The Power of Collaboration When Designing Learning Experiences
About This Episode
Charged with helping learners, employees and organizations reach their potential; the role of the Chief Learning officer is invaluable. In today’s episode of The Edge, host Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek welcomes Elisa Vincent, Vice President of Global Talent Enablement at Skillsoft as co-host. They are joined by Dr. Karen Wolf, Chief Learning Officer of ManTech International and Emma Engel, Director for Global Learning, Engagement and Culture at Lenovo (previously Chief Learning and Inclusion Officer of Unisys) to discuss the continuously evolving role of the CLO during transformative times.
The views expressed by guests are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft.
Michelle BB00:00:07 Welcome to The Edge, a Skillsoft podcast for learners and leaders alike. In every episode, we engage in candid thought provoking conversations on the topics of learning and growth in the workplace. I'm so excited about this episode. I cannot even wait to introduce my guests because today we are going to focus on the continuously changing and ever important world of the chief learning officer. Now, if you are a listener of the edge podcast, you might work closely with the chief learning officer, or you might be the beneficiary of the work they do day in and day out for the good of their company's employees, or you might be a CLO yourself. And if so, I believe a major thank you is in order. And let me tell you why you are charged with building leading and executing strategies to help learners enhance their knowledge, develop skills, and grow their careers.
Michelle BB00:01:00 It's a job centered on human potential growth and ensuring all team members within an organization have a fair and unobstructed path to learning an opportunity. CLS also play a key role in ensuring that their employees have the opportunity to achieve their potential while also helping their organizations thrive, always with an eye towards driving and delivering measurable results. And if all of that weren't enough, the chief learning officer has been at the fore in a critical leadership role that lives on the front lines of the global COVID-19 pandemic. So today you will hear from three chief learning officers, each of whom has their own experiences and unique points of view about the role. They will tell their stories beginning with a contrast between what their priorities were prior to the pandemic and what they are today. And as we delve further into their worlds, today's episode will allow our CLO guests to engage, share knowledge and experiences and be there for each other as peers. So joining us today on the edge are my co-host my colleague Elisa Vincent vice president of global talent enablement here at Skillsoft and our guests, dr. Karen Wolf, chief learning, officer of ManTech international and Emma angle, chief learning and inclusion officer of UNISIS Alisa, Karen and Emma. Thank you so much for joining us on the edge. Thank you, Michelle. So let's start again by having you introduce yourself. So Emma, I'm going to start with you. Why don't you tell us a little bit about UNISIS and the work that you do there,
Emma 00:02:34 Michelle, thank you so much for the opportunity to be here with you today. Um, so as you said, I am the chief learning and inclusion officer for Unisys corporation. Our organization has been around for over 145 years and is looking to make the world a better place by bringing technological innovation to businesses and governments around the world. And so I had an interesting role at UNISIS. I have been fortunate over the years to work for a number of, of, um, second technology organizations. I've lived in five different countries. I've been able to work in about 26 different countries. And, you know, all of that, I guess, experience has brought about even more passion to help people learn and to, to make learning really compelling and interesting. And I think, you know, just as we start to see acceleration of change that is happening, and my gosh we've had so much in the last, just eight months, um, you know, just what a critical role learning plays, um, together with inclusion and diversity and just how all of that is now starting to mix into each other. Thank you.
Michelle BB00:03:44 Thank you for that. Now, Karen, I'd like to have you go next and perhaps if you would, if you would indulge us, could you share a little bit about the unusual path you took to get to ManTech? I think it might surprise our guests.
Karen00:03:57 Well, I'm chief learning officer at ManTech. I've been at ManTech almost 11 years now. ManTech is a defense contractor, uh, innovation and solution provider for our, basically our government customer. We have almost 10,000 employees and yes, I kind of came to the learning and development community in a weird way. I actually was an FBI agent for 25 years. I ended my career at Quantico, which is the FBI Academy. I was teaching, um, new agents and I realized I had no clue what I was doing in teaching adults. So it was a very unsettling feeling. So at the ripe old age of 45, I went back to college and did a master's and a doctorate in education. And I was really in mode prevention. I just didn't want to screw up the next generation of FBI agents by something that I was doing wrong. So that's a, that's basically how I came to be in the L and D community was, uh, by kind of a transformative experience where I realized I was clueless and I needed more education. I needed more development to, um, take on that challenge.
Michelle BB 00:05:10 I think that's amazing, Karen, you know, to really look at that, that's about self-reflection right, to be able to look and say, I think I need to grow myself here. And, um, my goodness look at from where you've come and, and now where you are. I think it's absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for that. Um, Elisa, I think it would be great for you to talk a little bit about your background as a CLO, and now the work that you were doing here at Skillsoft.
