People Innovators Summit: Agile Learning in an Era of Disruption

Posted on September 28, 2017

Jennifer Juo

Jennifer Juo

HR and L&D Insights Writer at Udemy for Business

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Udemy for Business hosted its first People Innovators Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday with a sold-out audience of 250+ Learning & Development (L&D) and People leaders. Speakers from Facebook, SAP, Intel, Zendesk, Uber, Pinterest, Box, Reddit, Yelp, Pandora, ZEST Advisors, Learn Capital, Udemy and keynote Patty McCord shared how they’re driving innovation through learning. In our era of technology disruption, L&D is charged with the responsibility to ensure the workforce is current, relevant, and set up for success.

In this month’s L&D roundup, we highlight some of the innovative ideas from the L&D and People leaders who took the stage at our People Innovators Summit on Tuesday.

Nurturing a hacker culture

Building an environment where innovation can thrive and creating a “hacker culture” are some of the key elements of Facebook’s learning culture. Amy Hayes, Global Head of L&D at Facebook, explained her team’s role in creating the right culture at Facebook. This means nurturing a feeling of psychological safety so people are encouraged to take risks and know it’s OK to fail. Employees should never stop learning or stop asking questions. It’s also important to develop the skills people will need to innovate. And these are skills they need now, not several months later. In order to deliver just-in-time learning, Amy shared how they’re organized around online communities using Facebook Workplace to connect employees with something to teach with those who want to learn. If they schedule classroom learning, it’s condensed into a concise 30-minute session that might involve experiential learning like VR or real-life practice opportunities.

Amy also believes contribution is as important as consumption when it comes to learning. After learning experiences, she asks employees what did you learn as well as what did you contribute? Her L&D department doesn’t have a 3-year roadmap and that’s by design. Their L&D planning is more ad-hoc and built around their core principles—allowing for innovation, change, and experimentation.

Amy Hayes sessionDarren Shimkus, General Manager of Udemy for Business and Amy Hayes, Global Head of L&D at Facebook discuss driving innovation through learning.

High-performance teams play to win

In her rousing keynote, Patty McCord—Former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix and Principal of Patty McCord Consulting—shared how she built high-performance teams at Netflix. She draws inspiration from well-known coaches of professional sports teams. For example, team members do self-evaluations after their games to see how they’re doing. They also look at the data on individual and team performance. They examine what they’ve achieved and where they can do better. Then they put together a plan for each individual team player on how they can play to win. According to Patty, high-performance teams strive but are never satisfied. They are based on discipline and structure, not policy and procedure. The idea of talent goes beyond engagement and focuses on “spirit.” Great sports teams are comprised of players with character who become productive members of society.

So what’s Patty’s advice on innovating in L&D? Don’t wait for best practices, she recommended, instead try something new yourself and throw out what’s not working. Question if you need the basics and prioritize what moves the fastest. What you think belongs on the plate may not be necessary and instead, choose the projects that have the biggest impact for your company.

Patty McCord sessionPatty McCord, Former Chief Talent Officer of Netflix, shares her thoughts on building a culture of learning.

Think like your customer: empathy matters in L&D

Tim Quinlan, Director of Digital Platform for Learning at Intel, started out in engineering at Intel and has been in L&D for two years. In his experience over the past few years, the pace of change in every job is happening so quickly. At the same time, L&D budgets are getting smaller while employee skill needs are growing. This means L&D can’t build the content like they have in the past, you have to curate content instead of creating it. At Intel, his Learning team built an internal digital platform to make learning easy and remove the obstacles employees faced in the past. The strength of Intel’s L&D team is in their ability to empathize and think of their employees as customers. In order to do this, Tim built his new L&D team from the ground up by tapping into other disciplines at Intel including Marketing and Operations and recruiting people who all shared the ability to “think like the customer.” Yvonne Chen, Head of Marketing at Udemy for Business, outlined a proven marketing framework for promoting learning programs that include four phases: attraction, acquisition, retention, and referral. See The L&D Marketing PlayBook for more.

Tim and Yvonne sessionYvonne Chen, Head of Marketing of Udemy for Business and Tim Quinlan, Director of Digital Platform for Learning of Intel walk through marketing tactics for L&D success.

Putting the velcro on: making learning stick

Learning by doing is what makes learning stick. But what are L&D practitioners doing to innovate in this space? L&D and People leaders from Box, Pinterest, Uber, ZEST Advisors, Reddit, and Udemy shared these ideas:

  • Put velcro in your learning programs. Make sure the binder doesn’t just end up on the shelf after the course by including 7 weeks of follow-up with small cohorts and coaches to practice what was learned and ensure new knowledge is actually used in the workplace.

  • It’s a behavior change challenge. When you frame behavior goals as an “if-then” statement, it can help change behavior. L&D should create situational cues for employees and the action or behavior change that should follow in that situation.

  • Accountability partners. As part of a training cohort, assign accountability partners to remind and coach each other to apply the new knowledge and change their behavior.

  • Create the self-enthused learner. It’s not about badges or more compensation, but it’s about recognition. L&D should show they value employees who learn and give them exposure to senior leaders.

  • Reinforce learning with VR. Virtual Reality(VR) is an exciting new technology that’s experiential and can reinforce learning by doing. Cost and perceived barriers to VR can be overcome by experimenting with small pilot training, relying on third-party content, and renting mid-priced VR gear.

Panel sessionA panel of L&D leaders from Box, Uber, ZEST Advisors, Pinterest and Reddit discuss building an effective L&D program.

Going beyond unconscious bias

We’ve all done the unconscious bias training, but nothing has changed. How can L&D and People leaders really move the needle? Lisa Lee, Head of Diversity and Inclusion (DI) Strategies at Pandora, suggested DI training needs to be embedded throughout the employee lifecycle in existing programs. For example, at Pandora, as part of their onboarding program, they establish a strong sense of belonging based on their core value that “differences make us stronger.” Rachel Williams, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Yelp, said they focus on managers as a multiplier to reach the rest of their employee population. They provided training on emotional intelligence for managers without using the words “diversity” or “inclusion,” even though that was their end goal.

Lisa and Rachel sessionLisa Lee, Head of Diversity & Inclusion of Pandora and Rachel Williams, Head of Diversity & Inclusion of Yelp discuss going beyond unconscious bias within diversity training.

Break down company walls: L&D can co-innovate together

Finally, all speakers echoed the sentiment that L&D professionals need to break out of their silos within their organization and outside their company walls. There’s much to be gained from collaboration with different parts of the business to infuse new skill-sets and perspectives into L&D. It’s also time for L&D leaders to break down company walls and co-innovate together.

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