Building Competence and Confidence through Learning
Even before the pandemic forced learning leaders to rethink their training programs, Constellation Brands, maker of many leading wine, beer, and spirits, was pivoting to ensure learners were set up for success. In this Powered by Learning episode, d'Vinci client Maggie Romanovich of Constellation Brands, talks with d’Vinci Client Solutions Consultant Angeline Evans about the changes they’ve made to impact learner engagement, retention, and the bottom line.
Director of Learning & Development, Wine & Spirits at Constellation Brands Maggie Romanovich shares how L&D continues to evolve and grow to make training relevant and impactful for every individual. Some of her key takeaways include:
- Remember that confidence and competency should work together in lockstep.
- Give people an opportunity to imagine how they’re going to use what they’re learning now in their actual job tomorrow.
- Don’t put people through unnecessary learning. Seek out opportunities to use learning to set team members up for success.
- Your learners are your most important stakeholders. Find champions to help gain buy in for learning.
Read Level Set and Level Up: A Learner-Centric Approach to Training in a Virtual Environment by Angeline Evans with Maggie Romanovich, Constellation Brands
Learn more about d'Vinci's ecoLearn® LMS mentioned in the podcast.
Powered by Learning earned an Award of Distinction in the Podcast/Audio category from The Communicator Awards and a Silver Davey Award for Educational Podcast. The podcast is also named to Feedspot's Top 40 L&D podcasts and Training Industry’s Ultimate L&D Podcast Guide.
Speaker 1: [00:00] This is Powered by Learning, a podcast designed for learning leaders to hear the latest approaches to creating learning experiences that engage learners and achieve improved performance for individuals and organizations.
Speaker 2: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d’Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d’Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.
Susan: Hello, and welcome to Powered by Learning. I'm your host Susan Cort. Today, I'm joined by d’Vinci Client Solutions consultant Angeline Evans, and our guest, Maggie Romanovich, Director of Learning and Development (Wine and Spirits) at Constellation Brands. Constellation Brands is a leading international producer and marketer of beer, wine, and spirits with operations in the US, Mexico, New Zealand, and Italy.
You may not know the name Constellation Brands, but you most certainly know their iconic brands, including Corona, Modelo, the Robert Mondavi brand family, Meiomi, SVEDKA Vodka, and High West Whiskey, to name a few. Welcome, Maggie. Great to see you.
Angeline: It's great to talk to you again, Maggie.
Maggie: Thanks for having me.
Susan: Maggie, you were recently promoted and took on a new role at Constellation. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you're doing and the learning audience you're now serving?
Maggie: Yes, absolutely. I've been at Constellation for about 14 years and started in learning and development about halfway into that. I've had roles with beer learning and development, most recently with our TBA National Accounts Team. Then last year, we re-orged and now I lead learning and development for our sales team for our mainstream and super-premium portfolio within the wine and spirits business.
Now, my focus is on the main group [02:00] of sales folks that handle that portfolio, but I also work very closely with my counterpart in our newly formed premium and luxury division Aspira.
It's really great. It's an opportunity to collaborate across those different groups. We've got a fantastic group of professionals who we all work with together, and of course, we collaborate very closely with our global and our beer counterparts as well.
Susan: That's great. Well, we're looking forward to hearing more from you today.
Angeline: We are. We recently kicked off the new year and this is often when we're developing, just finishing developing, or even beginning to roll out our plan of attack for the year, what are our organization's business goals? Where does training tie into that? Have we identified any skill gaps? What are our learners asking for? What do they need? For today, I was hoping we could talk about the considerations you like to keep in mind when you're developing your learning plan for the year. Maggie, where do you like to start, or what do you look at first?
Maggie: Sure. It's always got to be a combination of our learners. They have to be at the center of everything we do, but so does our strategy. [03:00] As we think about what we want to accomplish with our goals from a business standpoint, we've got a couple of things that we look at. We've got a capability scorecard. We also have our actual sales goals, and then the global goals, how they all ladder together. In my mind, it becomes this three-dimensional view of where all of those things intersect in a way that allows our learners to spend as much time in the field as possible.