Elisa 00:05:38 Thank you, Michelle, and Karen and Emma. It's great to be here with you today. So my background is also a non-traditional background, but not as fun as the SPI. Um, I come from a background of international education and study abroad that moved into leadership development and now talent enablement. And it's Skillsoft. I'm delighted to be here because I'm working for an organization that sells and believes in what I know to be a core service for our employees in a core enablement tools, through learning, right? Both the content and the platforms to help people reach their full potential. So my role at Skillsoft is to ensure that people are successful, that they are enabled, equipped, and supported to do their work through learning through leadership development, through making sure that we have systemic diversity, that through our programs and offerings, we are helping leaders be the best that they can be and have the most dynamic teams. And so I'm delighted to be here with my peers and colleagues in this learning ecosystem to talk about that today.
Michelle BB 00:06:51 Elisa, let's talk about why we've brought these chief learning officers together for a discussion like this. Yes. Tell me, why are you so excited to learn about and share with your peers?
Elisa00:07:01 Thanks, Michelle, Karen, and Emma. I am so excited to sit with all of you here today and have this conversation. As we know, this is an unprecedented time in our industry where we like all human capital leaders really are leading a new frontline in our workplaces. You know, we feel it we're being called to be leaders and caregivers supporting and enabling the success and well-being of our employees in new ways and creative ways in ways like we haven't before, right? And our priorities have shifted so much in the past eight months. We have pressures that are unique to our times. Um, I'm excited to share how we're leading the way and paving a new path to both digitize learning, advance, how we learn together, what we learned. And this is the key point that I want us to talk about today, or hope we'll talk about today, keeping the human in it and this word, human, how we're keeping people whole at work through the work that we do when the world around us still feels so volatile and uncertain. And so this time for us to be able to reflect together, I think is so crucial for our own development as well.
Michelle BB00:08:19 And we will get to that. I promise I have a whole section Elisa on the human element because I don't think that we can have this type of a discussion without going there. Um, but Karen, I want to, I want to come to you for a moment because I think that Elisa highlighted something and, and I, I outlined it in the opening. We know the job has changed, um, and to, you know, to illustrate just how transformative times have been. I'd love for you to contrast what your job priorities were eight months ago. And it's not to say that they've changed entirely, but what has shifted for you in terms of what you're doing today versus what you were doing then?
Karen 00:08:59 Well, first of all, I thought the most important thing that I did was run a training facility. I have 13,000 square feet of space that is kind of the cultural hub for our company. It's where we hold meetings and conduct training. And we closed that on March 12th and it's not reopened since. And we used to put a lot of time and energy into that facility and overnight poof, it was gone. And now what I'm focused on is taking care of our people. Um, and our people are, um, you know, on the frontline of protecting our national security. So while many of us are working from home, 80% of my company actually reports to the customer site. And they've been reporting since the pandemic broke out, or there's been some change in that. Sometimes they work a week and then they're working from home a week and then they're back at the facility another week, but there's really been no substantial change in the execution of our mission.
Karen00:10:03 Um, and for many of our employees, they still report to the customer site and their, their work is unchanged. Um, from before the pandemic. The other big shift is we, um, at the beginning of the pandemic, we were right poised to move away from performance management and where we're no longer giving people a numerical rating. And we're doing a program that we call career enablement. So people aren't rated any longer on manager defined, um, goals or competencies. Instead they're having conversations with their, their, um, people leaders around where they want to develop them, where they want to grow, which has really shifted the whole culture around, um, around where do I want my career to go as opposed to, how am I doing in my job?
Michelle BB00:10:55 I love that Karen, there's a couple of things you said that really, really resonated with me. Number one, I did a piece with Esther Martinez from people matters on this notion of the separation of work and workplace, right? And I think you highlighted that, that it's no longer about the place that work facility, but now really about the people and focusing, not that, not that it wasn't about the people before, but now we really do have to separate those two. Um, but you really did also highlight the importance of the human element, which again, we'll come back to when we talk about shifting from performance management to career enablement, I absolutely love that. Um, Emma, let's, let's talk a little bit about how your role has changed and I'm particularly interested because you have that inclusion element in your title as well. And I know for you, that's probably been at the fore particularly given some of the social unrest that we've seen. So, so how much has your role changed and priorities shifted these eight months? Yeah, Michelle,
Emma00:11:54 I think, you know, that that aspect of change is constant. I think for me, has changed to change is faster than it ever has been before. Um, you know, some of the big changes, I think, you know, similar to what Karen was saying, you know, we started out the here with a great plan as to, you know, all the content we were going to bold that aligned to our strategic solutions. Um, and you know, all of that was kind of in place. And then it all got thrown up in March where 90% of our organization moved home. And it was literally in 10 days we moved 4,000 service desk agents home, um, and continue to maintain our service level agreements and so on. And so, you know, for me, what, what that meant was we had to pivot significantly simple things, but you know, what, that were really important to our business.
