Man and woman planning at white board
eLearning Learning
January 31, 2024

Building Organizational Strength through Training

The right combination of strategic planning, organizational development, and training can lead to success. In this episode, Monica Gould, President of Strategic Consulting Partners, shares how meaningful learning experiences can engage a workforce.


Show Notes:

These takeaways reflect Monica Gould's insights into effective learning strategies, organizational development, and the importance of customization and measurement in training initiatives.

  • Create meaningful learning experiences: Consider shifting from traditional lecture-based learning to more meaningful learning experiences. Gould says that adults prefer to learn through engaging training and hands-on experiences rather than passive lectures.
  • Engage and develop a workforce: Align learning initiatives with the organization's strategy and vision to help build organizational capacity.
  • Tailor solutions to get results: Provide customized solutions that are tailored to the specific needs of each audience. By understanding the organization’s culture, concerns, and workforce dynamics, you can create personalized learning experiences that are more effective than generic, off-the-shelf training.
  • Measure impact for continuous improvement: Measure the impact of training beyond immediate feedback. Using the Kirkpatrick model, assess behavioral changes, employee retention improvements, promotions, and cultural shifts. This data-driven approach allows for continuous improvement and helps organizations see the long-term effectiveness of the learning programs.

Learn more about Strategic Consulting Partners

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.


Susan Cort: [00:00:00] The right combination of strategic planning, organizational development, and training can help an organization succeed. But today's learners are looking for more meaningful learning experiences. First

Monica Gould: and foremost, we know that adults love to learn by experience, and they love engaging training. So, the day of the lecture and standing up in front of the classroom and really espousing leadership theories and expecting it to stick are gone.

Um, people are not interested in learning that way. They don't retain the learning.

Susan Cort: That's Monica Gould, President of Strategic Consulting Partners. Monica shares how learning experiences can build engagement and retention and make organizations more sustainable. Next. On Powered by Learning.

Announcer: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. d'Vinci's approach to learning is grounded in 30 years of innovation and expertise. We use proven [00:01:00] strategies and leading technology to develop solutions that empower learners to improve quality and boost performance. Learn more at

Susan Cort: Welcome to Powered by Learning, Monica. It's great to talk with you

Monica Gould: today. Yeah, great to see you again, Monica. Wonderful to be here. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you today. We're

Susan Cort: excited to talk with you. Let's start out by giving our listeners a little bit about your background and your company's background.

Monica Gould: Great. Yeah, we're strategic consulting partners and we've been in business 29 years. And our focus is really building organizational capacity through learning, through employee engagement, through workforce development, and through strategy.

Luke Kempski: That's great. I know it's been a lot of years since you came in and trained our managers, uh, probably almost 20 years ago, and I know I still apply some of what I learned from the past.

Thank you. Management and leadership classes that you did for our firm. And, um, you know, since then your firm has really grown and you've really kind of scaled [00:02:00] what you do beyond just training to workforce strategy, organizational development, engagement, and then of course, continuing to do training as well.

What are the primary motivations for an organization to hire your firm? Today, and how do you go about delivering the results they're looking

Monica Gould: for? That's a great question, Luke. So for us, it all begins with the strategy of what organizations want to do and where they perceive themselves to be going. And taking that, that strategy and the vision for their future is really building the human capacity.

To engender and make sure that the work can actually get done. So as our work has grown, what we are seeing is that leaders are really looking for organizations that understand the link between learning and achieving their strategies and a link between learning and engaging their employees. So therefore a lot of what we do is building customized solutions for clients that are really going to help them meet their strategy build [00:03:00] their workforce and build the capacity in the organizations so that they can achieve their vision and their mission.

Luke Kempski: That's excellent. Do you have an example of maybe how strategic planning and organizational development and leadership and training, how they can all come together to help an organization really thrive and move forward?

Monica Gould: Yes, I have a great example. We are currently working with the USDA dairy program, and we started with strategic planning with them and doing a little bit of employee engagement and understanding what drives their employees, what they were faced with is a aging workforce, And, uh, lack of workers being available to, to come into the federal government and in supporting the dairy program.