Then I start thinking about our audience and who they are, what it comprises of. There's essentially four personas that I look at. There's people who are new to the organization and new to role, someone who just graduated from college or an intern perhaps, or someone who maybe has moved over from one of our distributors and is taking on a new sales role. Then there are people who are new to the organization but might be experienced in that role. They don't necessarily need to learn how to do the work, but how Constellation approaches it. Then people who have been in the organization for a while, but want to level up.
What do those folks need? [04:00] Because they're going to need something a little bit different and probably a little bit deeper or even a refresh. People who have been around for six, seven years and took a really fantastic foundational course at the beginning of their career may need a refresher, and we should refresh that too because business has changed quite a bit, especially over the last couple of years. Then explorers. This can take a lot of different forms. It could be someone who maybe is in supply chain and is looking into getting into sales operations or someone who is in HR and is interested in category management. Or someone who's in sales but wants to hone in on some of their more analytical skills.
What sorts of things do we have available for them to level set? I also take the approach-- I've got a philosophy around how we want to go about our learning. We look at our strategy for our organization, we look at our audience, but then I want to make sure that our learning is sustainable. How do we take it beyond the classroom or beyond the learning intervention? I want to make sure that it's relevant to their job. I like to say about 80% of it should be things that you're doing it now [05:00] and 20% of it should be thinking into the future unless we're tackling that future view intentionally.
I want it to be actionable. I want to make sure that they can do something with the information that we gave them and that they discovered immediately after the event, and I want it to be inclusive. A good example - we only launched our e-commerce curriculum last year and it wasn't just about sales. It was also about our marketing teams, our category teams, how our e-commerce sales folks that sat within our omnichannel business, interacted with those that sit within our e-commerce focus business.
Those are the three things that I look at. It's our corporate strategy, our sales strategy, what kind of learners we're talking about, and then what kind of learning we want to approach.
Angeline: Thank you. In working with you, I've always loved the way you've really tackled the different learner personas. I think that's not an angle that everyone always approaches. I love the concept of explorers because that's not something [06:00] I hear people talk about often, but might possibly want a job switch. When you've developed these learner personas, was it just practical experience and you came up with them yourself as you spoke with people at the organization? Did you do a survey? How did you establish that?
Maggie: I came up with it on my own while we were developing our category in space camp because that's an area that it can take a really long time to become a specialist in the software that we use to really become an expert in it. As we were thinking about how we wanted to approach it in the different levels, that's where it started to bloom, I guess, where it started to grow. Then I started thinking about my own experience at Constellation. I have a radio degree and I started off as a media planner here at Constellation.
I got to benefit from the culture. I put into it when I got out of it. At Constellation, we really pride ourselves in people being able to find work they love at work. Our philosophy is worth reaching for, people worth reaching for, careers worth reaching for, products worth reaching for. [07:00] I wanted to make sure that we had some space for people who wanted to understand it a little bit better without having to take the full plunge into the deep end of a new role or to prepare themselves for a new role.
We had somebody who was exploring category management who was in customer management before which is on the supply chain side. Because we had that explorer space for her, I'm like, "Take these three things, see if this is something that you want to pursue." She took them and she loved it. She interviewed fantastically. I just was talking to the woman who leads her team and she's like, "She has gotten up to speed faster than anybody that I've hired before. I really appreciate her enthusiasm."
Creating that space allowed her to gain some momentum before even going into that role and really succeeding in bringing her full value. It's hard when you start a new job and you don't bring your full value. I wanted to make sure that we had some space for that as well, but also not taking for granted the people who've been around for a long time. We were in the middle of a great resignation. Let's make sure that we're [00:08:00] supporting people who have chosen to stay, who find fulfillment in the work they do. They also deserve to be developed and supported as they grow their career here and look for new opportunities to level up.
Angeline: That's an awesome story about her using that training to get up to speed on a completely different career path. Thank you for sharing that. Still looking at the learners and considering the different training approaches and modalities you use. In LD we’re often asked, what's their special formulas? What's the perfect formula for the way you want to deliver training? Is it e-learning followed by this? What do you consider? Especially with sales because that's a unique audience when you're deciding on a training modality.
Maggie: I wish I knew what the secret formula was. I think the secret formula is there is no secret formula. You have to take…
Angeline: Yes, right answer.
Maggie: Surprise! spoiler alert! That's the secret formula! The potion is you have to consider all of those things from scratch, to begin with.