Emma00:12:46 Like we had a whole lot of leaders who were collocated with their service desk agents, historically, that was the way they knew how to lead. Now, everybody was at home and, you know, we had to run a couple of 15 minute sessions just to help them cope with this new challenge of leadership. So just some, some simple things like that, but you know, how quickly we had to pivot. And as Karen said, kind of threw everything up in the air with a real new focus that started on, on solution readiness now moved to kind of people readiness and then had to pivot again, which is okay, so now everybody's at home now we've got to go back to that focus on solution, readiness, certifications and so on. And then, you know, as you said, then we had all of the social unrest in the U S we had a number of jobs, challenging situations all around the world.
Emma00:13:37 Um, the last thing, you know, this challenge of being locked down at home during the pandemic. And it really, again, it accelerated a number of programs that we had thought about, you know, kicking off, um, in 2020 that they just had to be brought to the forefront. Uh, you know, we, we had no, um, employee associate groups that ERG. So we call them associate interest groups at Unisys. We had none in March. We now have eight that we have stood up, um, you know, really coming from grassroots, but coming from this need for people to connect these experiences that people are having that now can connect them together. And we needed to find ways to allow people to connect. So it's, it's that, that ability to just kind of pivot really, really quickly and be able to be relevant, you know, where we used to have kind of six months to figure out how to be relevant. We've literally got days now that we need to figure out how to pivot to be relevant.
Michelle BB00:14:42 You know, the thing that I'm hearing Alyssa from both of our guests here is that the role in some ways has become that of a change agent within the organization. Um, whether it's the AIG's, whether it's trying to really pivot the way that we recognize individuals and employees and adjust the sort of processes that we had in the past from again, performance management to career enablement, I think it would be helpful. Elisa. Maybe you could talk a little bit about some of the things that you've experienced, you know, in the eight months that you've, you know, that we've, that we've been here at Skillsoft in this new world. I hate that phrase new world, but I'm gonna use it anyway. Um, as well as maybe some of the things that both Emma and Karen touched on.
Elisa00:15:33 Yes, absolutely. So there's a common theme that I heard here, and it's our ability to be able to pivot, but also maintain continuity where we need to. So it's, when do we need to pivot and amplifying accelerate what we're doing versus what are those threads and those elements of our organizational cultures that we need to continue to maintain and nurture. And Emma and Karen, I really got that from your, from what you were saying, that cultural component. And it's been a big part of the transformation I've experienced in my own role. And something that I'm thinking about frequently, right? Culture is not just our values. It's not just what we believe it is. The systems, processes, and behaviors, right? We often think of culture as those behaviors. It's so much more than that. It's the systems and the processes, the way we do things, how we do things.
Elisa00:16:31 And this comes to life for me in real ways. Like you said, when we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion and how we're building inclusive cultures through learning in different ways than we have before really inspiring that connection throughout our organization. And that's become such a key and big part of our jobs eight months ago, like, like you said, Emma DEI initiatives were part of our strategic priorities. We had our roadmap, we were moving right along, but now given this widespread social unrest and violence that we're experiencing in our worlds, we've really had to accelerate not only how we build awareness, but also how we assess our processes. Right? We've been talking about the shift from management to enablement and how we promote in assign and provide learning in ways that are systemically, just, and in ways that eliminate barriers between executives and employees across the organization, I'm finding that this is a new way that we're talking about things, and it's both a little scary and very energizing and exciting.
Elisa00:17:43 So at Skillsoft, we're evolving like all organizations in this space and we decided offer, um, open virtual live discussion forums on topics that are relevant and that are touching people's heads and hearts today. Topics such as racial equality on Juneteenth. When we're not assigning these sessions, we are just holding. People can tell their stories, learn from each other, apply curiosity, awareness, and listen. And if you had asked me to do this eight months ago, I probably would have said no way, right? As chief learning officers, we want to assign, we want to measure, we want to assess impact, but this is new. And they're so powerful and impactful in a way to really create that cultural strength and organization. It was the first time we've done something like this. But what we learned is that when we hold a place for people to show up, regardless of level in the organization and we practice and build, build that listening and that sharing connection muscle,
Michelle BB 00:18:51 Lisa, I think that now might be a great time for me to pass the mic to you, because I think you probably have a few questions for both Emma and Karen, and I'd love to hear this dialogue between three CLRs. So why don't you take it away?
