Michelle 00:00:07 Welcome to the edge, a Skillsoft podcast for learners and leaders alike. In every episode, we engage in candid thought provoking conversations on the topic of learning and growth in the workplace. And as I promised, this is the second episode of a two-part series, where we've had the opportunity to speak with Ben Sieke director of talent development and learning for Delta dental. Now, if you haven't had a chance to listen to episode one, what are you waiting for? Go check out this particular email@example.com. And let me tell you why Ben is a thought leader in the field of learning and talent development. And he has created, managed and achieved results with a unique program that empowers customer service employees to consistently go above and beyond their roles. Now in part one, and by the way, we did not expect that this was going to be a two-parter.
Michelle 00:01:05 So we had to break it up because there was so much great content. But in part one, we spoke with Ben about his vision for empowering Delta dental's customer service workforce and how his program has driven important business outcomes for the organization. And in part two, as I promised, you're going to hear Ben share his philosophy and approach for what it takes to build a strong and powerful learning culture. So let's get on with our conversation, you know, Ben, it has been so fascinating to hear about your approach to measurement and as our customer, you know, here at Skillsoft, we're so excited to see your hard work and innovation payoff for your organization, for your learners and for your customers. No. While we were talking about measurement specifically, the metrics that matter it's become really clear to me. And I think to everyone listening that you have built a strong and powerful culture of learning. Now, not everyone understands or gets the complexities involved in building that type of culture within an organization of your size, because it's so much more than simply getting people excited about what they're going to learn. So can you share your approach and experience with our listeners because I know they're going to find this fascinating
Ben 00:02:23 What a great question. And I'll, I'll preface my answer a little bit to say that, you know, for, for folks at Delta dental that are listening to this, right, that we're, we're on a journey, right? I think that we've made some, we've taken some big steps over the last couple of years and strengthened our culture of learning and it'll continue to strengthen, right? So I, to kind of take a step back, I think there's a couple of things that you need. One is you really have to have leaders in the organization outside of learning that, get it. And we're fortunate here that, you know, there's a bunch of senior leaders. Um, and I shouldn't just say senior leaders, leaders of all organizations at all levels of the organization. Uh, but in particular, from a sponsorship and from a championship standpoint, there's quite a few senior leaders here that, that really understand the connection between the skills and abilities of their people and the investment in developing those and how their team performs and the, and they see it as a strategic imperative, right?
Ben 00:03:24 It's not, um, as, as many people look at it, the, you know, learning is something that's nice to do or when I have time or whatever it is, we've got a lot of leaders here that understand that learning and developing our people is something we can't afford not to do. I can think of some examples within our technology organization here, right? And I know you, you hear this all day, um, because this, this is true in the world of it, skills change and get stale really quickly. You can have some fantastic, amazing, talented people that are making huge contributions now. And a couple of years from now, if we haven't invested and they haven't invested in helping to develop the next generation of skills that they need. Today's amazing. Performer can be someone that has an obsolete skill set a couple of years from now, right?
Ben 00:04:11 And, and again, so there's not just the recognition of learning, but a lot of these senior leaders, we're really fortunate at Delta dental to have a lot of tenure here. There's a lot of people that have built their whole career at Delta dental, which is fantastic. That also puts an imperative on us though, to invest in developing them, right, because they're, they're not learning things in other organizations that they're bringing here. So they have a ton of institutional knowledge. They have a ton of knowledge about the business, but you know, whether, if they're a technologist, right, for them, for them to learn the next coding language that comes out or a new platform that we're using for this or that, or the other, you know, if they've been at Delta dental for five or 10 or 15 years, they have to get that from us, right.
Ben 00:04:59 Where, where are they going to get that knowledge and learning from? So we have that, we have that sponsorship. We have champions in the organization to your point about infrastructure. Um, you know, that's what my team is here for, right? We're here to facilitate, we're going to provide learning, right. But we're also here to facilitate learning and help our leaders and help our learners take advantage of the programs that we offer, the platforms that we offer. Right. I mean, a lot of time, you know, again, talk, talking about Skillsoft, talking about Percipio, right? There's so many assets in there. Part of my team's role is to help connect learners and leaders, especially when we're doing things at scale, um, to help curate things and connect them to the content and programs that we have available to just make learning easier. Um, so that's a huge piece of it as well.
Michelle 00:05:50 And so this notion of learning in the flow of work, I think becomes so incredibly important, employees have want to engage. And yet they've got to be given the time and the ability as well as the tools to be able to do it within their cohort. I can't just stop what I'm doing now and say, oh, I got to go learn this, but how do, how do I weave that into what I do? How does it become second nature to the way that I work learners have to be proactive. Yeah, absolutely.
Ben 00:06:22 Right. And I think that's one of the opportunities that learning leaders have right now is to champion a mindset shift within organizations, right? The good news is this is not a complicated or difficult to understand concept, right? Cause I think all of us identify with this idea that the things that we're the best at with few exceptions are things that we've just done a lot and right. We have a lot of experience doing, and I'm also a big fan of the 70, 20 10 learning model that I'm sure you're familiar with. And a lot of folks listening will be that, that says that there's a place for formal learning, like a class, like a course, like an e-learning course you might take in Percipio alongside the things that are kind of the bigger contributors to learning the experiences you have and the things that you're exposed to, um, people get that, right?
