Being the Head of People at a fast-growing company like Patreon, I have the opportunity to think through the employee experience in a holistic way. As we develop programs, I consider how an employee moves through each stage of their tenure—similar to how a UX designer thinks about all the different ways a person interacts with a product. It’s exciting to create a world for employees to work and thrive in—from creating quiet work spaces to supporting their career journey at Patreon.
As part of building an amazing employee experience, one of the touch points I focus on is supporting our employees in learning and growing throughout their time at Patreon. Here are a few of the guiding principles that shape our approach to Learning & Development at Patreon.
The phrase “life imitates art and art imitates life” perfectly reflects my thinking on L&D in today’s digital age. Corporate learning should imitate the way we interact with all kinds of content in our daily lives as consumers. How we consume content online whether it’s movies, books, blogs, or learning videos, influences the way we expect to learn at home and at work. What’s happening is an intensification of personalization and accessibility of content over the past 5–10 years. Content is available for us to access at anytime and anyplace—there’s an “always on” dimension. As consumers, we also expect to receive more personalized, accessible, and entertaining education, and this applies to the workplace as well.
At Patreon, we take a multi-prong approach to L&D by offering blended learning resources for employees and managers whenever they need them. For example, we provide immersive classroom instruction on new management skills as modules that progressively build on each other. New managers can go through these modules as a cohort over a 4 to 5 month period. We then layer this with just-in-time learning using coaches who are available to work with managers on specific problems they are facing during a singular point in time. We also provide curated online learning content which can be accessed anytime. Finally, we offer continuous just-in-time support through Slack where we encourage discussions and share resources with our managers, often in response to events that happen within our company or in the world. For example, we might offer resources on how to have difficult conversations with your direct reports.
Training that’s increasingly embedded in the flow of work and personalized to address a moment of need is the new direction L&D is heading. At Patreon, our goal is to provide learning content in a way that aligns with employee needs at the right time.
At a micro level, we accomplish this by thinking through the flow of work: If an employee learns how to use a particular application, what is the next step to delivery, what are their overarching goals? What are all the steps and questions that arise? We then curate relevant learning content and deliver it to them in their flow of work.
On a macro level, we map learning to the entire employee lifecycle. What are the different steps and phases they go through? When do they become more interested in the next promotion or stretch opportunity? We start off at the employee lifecycle, then go a couple of levels deeper. For example, what challenges do employees feel in different parts of the life cycle? What nuggets of learning can we distribute across that flow of experiences?
Our main L&D challenge today is supporting our new managers through their evolution as leaders, which mirrors the growth of our company. How can we take an employee who has never managed anyone to suddenly manage teams of 30-40 people? To better serve these employees, we mapped out the key learning steps to help them effectively step into people manager roles and ramp up quickly.
We also match different types of learning across the employee lifecycle. For example, for junior managers, we pair them up with a cohort and in-classroom new manager training. But for our senior managers, coaching is a better fit to provide support for complex challenges that arise on the job. For those in between, they can dabble in coaching or attend a class as well as access our curated online resources or social media discussion groups.
To support our new managers, we’ve also created a Managers’ Slack Channel on our internal social media as a communication medium for managers to discuss topics with each other. It’s exciting to see that our managers are very proactive on this Slack channel—frequently bringing up relevant topics and sharing advice. This kind of sharing is more effective than HR giving tips. HR or L&D doesn’t have to be the lone voice to drive learning or decide when content should be shared. In an ideal world, we should create a comfortable space for managers to actively contribute tips and ideas. On our Manager Slack channel, managers are more likely to post and trigger discussions.
A key part of the success of our Manager Slack channel is rooted in our core behavior at Patreon of encouraging employees to be candid. In fact, being “candid and kind” is a central value of our company, which is reinforced through our hiring and onboarding practices. It helps create a safe environment for sharing and growing at Patreon. As an HR team, we’ve been very positive in our response to what’s being shared in the Managers’ Slack Channel as a way to embody those values—and it works. People aren’t afraid to pose questions or share situations when they don’t know what to do. They can do this without any fear or shame about asking. And the support that folks receive keeps them continuously active in the channel.
Since instituting our network of support and resources, we’ve seen our manager evaluation scores jump by 5 points.
Finally, onboarding is another essential part of mapping our learning & development work to the employee lifecycle. We continuously evaluate our onboarding programs through conversations between employees and managers as well as via written surveys. This process has helped us refine our onboarding program to better prepare our new hires for their roles at Patreon.
Initially, we only offered a series of onboarding courses on topics like company culture, company mission, etc. However, our employee feedback requested more in-depth job preparedness training, especially for technical teams. As a result, we built a second level of onboarding for engineers to help them gain more clarity on their roles at Patreon. As part of their onboarding, engineers work on a specific project assigned by their manager to help them get familiar with the templates we use, how we deal with bugs, or what our QA testing process is like.
We also created a third iteration specifically for technical teammates who work cross-functionally on various elements of our product. Folks may move from working on one team to another a number of times during their tenure here. Its crucial that the rich history and context around our durable product pods is well documented and available. We’ve helped these teams curate content for their specific product pod so new joiners can quickly understand what’s happening and how they can contribute. Feedback from managers and employees has helped shape our onboarding program—and will continue to guide it through future iterations.
As Patreon grows and experiences different inflection points as a company, our L&D offerings will likely evolve. We are still a young company and the future is an open frontier. There is a world of new approaches that we could adopt and new challenges that we’ll likely face as we grow. As we scale, our goal is to keep an open, flexible, and innovative approach to our learning & development.
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