Elisa00:19:07 Thanks, Michelle. And that would be great. Thank you. So Emma and Karen, we know that today's learners have capacity as we used in our examples just now to learn anywhere through a wide range of mediums, right? We just talked about open forums. We talked about our employee, um, advisory or employee resource groups. And at the same time, we need to create these offerings and these assets that we can both assign and target and focus and have all be on demand. In addition, we know that we can learn from long from coursework or bite-sized learning, and then we can apply it. We need to be able to apply it while working. So there's this major convergence between the evolution of what learning is and the evolution of what learners want and need and can absorb now in light of this, how do you provide these experiences that can ignite the desire to learn, meet learners, preferences, and exist in a way that's sustainable for our organizations? And let's start with you. What are some of your thoughts and experiences, you know, over time, the role of, of learning and the learning department has moved much more towards curation. It's about simplifying. It's about helping people find what they need at the moment. And I think that has just really grown in importance during the whole pandemic period, because, you know, at the start we thought, Oh great, they're going to have more time to, to do learning
Emma 00:20:48 Because you know, they're not going to be commuting and so on. And then very quickly we got feedback around, well, no, actually we haven't less time because of all of the things that are now facing us around our families and just all it additional asks on our time. And so I think that role of curation and finding just the right nuggets and making them available and making them easier to find has become more and more important. So, you know, creating channels, um, communicating. So, you know, communicating my team has gotten a lot stronger at marketing and making sure people know where to go, to find what they need. I think one of the other parts that we've seen a huge uptake is around the live boot camps that Skillsoft is now offering. So it's, it's been interesting how, you know, our organization, which had moved to be very self, uh, self sense, uh, self directed in the way that they sought out on demand.
Emma00:21:53 Learning, being at home seems to have really created this need to be able to listen to somebody live and to be able to ask questions. So, you know, we really advertised those boot camps and we've pivoted, um, in, in adding, even to our own proprietary content that we build, we're now holding more webinars. We're not holding more live sessions with people can provide us with feedback. People can ask questions and feel more connected than perhaps they felt that they needed to be before. So that is not just some of the changes. And then I would say just, just one more change around, you know, meeting people where they are. It's just really looking at things like unconscious bias and being much more conscious in the way that we curate content in the way that we build content, um, for our learners. And that, you know, we are providing a couple of different options where we're blending the, the, the audio books with the books, with the horses, with the videos, so that people can, can take advantage of whatever mode of learning is most comfortable for them. That is such a powerful statement. Our evolution from being trainers, which is for so long, how we were categorized in the learning space to being curators, marketing professionals, technical specialists, connectors, caregivers, that shift that we spoke about earlier between just the core function and mechanics of our job to this real human element of it. Um, I agree with you, thank you for sharing that. Uh, Karen, what are your thoughts?
Karen00:23:37 I completely agree with Emma that helping people find what they need is an important aspect of our role and find that at least at ManTech, that I often am the voice of our people. Um, and I think that, um, that's a role that's traditionally been, uh, the HR organizations role, but quite frankly, they've been so heads down on benefits and flu shots and compensation, and sort of the mechanics of the, of taking care of people's needs that developing our people in terms of what they want and need has become much more of the role for the CLO. I view myself as almost the person who's democratized learning at ManTech, because it used to be that you would raise your hand and get permission to take a course that's related to your current job. And what we've done with our access to our Skillsoft library is we've opened that up. So you don't need permission to take a course, um, and it doesn't need to be around your current role. It can be about just something that you're interested in or what you want to be or where you want to take your career. And that's been a very profound cultural shift for our employees that they feel empowered and permission to pretty much explore their own interests rather than stay in a narrow lane that the company has predefined for them.
Michelle BB 00:25:05 So I'll jump back in here for a moment. And I'd like to actually talk to Elisa and Emma A. Little bit. How do you view that role of career pathing and providing, you know, shifting the way in which learning happens in your organizations? I love this notion as, as everybody knows, I talk often about this idea of democratizing learning and making it more accessible, more available. Um, so Emma Lee, let's start with you. Um, let's, let's hear what you think about this notion of career pathing and how people engage with learning.
Emma00:25:40 So it's interesting that you ask that because as we have over the last couple of years, really flattened out the levels at UNISIS. And so the traditional career path of up has become in a way, a thing of the past, and that creates challenges in itself because we have younger folks coming in and they, they're looking at, they're looking to see, you know, how do I become more senior, I get more salary. And they see that very much as an upward path. And we've really been going through quite a change around the, the mindset around that, in that we've started to build career lattices, where we've got a much stronger focus now on skills, rather than on roles and looking for opportunities for people to build certain skills. And then those skills get applied on projects. It helps us increase mobility for people. It opens up, you know, more opportunities to gain
Elisa00:26:44 Different experiences because we focused on the skill rather than on the role. So we believe that that has created much more opportunities, more flexibility for people, um, in an organization where perhaps it was becoming more challenging to retain a younger folks because we didn't have those career ladders, uh, clearly defined. So it's, it's a work in progress. It's not perfect, um, because it's quite a, quite a different mindset. And you know, now I think the biggest, the biggest challenge that we have at the moment is figuring out what, what is the compensation? So when you gain that new skill, how do we ensure that there is an opportunity to use it? How do we ensure that you're being recognized for gaining that skill, um, et cetera.
Michelle BB00:27:33 So I actually think this is a perfect opportunity. Elisa, I'd love to hear from you about things like learning assessments and talent assessment specifically, and then how you do recognize and reward that. Could you, could you talk a little bit about that for us? Sure.