Ben 00:07:18 Because again, you think about the things that you are the best at that you might have taken classes on those right classes are super helpful. Everybody ends up agreeing, right? It's it's not the class that you took on this that made you an expert in it. It's everything that happened after that. And so really challenging people to embrace that, right. That how much you learned this year, he can't just be accounting of how many classes you took or if you took any classes to back to your point about learning in the flow of work. Right. But that also doesn't have to be this big endeavor, right? If you're learning a new skill and the reason that you're learning that skill is so that you can use it at work. It really is just as simple as saying, I'm going to take some steps to acquire this skill.
Ben 00:08:02 And then I'm going to take some sort of assignment or a project that allows me to apply it. And I think whether the learner brings that up and says, I'm learning the skill, you know, Hey boss, can you assign me to something where I can use this skill or whether that's driven by the leader saying, as a part of helping you get really good at this, I want you to learn this. And then I'm going to give you a bunch of opportunities to apply it. Right. And that's really the mindset shift is that it's from training to learning, right? Training is, is one part of how you learn things. But bigger picture learning is just the, the acquisition of knowledge and skills. And if we're able to, to kind of get that mindset shift where people are thinking beyond formal learning, then to your point, right, they are doing all of that. I'm taking this class in this, I'm going and watching so-and-so, I'm taking a stretch assignment. Maybe I'm teaching it. Then maybe I'm passing it forward to the next person that needs to learn this skill. All of those things together. That's how you create mastery. And if you're doing that well, there doesn't have to be a loss of efficiency because all of that is done at work. And as a part of work,
Michelle 00:09:11 I love that. I, I have this phrase conscious application because to your point, just learning something, it's great. And maybe you feel better about it, but think about how much better you feel when you've applied that knowledge consciously and, and you've delivered something that perhaps you couldn't do before. So this notion of conscious application I think, is so
Ben 00:09:32 Important. I, the agree more and isn't that kind of the whole point of this? Yeah. It sounds kind of obvious, but I think that's where workplace learning is different and this isn't to knock like, you know, you're a university education or whatever, right. But that's why workplace learning is so different from post-secondary education. We are learning almost exclusively for the purpose of doing so if, if you don't do something with it, you know, who cares how much, you know, if you're not able to apply that in a useful and meaningful way back on the job. Right. I think, and I think that's a part of the mindset shift as well. The finish line isn't I understand this, the finish line is I have done this and now I can do this.
Michelle 00:10:19 Oh, I love that. You know, it's inspiring because your learners, I would imagine, have become so invested in building their own knowledge and their own skills. And your department is probably winning hearts and minds for what you're imparting for, for the good of your employees, careers. And I love that. And look, it's all for the benefit, obviously of Delta dental and the oral health of people like me. Um, and I've been doing this so much. You're right. We could go on, maybe we will one day. Um, but I do have a final question for you, and this is a three parter, so you got to listen. All right. So this is an evolution of something that I asked my guests throughout season one of the edge, which, you know, it was recorded in highly during the pandemic. And for many of the guests with whom I've spoken, the, the pandemic really allowed.
Michelle 00:11:18 I think all of us to look at things differently, take a step back, take stock. It was a transformative and still is a transformative event. But I think we're starting to take that, look at what we did and how the pandemic changed us. Right. We've learned we've adapted. Um, we've seen ourselves, I think more in tune with what really matters in life. And we probably have something new and hopefully better to offer as a result. So when it comes to your experiences and by the way, personal professional, I'll you, these three questions. Number one, what have you learned about yourself throughout the pandemic? Number two, how have you applied what you've learned, whether it's in the flow of work or in the flow of life. And then number three is you, as you look ahead, what advice might you share with others based on what you've learned and applied, so learned, applied, and what advice would you give?
Ben 00:12:21 What profound questions,
Michelle 00:12:29 By the way, I learned, I learned to bake bread. So I was like, it doesn't have to
Ben 00:12:33 Be that perfect as we are fingers crossed, starting to come out of the pandemic. Right. I live in Los Angeles and it feels weird to be able to do certain things about my mask on now, but, but that's, it's a sign right there that we hopefully are arriving at whatever comes after this. And yeah, so it, you know, it's profound. This is the right time to ask that, right. I, so I'll be real vulnerable. One of the things I've learned about myself throughout the pandemic, and I don't know if this is because of the pandemic or it just happened during the pandemic is really recognizing it, seeing myself for the emotional being that I am. And I realized that sounds a little bit meta, but I had thought of myself wrongly and blindly for, for years as being a much more dispassionate business leader, then I realized that I am.