One of the things that I was-- We were moving towards this before the pandemic happened and we all got grounded essentially. Looking for ways to optimize our time in the field. There's a really great guy out in my area. His name's Ken Phillips, and he really digs into evaluation, predictive analytics on how learning's going to be effective and how to minimize scrap learning.
That's where the relevance part of my learning philosophy comes into play. I want to make sure that the things that we provide are relevant and actionable. I take that approach ahead of time and then match it up with the strategies. You can see it surface of what the right modality is.
A really good example is, prior to everything shutting down, pretend the world goes back to normal. We looked into some software training for a really seemingly intense analytical tool. We had put some of our people through our teams through a four-day training. It was live and in-person, it's very difficult for [10:00] people to step away from the business that long to be able to put in there out of office, especially when they're not on PTO - their boss knows where they are. Our business moves very quickly, everybody's does these days. People got into that classroom and really, ideally, would have been able to focus very clearly, have one thing to focus on, but you're getting calls from your boss, you've got your clients calling you and it was very difficult for people to absorb the whole thing. Some people told me that they were lost in the first hour because they got pulled away into a quick meeting with someone important.
When we look to reignite our interest in that software, we looked at different options for how could we flip the classroom, so to speak. My husband's a math teacher, and he flips his classroom. He does videos, and he sends his kids home and says, "Your homework is to watch this video and take notes. We're going to do our homework together tomorrow." I had heard of the flip classroom and developed my own personal development, [11:00] and thought we'd try that. I found-- it was a seven-hour course on a syndicated learning platform and we gave them eight weeks to go through it.
I said, what you're going to do is you're going to do about an hour a week, pace yourself, give yourself-- we gave them a little bit of a buffer so that if they got behind, they could catch up. I said, "Once we're done with that, we're all going to come together, and we're going to create the tools that we intended to have based on that software." Because of that, in the live session, you're learning all of the clicks and all of the navigation and then you're sent home to do the work on your own. We've flipped that, we put them through an opportunity to learn an hour, digest it, try some things out, learn.
You're giving them a nutritious meal spread out over time, as opposed to cramming their faces and gluttonous roundedness classroom. Previously, when we were in the live session, 10 people out of the 50 that went through it were actually [12:00] using the tool afterwards like it's a company-wide thing. I'm not saying that my program led to that, but it certainly drove adoption. Now we're using that as the baseline. We have a sustainment piece to it too, we've got a weekly check-in, we have new courses that are available.
I would say, long story long, that for a sales team, having that flipped classroom piece has really helped people feel like they could be developed, and not take a lot of very important time out of the marketplace. That's really going to be important when things start opening up again. People aren't going to want to go and spend five days in a workshop. What they're going to want to do is go spend time with our customers, they're going to want to go and get into the field, they're going to want to go into the stores and check the shelves. We need to be prepared to provide them with learning opportunities that give them development that they need, without risking their business.
Angeline: Right. It sounds like that approach really mitigates the forgetting curve because if you're in a workshop for four days, how much of that are you taking back with you, especially with something that's like technology training where you really need to be doing hands-on and have it work for you when you need it?
Maggie: Absolutely. Give them the space to imagine. One of the things that I think we forget about, we talk about the kinesthetic audio and visual learning, but there's also imagination. How do you imagine yourself using these things in the future? That can be really powerful to give yourself some space to think about that. We don't take a lot of time to have thinking time. I got a half an hour free today, how do I create that space? Giving your learners time to think about how they're going to use that instead of having a page of notes they never go back to, they're actually taking notes and trying a couple of things before they go on to that next course, that next chapter that they're trying to learn.
Susan: Do you think that the changing business world and the hybrid world that we're living in now has really encouraged [14:00] you at Constellation to rethink how you do learning? It sounds like you've pivoted in all the right directions because of how things have changed lately.
Maggie: I think so. I think we were leaning towards that to begin with because our sales force is home-field based. I think what it did, like it did with a lot of other things, it just accelerated it quite a bit. I think that there is still a lot of value in coming together and learning from each other. I want to make sure that that time means something. I do think that this hybrid world outside of field-based sales organization, I've never been busier.