Elisa00:27:49 I agree with your perfection is never the goal in anything that we do, right. We get smarter as we go. Um, and we iterate, um, and sometimes failure when we, um, you know, implement these types of initiatives helps us learn as we go as CEELO's many of us live by and believes in this process, we've talked about. So often of assessment reflection in intervention. And for me, what you've been saying, Karen and Emma, I see a common scene here of empowerment. You know, Karen you've talked about being the voice of the employee of the leader in the organization. You know, it's on us to empower the manager and power the learner to be able to assess capabilities and capacity and reflect and build awareness. And at the same time also aligned focus and target learning assignments, training, and experiences. So I want to distinguish for a moment between learning assessments and talent assessments, for me, learning assessments are the tools that help us better understand and determine where we are in the learning journey, right?
Elisa00:29:00 They assess our competence, they assess our capability and they enable the learning journey in powerful ways by helping learners to build that awareness that ultimately says, this is what I need to focus on right now. These are the skills and capabilities that I need to learn right now. And for those of us who are building these learning experiences for us to be able to extend learning, transfer to the job, their jobs in real time, inclusive leadership, digital transformation, change leadership. If I have an opportunity to assess where I am in my development journey, and then my leader, and I can more effectively provide, equip me and support me with learning opportunities, talent assessments for me play in the space of this movement between performance management and career enablement that you talked about before Michelle talent assessments can take many forms from performance reviews, to personality assessments, to succession planning.
Elisa00:30:01 And it's here. When we use these types of assessments that we need to ensure that we take a long, hard look at why and how we use them. And this goes back to what we were talking about with diversity equity and inclusion in this area. You know, we really at Skillsoft are at the forefront of when we use tools like predictive index. When we use different leadership assessments, that we are tying that back to learning paths that we're tying that back to curating content, to help individuals build their strengths, as well as target those areas of development. And that there is a self empowerment piece to it. So I'm learning about myself, my managers learning about me, we're having those open conversations and that we're both seeking out those learning journeys together. I really see it as our role to ensure that when we are assessing that we're using these assessments as enablement tools and empowerment tools and not using them to define people or box them in. And in that way, we start to eliminate, as you were saying, Emma, that unconscious bias, instead of inviting it in,
Michelle BB00:31:15 You know, Elisa, you just really talked about the needs of the employee, right? And I think now is a really great time for us to bring in the human element component, especially in a work environment where everything is virtual. I have to tell you, I'm very nervous. I'm onboarding two new employees, and I've never done that in a virtual environment. And that's not to say that we ha we as an organization, haven't done it. But for me personally, I'm, I'm nervous because there's so much interaction that I think has to happen when you bring somebody new into an organization. But, you know, when I think about what the shift to, in, in a lot of cases, not all, but in a lot of cases of virtual environment means I have to wonder does that human element piece get lost in the shuffle? Now, what I'm hearing from you is all three of you is absolutely not.
Michelle BB 00:32:05 But the dialogue that we're engaging in day in and day out takes place, um, through technology that sometimes works as we found out on this podcast. Um, and so we are so reliant on it and affects the way we see and treat each other, how we learn, how we enable opportunity in a way that's fair and equitable. So my question for all three of you is how can chief learning officers help bring back that human element into the learning and development space, improve it, where needed and sustain that. And I want to start with Karen first, please. So
Karen 00:32:40 It is a big responsibility. And I think one of my strongest reactions to that is that in a typical day, I consider nine meetings to be a light day. So I don't have time to stop and think I don't have time to reflect. I don't have time to pray to meditate. I don't have time to process. And I think one of the things that we have to do is to be advocates for our people, that all this technology is great. And it's enabled us to keep going at a time where we need to keep going, but we also need to build in some time to allow people to process, to allow people to reflect and, you know, to pay attention to something other than just that face on the screen. You know, we're so programmed as to look at, uh, non-verbals as the whole body, and we're not getting that anymore. We're just, we're very focused on just that the human face that I think we, we need to permission our folks to have some downtime and we need to intentionally plan it in our schedules because it is really, really important,
Speaker 5 00:33:55 You know? Um, Karen, I, I would love for you to react to this too. Um, but it was interesting because I was reading a piece the other day and talking to someone, you know, about how the fact that we've tried to introduce social quote, unquote, my air quotes here, social aspects to our day, right? Where we get everybody on WebEx, we do something fun. We have a happy hour, or we do a walking break, or we do something. And the reality is that what we're hearing from employees is they don't want to be on any more WebEx's or zoom calls or go to meetings because they're doing it for the nine hours a day. Are you hearing that same thing in your organization?