And so they engaged us to not only develop a strategy for the organization and where they're going, but specifically looking at the human capital strategy. How do we. Um, prepare our new set of leaders for the work that needs to be done. How do we engage the employees that are here to [00:04:00] keep them? Because workforce is a real challenge right now.

There are not as many workers, uh, available as, uh, as employers would like. And so through that employee engagement strategy and that. That human capital strategy, we identified some significant learning opportunities and develop and career development opportunities for employees that would not only engage them, but also prepare them for the future.

So we are actually taking that strategy and we are piloting, um, at. Beginning in January, a brand new Emerging Leader Program. We're doing a pilot of that for the leadership and we're seeing where that takes us in terms of really growing the leadership and really helping the leaders be more prepared for the future.

And if that program works and that includes. Coaching, that includes mentorship, that includes a lot of experiential learning experiences in that pilot. If that works, we'll be, um, doing that across the country and having several cohorts of, of leaders going through that, [00:05:00] that, uh, Emerging Leader Program.

Luke Kempski: That's excellent. That's great. Yeah, when you, when you think about when you're looking at if that works, you mentioned. So how do you, what will be some of the determining factors in terms of how you evaluate whether to scale the program as is or whether to modify the training or modify the approach before you scale it to a deeper audience?

Monica Gould: That's a really great question, Luke. One of the things that we really love to do is develop performance metrics for the trainings that we, um, put in place. So, we're looking for behavior changes in leaders. We're looking for employee retention improvements. We're looking for promotions that are happening within the organization.

So, if you think about an emerging leader, these are people who have potential that maybe are not in leadership positions right now that may consider being in leadership but didn't really necessarily see themselves or have the skills or tools yet to, to move into those roles. So by providing those skills and those [00:06:00] tools to those leaders, they build confidence.

Um, they start to, uh, apply to new roles. They start to move into leadership roles. And we've done this with other organizations. We've done it in In the corporate world, as well as in the government sector, and we have seen these programs be very successful as feeder programs into leadership to ensure that, you know, as, as the baby boomers retire and, and, you know, the workforce is dwindling at the top, that emerging leaders can really, you know, fill the gap and be prepared to take on those new responsibilities.

Luke Kempski: You mentioned that you customize your solutions per, you know, for the situation, for the client, for the organizationals need, um, do you have a certain philosophy when it comes to. How do you approach training and the learning experiences that you want to apply to help develop these emerging leaders?

Monica Gould: Yeah, so, you know, first and foremost, we know that adults love to learn by [00:07:00] experience and they love engaging training. So, The, the day of the lecture and standing up in front of the classroom and really espousing leadership theories and expecting it to stick are gone. Um, people are not interested in learning that way.

They don't retain the learning. So what we do is we build in experiential learning. We build in case studies, um, specific to the client. So if they have specific challenges that they're dealing with or specific. Industry, conversations they need to deal with a specific employee, uh, you know, conversations that need to be had.

They're all built in, customized to the client so that when the learner is in the classroom they understand they can apply it immediately. And so there's a little bit of lecture but, you know, mostly it's about learning together. Actually having small group discussions, building case studies, reading and learning, and figuring out how to apply what is learned to the workplace.

Um, the other thing as a part of a great emerging leader [00:08:00] program is you actually have projects that you work on and you, you have those projects. Support the organization's strategic goals. So, small groups work on, you know, critical projects that are going to drive growth or are going to drive marketing or whatever the topic is that is really burning for the leadership.

And those small groups actually, you know, work through those things. They learn about the organization and then they present those back to leadership. So, it gives them an opportunity to, to serve in a leadership role, but it also gives them the opportunity to really impact the business and have a taste for what strategy looks like and if they are, you know, employing some of these strategies or some of these new learnings, what that might mean for the organization.

So, we've seen a lot of success, um, with experiential training and giving people the opportunity to really, uh, apply what they've learned.

Susan Cort: Monica, I bet that makes the learning really stick because they're Doing real world examples for their business. And I, and I bet you've [00:09:00] seen that really work well.

Monica Gould:  We really have.

