I’m confused about this.” And, you know, have a chance to ask the questions that they need.

So we gave them a space to do it. We said, “Hey, here’s your Q&A channel; ask questions.” And what we did was we put in subject matter experts that weren’t in charge. So these are subject matter experts that they don’t report to. They can answer their questions. They can help them out but don’t present any risk to them.

And so that listening piece is coming through those subject matter experts, and we’re able to kind of understand, okay, “What kinds of questions are we getting? Where is the challenge? Where’s the struggle? How can we support them with learning outside of this social environment? Where can we jump in with formal learning outside of this but also be aware of what those learning needs are?” So I think that’s really important.

The other piece of it is really understanding where social learning is happening. So, that same group I have—and we do use Microsoft Teams; I know that’s a tool that a lot of organizations are using to get connected because it’s part of their Microsoft Suite—that channel we established, I can really easily pull analytics and say, “Okay, I’ve got 400 users. How often are people posting? How many posts, how many replies, how many likes are we seeing?” The listening comes in when I look at those metrics, and I say, “Wow, only 10 percent of the users in this group were actually using this channel to ask questions.”

So when I’m hearing that, I’m like, “Okay, I can’t assume that 90 percent of people are totally good with this.” That’s probably not the right assumption. I need to listen to what that cue is telling me and say, “Okay, if they’re not asking questions here, where are they asking questions?” I’ve hit them. I’ve missed the mark on what social learning looks like to these users. I need to redirect. So does that answer your question?

Colin Forward: Yeah, it does. And you’re kind of also showing your hand a little bit in that I think a lot of learning and development teams look to engagement as their chief metric of success. Is that your top metric? Is it your only metric? What else are you looking at to measure how well these types of programs are working?

Other than Engagement, What Metrics Do You Measure for Success?

Lyn Wright:
I think you’ve nailed it. It really challenges learning and development teams who have measured themselves on effectiveness. Right? Behavior change, transfer, completion rates. Those are all our standbys for learning metrics. We do have to look at it from more of a social media type engagement strategy.

“How often are people participating? What kind of saturation are we getting? How many likes? If there’s a resource we want people to be going to as a result of this conversation, how many page views do we have there?” So you have to be a lot more flexible. You can’t have this “everyone takes the training” mentality because that’s not going to work.

But you also have to be aware of, okay, what’s hitting and what’s missing?

Colin Forward: Okay, and then, we also talked a little bit about confidence being one of the real benefits of social learning. So can you help us understand how socialization and social learning promote confidence and how you’re able to measure that?

How Does Providing Safe Spaces to Learn & Practice Boost Employee Confidence?

Lyn Wright: Yeah, confidence is absolutely one of the most difficult things to measure. So I’m not going to pretend I have that all figured out for you guys, but I think it’s such an important part of every conversation about learning in an organization. We know that confident employees, confident professionals, are going to perform better.

In a sales environment, that’s absolutely true. Your confident salespeople are going to achieve better numbers. In maybe a practitioner environment, maybe you work in healthcare or some other type of industry, you’re confident employees are going to have better outcomes. You’re going to see lower risks coming from those folks.

So that’s really important. As an objective, you’re always going to be looking for confidence. It’s not just enough that you’ve gotten the information across. They need to be confident enough to use it. So the importance of that is really bright.

But when it comes to socialized learning, I think that’s the piece where the confidence actually comes from. Listening to a lecture or watching a video is not going to make me confident in my ability to do something. Probably one of the oldest versions of social learning is observing others at work, so when I’m given a chance to observe others doing something well, that gives me the confidence to replicate their behavior. And that’s essential. So again, as an organization, you have to be building in those opportunities.

Colin Forward: Are there other things that you’re doing as well? I mean, are there just-in-time resources? Is there something that someone could do to maybe overcome a moment of insecurity or a lack of confidence in their work?

What Can You Do to Help an Employee Overcome Lack of Confidence in Their Work?

Lyn Wright:
 Oh, absolutely. A lot of that just comes from being able to practice. So, in their work, giving them an opportunity to rehearse or practice in a safe space. I think in an eLearning world, that’s another kind of traditional approach that works really well.

Give them a demo environment. Give them a place to try it out in a safe space, especially if the real work—again, I mentioned a hospital—those are risky times when you’re trying to implement something new in a real patient or in a real situation. So giving them a space, a simulation, is a really good go-to place, especially when that includes practicing with somebody else and doing something in kind of a team environment, a team simulation. So giving people easy access to those.

Colin Forward: Do you have any tools or processes that you really like for providing that kind of simulation?