Karen00:34:32 Absolutely. And my people are tired and they're burned out and we just need to be really conscious of the psychological toll that this is taking. I'm a psychologist. So of course, I'm going to have to talk about the psychology behind what's going on, but our people are weary and we, we need to re we need to make them take their vacation. We need to make them take time for themselves. And, and as the rush to have, uh, the virtual happy hour, um, I mean, maybe we just cut the day back to seven hours and give people back their time because of, of the demands that so many of them have, you know, I met I'm at home and I just have my two little dogs, but everybody on my team has children under the age of six. And I need to be conscious of the fact that we have a ton of toddlers. I have a young woman on my team who I've never met. I did exactly what you were stressing over Michelle. I've onboarded people that I've never met in person and performing fantastic. And she's got a 13 month old baby at home. Um, but I think we just need to give people some space.
Michelle BB 00:35:45 Well, I'm going to come to you with some questions about onboarding, but we'll do that later. Emma, I want to get to you on this topic of the human element here. And what's so important. What are the things that we need to do as organizations to ensure that we're bringing the human to the table?
Emma00:36:03 I think the biggest thing that's become clear for me is about feedback. It's about asking people, it's about asking what it is that they need, what they want and so forth. And so, you know, I guess I have a little bit of like counter perspective on, you know, what we're talking about here. I think it's about a balance and I, and I think, you know, that, that we thought that, you know, w we would only have a pandemic for a couple of months and things would be fine and sign, and now we're realizing that that is not the case. And so it's about really encouraging people to really look at their lives and figure out how do I bring back to balance into that? Um, when it comes to connectivity, I think that there is a way to think about looking at how do I leverage technology for the good and, and, you know, how do I, the, the balance that I'm talking about there is that, you know, we consciously in my team, uh, we meeting for 15 minutes every single morning since March.
Emma00:37:11 And it's been interesting because I took the specific focus that that 15 minutes meetings would not be about work. It would just be about connecting. And we have learned so much about one another. I have a team that has people in India, in Hungary and Australia in the us, and they did because of the time zones, they did not have the opportunity necessarily to connect as a team other than once a month when we had our team call. And I've seen the team become a lot closer. I have seen the collaboration increase. I have seen the creativity increase hardly, I think because I forced it a little bit at the beginning, but now, you know, they've really gotten into it. So I think, you know, that's another role of learning, which is challenging, getting people over that hump, because you have that good intent, you believe that, you know, that that connecting is good. And then it's looking at how can I, you know, how can I use technology to improve that rather than seeing it as a barrier? And I'll give you just one, one small example. I joked with my team when we started the 15 minute meetings, I said, Hey, I'm just getting you along because I want to make sure you got out of your pajamas this morning.
Emma00:38:29 And just one of my team members in India who has a young daughter, her daughter, just too, she said to me, you know, am I getting on the calls every morning has forced me to still put my work wardrobe on. She says, even if it's just from the waist up, you know, and I've got pajama pants on, she says, but it's interesting because I've noticed in my daughter that when I put my work clothes on, she looks at me and she says, mommy, going to work. And she understands, then that, you know, I'm going, I'm going to be at my computer. And that she's going to spend the rest of the day with her grandma. She says, but on the weekends, when I'm in my casual clothes, she knows when she sees me in my casual clothes, that's it it's time with her. So I just thought it was kind of an interesting, by-product how, you know, forcing video has meant that it is actually provided some boundaries in a personal level.
Michelle BB 00:39:24 I love that. I love that. And actually it's a great point, um, at which to pivot, because we've been going for so long, I could go for so much longer. Um, but you know, I think, I think what I am hearing, um, and, and Karen, I want to go back to something you said is that this has given us time to focus, think, reflect, and change, um, and do things differently and perhaps better than we have before. So we're going to come to my absolute favorite question that I ask every guest on this podcast, and the responses have been fascinating. They can be personal, they can be professional, but for many of the people with whom I have spoken this pandemic has allowed us, has forced us to look at things differently. So much has changed in our worlds. Our perspectives have shifted. We are changing the way we do things. So this is a three parter, and I am eager to hear from each of you and Alyssa, I'm going to start with you. Okay. So it is start, stop and continue. Number one, what have you started doing since the onset of the pandemic that you never did before? Number two, what have you stopped doing? And you are so grateful for doing so I'll tell you about a commute that used to be far too long. And then the third is as we, as we look to move into this next phase, whatever that next phase is, what is something that you're going to take with you that you're going to hold onto, that you have started here, that you are going to carry with you forward, start, stop, continue.
Elisa00:41:00 Great. So start been eating a lot more chocolate, um, that, okay.
Michelle BB 00:41:09 That's the best answer I've heard. So say that again,
Elisa00:41:13 Been eating a lot more chocolate, and I'm not going to stop doing that, but on a more serious note, I have this little journal that I keep on my desk every, every day. And I take a note of a person or a story that I heard during the day. Either someone shared a piece of personal information about them, or we cried together because that happens often. I'm the mother of two young school-aged children. Um, and I remind myself through that notebook to check in with that person and follow up. And I don't, I started doing that and I don't want to stop because for me, that is a valuable connection that I'm making was a person and a colleague, um, stop doing. Honestly, I have stopped wasting so much of my downtime on social media and being very thoughtful about how I spend that time with family, friends, and really nourishing my own brain and my heart.