When COVID hit and we shut down, I know that there were people who were like, "I don't know what to do because I'm out in the field all the time." You know what they did? They wanted to learn. We hit the gas on a lot of those things and we were able to accelerate the development of-- like Angeline and I worked on our space planning software training because people couldn't come together to do a workshop. We certainly aren't going to put people in front of a computer for an eight-hour webinar and how to make that work. [15:00] We were able to make an even stronger case for going into that blended learning approach as opposed to flying everybody everywhere for workshops.
Angeline: Absolutely. Just anecdotally, what feedback have you received?
Maggie: Well, I mentioned before that we've got people who are exploring new careers, and now they have those learning opportunities to be able to explore that a little bit. I think that people are very enthusiastic about everything they have available to them, but it can also be overwhelming. Now that we have created this huge buffet of learning, we need to put some order to it to figure out where people can start.
Angeline, you and I are working on that curriculum mapping, where it's like, how do we create an organized buffet if people need to go and choose what they want, or how do we create a prefix menu where somebody needs to go through an organized course in order to get the full experience? [16:00] I think that's the direction that we're headed in in this environment.
Angeline: I love that analogy. That's exactly what curriculum mapping is, everybody, a buffet and a menu. Before we wrap up, let's talk a little bit about evaluation. You touched on it a few minutes ago. Measuring success with training can be really tricky. Sometimes it's based on feedback from your learner. Sometimes you have clear-cut data that says, "Yes, we deliver to seller training, and we improve performance. Here's how you can see that." What are some different ways that you've been able to measure success at Constellation?
Maggie: Obviously, as a learning professional, you'd love to get that level one evaluation, where it's like, "Oh, yes, the facilitator knew exactly what she was talking about and the WebEx worked perfectly." That's really just first impressions. I like to get a benchmark ahead of time. Give me your pre-course thoughts. Do you feel confident in the space? Because, as we know, confidence means the world to a lot of people. [17:00] If I'm confident that I can do it, I can do it, but we want to make sure that their confidence and their competence are on equal footing.
We don't want somebody who's really good at what they do, but they're not very confident; and we definitely don't want to have somebody who's very confident and not competent at all. We want to make sure that we're matching those two metrics up.
I like to measure people's confidence before and after. We did that with the space planning software. How are you feeling ahead of time? How are you feeling after? It's an easier way to share back, like, "Hey, we had 50% of the people we invited attend. We can say we have 20% increase in confidence based on first impressions of the course."
It's harder as time goes on and as priorities shift and change to check in with that knowledge check, the behavior change, seeing if it actually moves the needle with the business. We're working towards that. One of the things that I think is really important is, number one, evaluating for growth and not evaluating for punitive repercussions. We're not going to [18:00] fire anybody for failing. We have to make sure that we're putting all of those things in place to make sure that people were given the full opportunity to succeed.
I think that's really important. I think, positive reinforcement, being able to say, like, "Hey this person got to the advanced level of this, or this person got a 90% score on this particular benchmarking test, here's a badge." Being able to prove your worth. Excuse me, being able to prove your knowledge performance, certainly not tied to worth, but being able to prove your performance and how you're applying that knowledge, I think, is really critical.
Being able to look to your neighbor, look to your colleagues and say like, "Wow, Angeline did a really great job with that, I'd like to get that badge in my signature." Or, "Because I went through all of this, and I demonstrated my expertise, I've gotten recognition from our leaders. I was invited to a special one on one with our Chief Sales Officer."
I think being able to provide positive reinforcement through success in that area, but also provide visibility because that's something that a field-based team doesn't always get. A lot of times proximity can be an indicator of success and we don't necessarily want that. It doesn't speak to that diversity, equity, and inclusion tenets that are so important to make sure that we've got a well-rounded salesforce. We want to make sure that that visibility is brought to life. Being able to publish and broadcast success, I think, is really critical.
Then being able to identify gaps. When you benchmark and then you reassess, what are those gaps that we're seeing? Because we have created this buffet-style capabilities-focused menu of things to choose from, we're not putting people through unnecessary learning, we're identifying those opportunities where we can really target what they need to be successful.
Angeline: Thank you, Maggie. To the point with badges, having them there to [20:00] increase visibility also lets folks if they have a good report with someone and they say, "Oh, I see you're an advanced user at this," they might be more likely to ask that person a silly question that they have been hesitant on than their manager or whomever else might be.