Lyn Wright: Yeah, so I think using the demo environment of pretty much any training software is going to be essential. We’ve also been very vocal about our use of WalkMe for software training. So WalkMe is a built-in, walk-me-through-type of tool where you can have a customer in front of you, but you can also kind of use this tool to like, “Hey, show me what I need to do really quickly. Help me out with this.” And it’s not even just like, “Hey, show me the tip from top to bottom.” It’s, “Help me fill in this gap. I know what to do up until now. Help me finish this process that I don’t screw up in front of this customer who’s right in front of me.”

So we’ve been very vocal about how we’ve used WalkMe, but there’s a lot of technologies that kind of help you with that. That one was a really good example for our point-of-sale software, but we’ve also had really good success using demo environments in other places.

Colin Forward: Okay. So I think you’ve done a good job of explaining the benefits and what you’re looking to achieve with social learning. For an organization that’s just looking to get started, what does it look like? Where do you start?

How Do Organizations with Minimal Training Programs Get Started with Social Learning?

Lyn Wright: Yeah, it starts in the planning phase. Again, I use the word “add it to your roadmap,” and I meant it. So, as you’re planning out your training initiatives, what you really want to do is make sure that you’re considering social learning as an aspect of everything you do.

So, “Hey, here’s the formal training event. Here’s the course,” if that’s the method you’re taking. But how am I allowing people to socialize this and kind of making sure that you’re including that in your approach? And because of how low-investment that can be for an organization, you can really pair that with everything.

So, at a very high level, my biggest recommendation is to just make sure that you’re including socialization in your planning. But on a second level, I think you also need to be making sure that you have the tools you need and the people understand how to use them. I mentioned Microsoft Teams, and every organization—whether you’re using Slack or whatever your tool is—should make sure that people have access to it and they’re comfortable using it.

And you’re creating norms that encourage that participation. So it can be strategic. Sometimes you have to invest; sometimes you just have to encourage.

Colin Forward: So, what I hear you saying there is you kind of set the stage and then people may or may not take up the practices that you’re looking to foster.

Are there more direct ways that you can stimulate and encourage social learning?

Lyn Wright:
Absolutely, and that’s where the formal piece comes in. I think organizations that fail at social learning allow too much of it to happen informally or expect people to socialize on their own without any help.

This is where that formal socialization comes in. So creating a cohort—maybe we’re learning asynchronously and we’re taking eLearning, but I’m in a group of people who are all going through it at once, and this is where we talk about our experiences in person or online. So you’re putting together a cohort, and you’re letting them go.

I think a really good example of building that into an organization is “working out loud.” You know, it was kind of a trend that swept the internet a couple of years ago where we had these working-out-loud circles. And these are sanctioned by the organization, but they’re completely run by the people that are in them.

So, people developing and exploring and having new ideas and being able to do that just kind of in a very formal space. So they’re accountable to their participation in this experience, but it’s something that’s not being micromanaged by the organization.

Colin Forward: So I’m not actually very familiar with this concept. Could you tell me a little bit more about working out loud?

What Is Working Out Loud?

Lyn Wright:
There’s a great Ted Talk, and working out loud is a website that anybody can kind of experience, but essentially, they recommend small groups of maybe five or so employees kind of working together at once and kind of setting up some objectives. Here’s what we’d like to learn from each other; here’s what we’d like to do; here are some of our objectives. And growing together, so they’re meeting frequently to talk about ideas and things and get feedback from each other, and it’s always a safe space.

This isn’t something that their boss has access to; this isn’t something that they have to create some big formal writeup, but it allows them to collaborate and learn together in a structured way. And I think that the unique thing about a working-out-loud circle that’s different from other cohort-type projects is that it’s time-bound. This isn’t something that goes forever. It’s maybe six or eight weeks or the duration of your choice, and it’s very structured so that it has an end-point.

So you don’t have to kind of take on this burden of a working-out-loud experience. You’re able to kind of use it as you need to. In the Ted Talk, I think he quotes that, “Hey, I’m working with someone. She’s on her fifth working-out-loud circle; I’m on my eighth.” You know, so you have the opportunity to do it with multiple groups over time if you want. So, I’m sure I didn’t explain it as well as he did, but yeah.

Colin Forward: They’re not hierarchical. It’s more like a flat organization of these small circles.

Lyn Wright: Exactly, yeah. And it can be cross-functional; it can be within your own team. There’s a lot of different ways you could do it, but again, it’s a great way for an organization to show, “Hey, we’re investing in social learning by allowing you to spend time this way, by encouraging the use of your time this way, by giving you the tools to do it.” There is a little bit of structure to a working-out-loud circle. So an organization can invest in that as well.