Elisa00:42:08 Um, it's really helped me build my grit and resilience and continue doing, what am I going to bring with me in this new normal well hand sanitizer? For one, I never realized that we were all going to have such this close relationship with those little bottles. Um, but you know, I've developed an acute awareness of what's happening around me, really being present and aware of who's sitting next to me and who's speaking near me and not, I don't, I want to carry this with me, not because I want any of us to prolong this paranoia about germs, but because when the masks come off, I want to be able to enjoy seeing people's beautiful smiles. And I don't want that to be lost on me. So that acute awareness, yes, I might need to shift it, but I want to keep it.
Michelle BB 00:42:59 I love that. And, and yes, I want to see people smile again, because right now all we can do is see it with the eyes. And I feel like we're only getting half that, right. We're only getting, um, Emma, Emma, talk to me, start, stop, continue.
Elisa00:43:14 Oh gosh. I was kind of thinking about it from, from a work perspective and now it gone and, and, and, and telling us from a personal, so I think, you know, one of the things I started during the pandemic was actually online, grocery shopping. And in the beginning, it almost felt like it was a full-time job trying to find, you know, delivery slots. You know, I became an expert at tracking down to the point, you know, hand sanitize and Clorox wipes and things like that. Um, what it also did is it forced me to find, you know, other other stores that I hadn't bought before. And, you know, one day I'll tell you the story of my 10 pounds of chicken wings, you know, how I thought I would never run out of chicken wings again. So, so I think, you know, it, it gave me a different perspective and, and, you know, I started online shopping for my parents in South Africa as well. So, you know, doing long distance, grocery shopping has also been interesting. Um, I think, you know, stop, um, ah, what I have stopped there, there's quite a few things that I've stopped. I think one of the things stopped is perhaps watching
Emma00:44:32 As much news, um, because you know, it just reached a point where it was just all consuming and, you know, watching the numbers and, and so on. And it just started to really wear on me. And I found that, you know, almost every conversation I was having with people, whether it was work-related, you know, we'd start phone calls and sign, and it was all about the pandemic and about the numbers and so on. And, and I just felt that, you know, I was, I was moving down into this funk and I was like, okay, now I'm going to stop doing that. I'm going to stop focusing on the book, kind of start focusing on what are the positive things that have come out of that pandemic, you know, things like, for example, doing zoom meetings with my friends, um, that we would normally have gone out to the house, and now we can do just a quick one hour call, but more regularly, more often to connect.
Emma 00:45:21 So, you know, just, just stop that, that focus on one thing and use the time for something else as, as, um, Elisa was, was talking about. And then continue, I think, continue, I will talk a little bit more about my work. Um, you know, we found that we had to pivot so often and so quickly with so many things that, what it meant was that I couldn't be involved in everything. I couldn't oversee everything, approve everything and so forth. And so I really just opened up and gave my team the power to just go out and do, do what needs to be done. Kind of keep me informed. But even if it's after the case, as long as you following everything with good intent for the good of the company, and nothing's going to happen, that'll appear in the front page of the newspaper that you don't want your grandma to read, you know, go for it. And so, you know, I wanted to continue that, that feeling of empowerment that I gave my team to just go out and, and do what needs to be done, because there's been some fantastic ideas and just own a ship around outcomes that perhaps I had not empowered before. Thank you so much for that, Emma. Um, Karen, I, you know, I, I think that we've heard some great, um, both personal and professional examples of start, stop and continue. What do you want to share with us
Karen00:46:47 Personal start? Um, I've been encouraged many, many times to write a book about my career in the FBI and to write a book about my late husband's career in the FBI. So I have actually started my book, um, and we'll see how that goes. I'm collaborating with someone who was a, a pretty famous writer. I can't drop his name without his permission, but, uh, collaborating with somebody else in writing has been, um, uh, has been really powerful for me. Um, what I've stopped. I don't wear makeup anymore. And I was always, uh, the, the girl who never left the house without full war paint. I mean, foundation eyeliner, you know, the whole nine yards and I've just stopped wearing makeup. And then I found that to be just wonderful, to not have to deal with that. And then, um, what I'm going to continue is, uh, uh, and, and again, this is personal, but, um, I was married in November of 2018.
Karen00:47:52 And so it's been very interesting to be a newlywed in a pandemic, and I am going to continue, uh, this great marriage. I could not have picked a better pandemic partner and that it wasn't a litmus test that I applied at the time we started dating, like, is this the person that I want to spend all my time with an UPenn DEMEC, but it's turned out to have been, uh, a great decision. And, um, I'm happy for it because if you look at the news, the divorce numbers are not good and I'm happy. I made the right choice in a partner.