Maggie: That's a really important piece. We do that with our onboarding as we put together buddies. To your point, being able to have a mentor, being able to have somebody who was in your class with you, we want to make sure that people get the answers.
We don't necessarily care who they get them from as long as they're the right one. Some people won't ask, to your point, if you have to ask your manager why is it like this, or what button was I supposed to click, or where do I find that information? You don't want to expose yourself that way. We do a lot of foundational learning too so that we can-- E-commerce is a really good example of that. People are at a different place in their journey. How do we bring them up to speed?
I use the analogy of that emperor's new clothes. Nobody wants to say they don't know about something, especially leaders. If a new initiative is coming into play, let's just, you know what? We're just going to assume that nobody knows anything. [21:00] If you know this stuff, cool, take what you want and leave the rest. Let's get everybody up to the same level of knowledge that we expect them to be at. Then people can discreetly take the learning and then fully participate in the workshop. That's actually another benefit of having that flipped classroom because you get a lot more participation in the short time that you do have because you brought everybody up to speed.
Angeline: Thank you. You shared some awesome stories and advice for this session. Before you leave, do you have any advice for listeners who are developing a learning plan? Parting words of wisdom.
Maggie: Sure. I would say that your learners are your most important stakeholder. Sometimes people are going to be resistant, they think they're going to know everything. It's going to be difficult for them to realize that they might get some benefit out of the learning. My recommendation, again, with your learners, is bring them along. Bring in the people like you, who they are. You know who your people are, who are going to be like, 'Oh, I don't need this." Bring them in. Say, "Great, [22:00] help me create this. Be a subject matter expert for me."
Then they become a champion for you. I think that those people hold a lot of weight in the mood that they place on a lot of the learning interventions that you create.
Also, look for new voices. Don't go to the same pool of people every single time. Tend to have like your go-to buddies that you know what they're doing, but meet a couple new folks and bring them into the fold as well. Then of course gain leadership alignment because if your leaders aren't enthusiastic about your learning, their people, they're not going to be given space to take that. Bring your leaders along, bring your champions along, bring your detractors along. Collaboration is critical in this. That would be my biggest piece of wisdom.
Angeline: That's great. Thank you so much.
Susan: Great advice, Maggie. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. It's always great to see you, and we always love to learn what's going on in your world at Constellation Brands.
Maggie: Thank you so much for having me. This is great.
Susan: Angeline, always so great to talk with Maggie.
Angeline: I know. I always enjoy talking with her and I really loved hearing her approach to developing training strategy today, especially the concept of creating a space for your learners to explore and imagine. Too often we put learners in boxes and we really dictate the experience, which is totally needed because, to some extent, we need to make sure we're meeting our learning objectives. We need to do that. She makes a really good point that we also need to give them time to dive deeper into content and what interests them and also give them that opportunity to imagine how they're going to use what they're learning now tomorrow in their actual job.
She's totally right also when it comes to measuring success and impact. We're not just trying to increase competency, we're also trying to increase confidence and empower our learners. Confidence and competency should really improve in lockstep. It was a great conversation today. I really enjoyed it.
Susan: Thanks, Angeline. That was a great wrap-up. Before we head out today, anything new at d'Vinci that you'd like to share?
Angeline: There's a lot going on at d'Vinci but recently our ecoLearn Team-- [00:24:00] For listeners who don't know what ecoLearn is, ecoLearn is d'Vinci's learning management system or LMS. Our team just kicked off the discovery phase for a new client who will be getting installation of our LMS. The discovery phase is always really exciting.
ecoLearn is a custom LMS. The team works with them upfront to really outline their unique requirements, identify features they'll need on their site, because each client is different and you don't really necessarily need every bell and whistle on your site, you just need what's going to be relevant and meaningful to your learning audience and administrators that are tracking the performance. It's been fun to see this project and site take shape.
Susan: That sounds great. If our listeners are interested, they can learn more about ecoLearn on our website. Thanks, Angeline.
Susan: Many thanks to our guest, Maggie Romanovich, of Constellation Brands, for joining us today. If you have any questions about what we talked about, you can reach out to us on d'Vinci's social channels, through our website, dvinci.com, or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Speaker 2: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.
By Angeline Evans, Client Solutions Consultant
d'Vinci Interactive is an award-winning comprehensive learning solutions provider for corporate, government, medical, non-profit, and K-12 target markets.