Ben 00:13:29 And I, you know, I've just sort of recognized, not in a bad way, but just learning about myself, that, um, the feelings that I have about things at work, color, my reactions and my decision-making and, you know, that sounds fairly obvious, right? There's you might be hearing me say that, or, you know, folks might listen to this and say, well, dove of course, how you're feeling about something changes, how you react to it. But I don't think I really recognized that that was happening. I think I saw myself as a much more just kind of rational. I see it, how I see it. This is how it is. And so that's been a big aha. And I think, you know, thinking about your next question about applying what I've learned that aha has caused me, especially lately to really double down on relationships and partnering and stakeholder and, um, you know, recognizing that I have a lot of opportunities to strengthen relationships and especially, you know, going back to what we're talking about before about, you know, transforming culture and it takes a lot of people to accomplish that, right.
Ben 00:14:37 It's it's not, it's not something I can do by myself. It's not something my team can do by ourselves. Right. It's something that requires a lot of partnership with our clients, a partnership with our peers, within our people organization, HR group, um, you know, I'm, I'm reminded of that African proverb, right? If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others, I'm paraphrasing it. But, um, but I'll, you know, recognizing that, um, but yeah, it's critical in order to achieve some of the like, you know, really big, large scale changes we want to have in the organization, as we continue to mature our culture of learning, that it takes a village to do that. Um, and again, not a huge aha. Right? Of course you have to stakeholder and of course you have to partner, but I I've been really focused on lately, really just trying to deepen those relationships.
Michelle 00:15:34 I think that's fantastic. And, and look, I think a lot of people have been really introspective and it's, in some ways maybe we've seen things that we don't like, but in other ways, maybe we've seen things that we do like, right. And we have the ability to change the things we don't like, which is what I've taken away from the pandemic. So, so with what advice,
Ben 00:15:57 That is a great question. Maybe along those lines, right? It is for all of us to think about who the kind of the critical partners are in their organization and how close they are to them. Right. To your point about being introspective and right. I mean, yeah. I think I spent a lot of time kind of meditating on things that over the course of the pandemic, but in answering this question, it would be really easy for me to say, and this is true by the way, right? Like the people that are your most top of mind seemed like your most important partners and stakeholders probably are right. For me, I can think of some of my biggest clients, right. Our enterprise operations group, we're locked at the hip. Right. Um, the majority of my team's work is done in support of them. Yes. Right. We have to be tight.
Ben 00:16:43 We have to be close. We have to be aligned. We have to be working together. But you know, even just recognizing over the last couple of weeks, some of the points of intersection with our employee relations function or, uh, like some of my internal HR partners right there, again, not, not that I ever would have said that they weren't important partners. They certainly are. But just recognizing how critical those relationships, our relationship with recruiting, our relationship with finance are really right. I mean organizations or just groups of people. Right. I mean, if, to get, to get really meta and philosophical, right. You know, you look at an organization like Delta, dental of California, we've got 4,000 people that what we have in common is that we work here and that we're working towards a set of common goals. Right. And so we can't let the, the work itself be the thing that we're aligning around.
Ben 00:17:36 Right. I mean, we, we have to get the work done. The work is important, but it's through the relationships. It's all about relationships. If you had asked me a year ago, like how important are workplace relationships? I would have said extremely, right. So this isn't a, you know, a new realization for me or for anybody else, but I think just how important those relationships are and how they can help you get through challenges, how they can help you transform how they can help take you to the next level. Um, and what you need to do to foster those relationships is, is huge. And if that's not something that you're as I wasn't as focused on as I probably needed to be, yeah. That would, I guess be my advice is to make sure that you, you know, who all of your key partners are and that you are building strong relationships with them, um, that are based on alignment that are based on trust and that are kind of a springboard for you to do great things in partnership with them. I think
Michelle 00:18:38 That's fantastic. Fantastic advice. And, you know, Ben, this is, I think this has been wonderful. I think it's been great. Not only to learn more about you and your organization, but also for our listeners who I think number one, want to understand how you can build these learning cultures, but number two, how you can measure the work you're doing, but still keeping the learner experience in mind. And number three, frankly, as we come out of this pandemic, what are the things that are going to be important to us as humans working within these organizations? So look, I think we've checked every single box and I really want to thank you so much for taking the time to be on the edge. Um, and I should also say thank you so much on behalf of Skillsoft for being a wonderful customer. We're very grateful for the partnership that we've built with you.
Ben 00:19:37 Feeling's mutual. I'm real glad to be here, Michelle and, and yeah, I'm real, you know, we've, we've worked really closely with the Skillsoft team over the last, since I've been here. Right. And, um, it is, it's a strong partnership. We, we certainly love you guys.
Michelle 00:19:51 Oh, well, thank you. And I think we should probably give a shout out to our listeners. Thank you for tuning in to this. And hopefully every episode as we unleash our edge together on behalf of the entire Skillsoft team, we encourage you to keep learning, keep growing and in light of our conversation today, look at this unique time in our lives as an opportunity to reflect on what's changed in life and work, and then to commit yourself to a change minded goal, a goal that's aimed at transforming things for the better in the world around us. I'm Michelle, baby. This is the edge be well.