Michelle BB 00:48:27 Well, congratulations to you, Karen. And when your book comes out, you must let us know any advanced copies. We are happy to buy, because I will tell you, I've got to hear about this amazing life that you've had and the transition in your career. So I can't wait to read it.
Michelle00:48:43 Karen and Emma, we got personal, but it's all about what did we talk about transferable skills, right? Whether it's eating more chocolate or interacting with our teams differently, it's really about shifting and pivoting the way we are in life and at work. So I love your stories. Thank you. You know, and Elisa, I think we probably could have gone on forever. And so one of the things that will come out of this discussion as well as others, is that we will be writing a Skillsoft three 60 reports. So if you are a fan of that report, we will be publishing one on the shifting role of the CLO. So look for that soon. And then as I have been doing most recently in these podcasts, I will share with you either what I am learning today, or what is next on my playlist in Skillsoft Percipio. And right now I think it's completely apropos, but the next book I'm going to read is entitled the empathy factor, your competitive advantage for personal team and business success. And yes, you can find it right in Percipio. So Karen, Emma, and Alyssa, thank you so much for taking this time to be with us on the edge podcast, to our listeners. Thank you for tuning into this and to every episode as we unleash our edge together on behalf of the entire Skillsoft team and our guests today, I think we can all say that we want you to keep learning, keep growing, keep finding ways to network, engage with and learn from your peers. Whether you're a chief learning officer or a chief beneficiary of their tireless work on behalf of learners. I'm Michelle BB, and this is The Edge.
About Our Guest
Emma Engel is Director for Global Learning, Engagement and Culture for Lenovo where she heads up leadership development for the Americas and Engagement/ Culture for all of Lenovo outside China. She was previously the Chief Learning & Inclusion Officer at Unisys where she led the Global Talent Growth team responsible for growth, performance, and development.
As a versatile, global talent executive, Emma increases enterprise value by partnering with executive leadership and clients to identify and resolve performance gaps. She effectively directs teams that design innovative and cost-effective solutions that accelerate business growth and improve the talent pipeline without disrupting business momentum.
Emma holds a post-graduate Certificate in Management from the Macquarie University Graduate School of Management in New South Wales, Australia. Her Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Clinical psychology is from Rand Afrikaans University, Johannesburg, South Africa.
About Our Guest
Dr. Karen Wolf serves as Chief Learning Officer of ManTech International, responsible for overseeing the planning, staffing, and budgets for the company’s training and talent management. An accomplished professional in developing e-Learning solutions in higher education, government and corporate educational settings, she also manages all ManTech’s education and training process and procurement, protocols, schedules, and learning methods. In addition, she has over 20 years of experience managing workforce training programs with the FBI. Consistently recognized by her peers for efficiency and innovation in L&D, Dr. Wolf is a six-time winner of the Chief Learning Officer LearningElite Award.
About Our Guest
Elisa Vincent is the Vice President of Global Talent Enablement at Skillsoft, where she leads strategic initiatives that foster the individual and collective success of the organization. Her journey to human capital leadership was not a traditional one. She has built a latticed model to her own career path that has afforded her many opportunities to grow new leadership strengths and skills. She started her career in international education and study abroad where she designed, developed, and led international leadership development experiences for students and faculty - experiences that enabled research and study of gender equality and equity around the world. She was a founding member of the Bentley University Center for Women in Business leadership team, where she served as both consultant and leadership coach for organizational and emerging leaders in various industries. After moving into corporate human capital management, her goal has been to build transformative talent development and management infrastructures that enable cultures of inclusion, equity, and belonging. She has designed and implemented leadership models and learning content, curricula, and experiences with proven success and rapid adoption in diverse markets, and she has loved every moment.
About Our Host
As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global marketing organization, focused on transforming today’s workforce for tomorrow’s economy. Since joining the company, she has been responsible for Skillsoft’s global marketing strategy, which includes generating awareness, driving preference, and building affinity for Skillsoft. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – Michelle serves as the company's brand evangelist, helping to build a vibrant community of passionate learners.
With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle has made it her personal mission to support the advancement of women in business. Prior to Skillsoft, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson, where she was instrumental in developing the first “Women Leaders in AI” program, which honors women who put AI to work across industries and around the globe. She also served as the global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies understand how to anticipate, plan for, and ultimately make better decisions – with greater confidence – in the face of weather.
Michelle is a prolific speaker on a range of topics, including the war for talent, digital transformation, and marketing in a post-pandemic world. She covers these topics and more as the host of Skillsoft's podcast, The Edge, now in its second season. She has authored countless papers covering a range of business and marketing topics, was at the center of Skillsoft’s leadership role in DEI through free “Leadercamps,” and has taught two Percipio courses on the Pink Pandemic and Public Speaking.
Michelle is also a founding member of CMO Huddles, a group dedicated to bringing together and empowering highly effective B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Michelle holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.