Colin Forward: Yeah, that is very interesting. I mean, that’s a little bit more hands-off, I think, than a lot of training initiatives where you have some very specific outcomes that you’re looking for or some learning goals. This sounds much more self-directed by these smaller groups.

Lyn Wright: Yeah, and I think you’ve just shed light on a downside of social learning that I want to make sure that we cover. Because I could talk probably all day through the end of this podcast and more about how exciting social learning is and why it’s great. But as an organization, you can’t let it go too much. Hands-off is, again, setting yourself up for failure.

You know, one of the things that you can do, giving new hires access to experienced people in a social way so that they can ask questions and get mentored. But sometimes a tenured person is going to show you the workaround before they show you the rule. Right?

So sharing of best practices can be great. Not all best practices are sanctioned by the company. So you have to have a balance of “what’s that foundation of knowledge that I need to have because I need to know the right thing to do” versus “ooh, what’s that efficiency that that person found that I can take advantage of,” you know?

So it’s a really important balance that you’ve got to strike there.

Colin Forward: Yeah, so aside from measuring or watching the channel where communication is happening and trying to measure engagement, are there ways that you can get a read on the outcomes of these sorts of environments and whether it’s confidence or overconfidence or they’re getting the right knowledge or they’re learning the workaround?

Lyn Wright: Yeah. So I think you’re going to see the measurements pop up in a couple of different ways. So on a really strategic level, take a look at your engagement surveys—almost every organization does them—and if you’re doing more of like a traditional style, you’re going to hear people’s feedback about their connectedness with their teams and their ability to connect with others. In the comments, you’re going to see people refer to these experiences.

So keep a close eye on that because that’s going to be a signal that they’re working or not working. People will tell you what they think about these experiences. And on the flip side, I think, especially when you’re looking at confidence as an outcome of these types of experiences, in my opinion, the best thing to do is ask.

So, when you’re looking at training surveys, whether they’re those quick, little bite-size pulse surveys or a larger one, I have always included confidence questions, and I always will. A very traditional approach is to use relevancy questions. Get a sense of whether or not they felt like it was relevant to the work that they’re doing.

That’s important. But in my opinion, I think asking about people’s confidence, you know, “Colin, how confident are you in doing this by yourself tomorrow?” You’re going to get the feedback that you want about their confidence level. So, to me, being very direct and finding opportunities to ask amongst all of your other measurement mechanisms.

Colin Forward: I know the answer to this is going to be super dependent on a bunch of criteria, but what do you think is the right clip for getting that kind of feedback? How often should we be looking to get that input from your end-users?

How Often Should Employers Ask About Confidence Levels?

Lyn Wright: Yeah, and you’re right, it is very dependent on a lot of things. You know, for me, it’s as often as possible. In the training organization here, we include that confidence question everywhere. I think it’s part of our culture now; people expect to have to answer that question when they’re evaluating a training experience. So we tend to get very real answers.

You’re not getting a lot of people who are just kind of clicking five out of five because that’s what they think we want to hear. We get very good, measured responses.

But I think with all feedback gathering, as an organization, you have to have that culture and understanding with your audience, like, “Hey, we’re asking for feedback because we’re going to act on it. We’re making that commitment to you.” So the more your organization is successful at maintaining their end of the commitment, the better you’re going to get that feedback from your users.

So really, honestly, as often as you can is my answer to that because it’s some of the most actionable feedback you’ll get.

Colin Forward: Okay. Yeah, when we work with hospitals, I know that they’re worried a little bit about exhausting people. You know, asking for too much input and that kind of thing. But I could also see, in most cases, you’re going to inspire confidence by letting people know that you want to make sure that they’re engaged, that they’re confident.

Lyn Wright: Exactly. Yeah, and it’s a very learner-centric question. You know, when you ask about confidence, it’s like, “Hey, how confident are you in your ability to do this specific thing?” That sounds a lot different. I’m going to perceive that a lot differently than if I’m asking, “Hey, tell me what I can do better.” Tell me what I can do better is a question about me. It’s not about you. Asking “Hey, how confident are you?” flips the switch. I’m now, all of a sudden, a lot more learner-centric, and I’m going to make them feel a little differently about taking that survey versus a different survey.

Colin Forward: Yeah, that’s a good point. Well, to that end, let’s shift the focus a little bit towards the subject matter experts, the more senior people. In fostering this culture and supporting social learning, what kind of support and direction are we supposed to offer to these leaders in the organization, the subject matter experts, the trainers?

