Employee engagement is an issue facing most all organizations, according to a Gallup survey. What is learning and development’s role in addressing this issue?
Brandon Carson, Director of Learning at Home Depot and author of Learning in the Age of Immediacy, shared his opinion about this on episode 1 of the Learning and Development Stories podcast.
“We know that employees are more likely to be engaged when they understand their expectations and when they are aware of the opportunities available to them,” Brandon said during the interview. “Learning organizations are in a great place to be advocates and stewards of that because we have direct relationships with employees and the business. We know that training provides opportunities for employees to realize their full potential at work.”
You can hear his additional insights on this subject by jumping to the 15:30 mark of the interview. The below summary highlights other key topics covered during the interview.
On the positive side, Brandon points to a current project in which Home Depot is creating a mobile app for associates on the floor (2:47). It is a fairly transformative program as it is pushing Home Depot to re-think how learning occurs. It focuses on how people should be supported in their job by taking learning out of the back room in a transactional environment and bringing it into the context of employees’ work stream.
“This has been the most interesting programs I have worked on with in recent years,” Brandon said. “We are trying to re-think how training takes place in this environment based on helping the customer and associate we support.”
Brandon shared several personal anecdotes of lessons learned from his career (10:12). He notes that mistakes occur when:
- We think that the learning person has all the answers.
- Failure to actively listen to all involved.
- Ego is involved.
- Failure to figure out what drives the business value of whatever we are doing and understanding when training will have an impact.
In terms of how to tie learning to business strategy (7:10), Brandon makes the following points:
- Learning organizations shouldn’t have their own Key Performance Indicators, but rather should align with the business KPIs.
- Say no to the things that will not bring value and say yes to the right things.
- The learning leader needs to have a really good understanding of how learning works.
- It requires a rethinking of how learning should function in the enterprise.
Successful transfer of information that leads to new capabilities is a difficult task. According to Brandon, “It is a mash up of context, data, information, engagement, motivation and emotional output.” (23:30)
Who is responsible for the act of knowledge transfer? Brandon believes it is a partnership between the learning organization, the learner, the line manager and leadership.
Communicating the Value of Learning to Stakeholders
Brandon highlights the example of a new learning initiative at Home Depot in which it wasn’t enough to just communicate to associates the value (30:00). “Just showing folks here is a cool app is not enough. It required buy-in from all different levels. We had to show from the learning organization’s perspective what the value was and talk about it quite a bit.”
This is about instilling the culture of learning.
Reliable Resources (35:00)
Tool: curiosity, which fosters critical thinking and drives creativity and innovation.
Reading: Edward Tufte’s website and a book by Donald Norman on the Design of Everyday Things.
Recommended sources for external content that can be used for trainings: Home Depot produces most of its own content but does use Ted Talks videos and lots of product knowledge videos.
Connect with Brandon Carson
Brandon Carson is the Director of Learning at Home Depot and the author of “Learning in the Age of Immediacy – 5 Factors for How We Connect, Communicate, and Get Work Done”. Learn more about the book and connect with Brandon on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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