Lyn Wright: Yeah, so are you kind of asking how do we prepare those subject matter experts to get involved in this social learning and kind of provide that right direction?

Colin Forward: Well, so in my experience, the most senior and knowledgeable people aren’t necessarily the most eager to be a mentor or the most eager to train. But if we’re trying to foster this culture where that’s something that just happens in the course of their work, then a little bit of coaching goes a long way. So what does that coaching look like for those subject matter experts?

How Do You Get SMEs to Buy-In to Social Learning and Mentorship?

Lyn Wright: Yeah, that’s a great thing because, again, some of our highest performing people that are great at their jobs aren’t looking to add something else to their plates, right? Mentoring others can be exhausting in the best possible way, professionally, but it takes a lot of time. And I think anyone who wants to do a job well wants to make sure they have the time to do it. So that’s a great question.

You know, I think part of it is getting buy-in. I think, to your point, it’s going to be very individual. So looking at the type of function you’re looking for, somebody in a technical environment. I think one of the most important pieces of social learning is, “How do I get this thing to work?” You know, it’s like, “I’m dealing with something on my computer, and it’s not about this sales thing that I need to do. I’m a great salesperson. I need help in all these other things, tying all these platforms together.”

So maybe it’s your kind of help-desk IT team that you want to get involved as subject matter experts. As a function of their job, it’s not an incredibly social kind of work in most companies, in most cases. So kind of getting buy-in and acting on a volunteer basis is a great way to get started if this isn’t something you already have built into your culture.

Asking for volunteers is the most powerful tool that you have if you’re trying to get something going, and recognizing and rewarding that participation. So that’s the first thing. But if you really need to make a push and to launch this really quickly, getting buy-in but also creating accountability around it and saying, “Hey, your function needs to support this somehow. Let’s get creative on what that looks like.” If it’s not you, who on your team is going to handle this for us, and how can we make sure that they’re meeting the guidelines? If you have upper-level executive buy-in on this type of learning, it’s easy to push that down.

So I think with all things, I would also recommend: make sure that your highest level decision-makers are aware that this is on your roadmap and that this is the kind of change you’re trying to implement, especially when it’s such low investments. I think it’s easy to get the buy-in from that group too.

Colin Forward: Yeah, so I hear you talking about the incentives, the carrot or the stick, you know, volunteering or providing accountability, that kind of thing. Is there any sort of standard framework that you try and immerse these mentors in so that they are able to follow a process that may not be intuitive to them to deliver this knowledge to someone who’s looking to learn from them?

Is There a Framework for Mentors to Help Deliver Knowledge Effectively?

Lyn Wright:
You know, I think it kind of depends on the method that you’re using for social learning. Again, I keep using this example of, “Hey, give them the space to ask questions and put a subject matter expert in there.” So I think in that situation, you really just need to cultivate somebody who understands how to answer questions in a way that doesn’t sound like, “Well, hey, you should have already known this, but here’s where to find the answer.” So some of it is just basic training on, “Hey, how to interact with an internal customer.” And there’s a lot of different ways to kind of help prepare people for that.

On the flip side, the higher level you get, and as you get into more like employee-development- and career-development-type social learning, we have a framework that we use for mentors that really prepares people to handle all of the demands of a mentor type of social relationship. You know, teaching them, “Hey, here’s how you advocate for somebody. Here’s how to make sure that you’re giving the right feedback.” All of those soft skills that come with it.

And part of that reward that we mentioned is like, “Hey, as part of this, not only are you doing somebody a great service and you’re doing this work for the organization, you will grow as part of that, and here’s how committed we are to your success.” So, we hope to kind of balance those motivations as well.

Colin Forward: Yeah, that seems like a great perspective for someone that doesn’t necessarily think of themselves as a trainer.

Lyn Wright: Yeah, and a lot of people, they don’t identify that way. Even if people are very compelling when they speak about their subject matter, and they’re great professionals, they have a ton of experience, a lot of them do not identify as trainers because that’s not how they necessarily spend their time.

But they can be great resources for the people around them, which can be such a great culture.

Colin Forward: Absolutely.

Lyn Wright: Yeah.

Colin Forward: Well, we are, I think, coming to the end of our time today. So, I want to thank you for sitting with us and sharing some of your knowledge on how to foster this kind of a culture of social learning, of mentorship, and of setting people up who don’t necessarily think of themselves as trainers to be an even more valuable resource to the organization because I think that that’s something that a lot of companies, a lot of organizations, are trying to learn these days. So thank you very much for joining us.

Adam Wagner: Yeah, that’s all we’ve got. So I wanted to thank you as well, Lyn. Thanks, Colin. It was a great conversation.

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