And, uh, and we've seen organizations really thrive in environments like that. And you know what, the employees love it because they can really, you know, see the value of the training. So it's not just a. Check the box training. I have to go to this. This is compliance oriented. This is something that's going to grow them, um, as leaders, but also oftentimes what we see is people grow as human beings as a part of these trainings, because when you're talking about things like communication, conflict resolution, Problem solving, uh, emotional intelligence, goal setting.

These are all things that can be applied personally as well as professionally. So, you know, leaders and potential leaders and staff folks really love it because they feel like they're growing personally, not just professionally.  

Luke Kempski: Yeah, that'sso rewarding, um, to be part of that. So, obviously, today it's much harder to bring large groups together for training conferences or training [00:10:00] experiences or training events.

You know, at the same time, it's easier than ever to reach groups through technology. How do you like to think about what types of training work? virtually well, and what, you know, want to still try to bring people in person together for.

Monica Gould:  So, you know, virtual training serves its own purpose. I mean, it's great because you can bring a lot of people together in a very short period of time across the country.

You don't have to worry about traveling in and all of those issues associated with that. Um, however, in a virtual learning environment, you don't have the same level of interaction in the classroom. You don't have the same level of interaction between participants in the classroom. So in in person learning, you often have small group learning and you can do exercises and people can stand up and walk around and go to a flip chart.

In a virtual training, you have to do all of that virtually. So what we try to do is engender and bring in every 10 minutes some sort of exercise, something where [00:11:00] they're standing up, they're engaged, they're meeting with each other, doing a whiteboard exercise or in small group activities and breakout sessions.

So we recognize that the adult learner can't sit for more than 20 minutes without just getting antsy and they're not absorbing anymore. So the best way to get to keep them engaged is every 10 minutes having something to do. And the other key piece is that really trainings beyond three or four hours virtually are, are not, you know, effective because people lose their interest, they get tired.

So what we like to do is every hour, give them a five or 10 minute break so they can stretch and they can move around and they can, you know, get a cup of tea or do whatever they need to do to take care of themselves. So those are kind of the big things that we've learned. Large group settings in large training environments.

There can be. Somewhat effective, but really the in person, there's nothing that beats the in person learning and that group interaction and the team building. So [00:12:00] what we have seen recently is that when people are bringing people in for training, so it used to be bringing people in for training because this is what you have to do.

When people are bringing people in for training, it is more about building the team and having people work together and figuring out solutions together. So a lot of our trainings now are kind of pivoting more to What can the team do together? How can we build shared values? How can we build trust amongst one another?

How do we communicate more effectively? How do we problem solve? And they use the training events as team building activities. So we built in a lot of really fun games and activities so that people are actually experiencing what we're trying to teach them rather than just theory.  

Luke Kempski: Do you use video or self paced training at all to kind of prepare people before they come in person for these events or afterward to kind of reinforce learning?

Monica Gould: Yes, often we, we have pre work that happens before the training. So if [00:13:00] there's some self assessments that need to be done or some reading or some books that we encourage people to, uh, to read before they come into the class, we like to reinforce the learning with, uh, Uh, references and, and different activities that they can do afterwards.

Uh, a good training program is one that is, uh, people are learning over time. Rather than having a once and done kind of experience. So, what we're seeing is, and we're doing a program for the State Department right now, whereby, you know, we're going to be having two Two hour chunks of learning over the course of several months, they'll have eight hours of learning, but it'll be two hours at a time.

They'll have homework and things to do in between, things to learn, things to practice that they can bring back into the classroom and share with others. And we find that those in a virtual environment seem to be the most effective because people are excited to see their peers, to share what they've learned, and they can really start to apply the learning.

Luke Kempski: Yeah, it really makes a [00:14:00] difference to combine in person and self paced and online virtual and use it to deliver different kinds of information and different kinds of experiences to really build that, that leadership, um, dimension in, and the capacity of an organization. I know you work with both government and nonprofits and corporations, and All organizations are facing a lot of change these days.

How do you, you know, look at the solutions that you provide in helping organizations evolve with the change that's happening to all of them?

Monica Gould: Yeah. So I think the biggest change that's happening in the workforce and in the workplace is really the virtual component. And we saw this after the pandemic and during the pandemic, we all had to go to virtual.

So it kind of hastened the technology utilization. What we found is that people get. Get zoomed out or burnt out of, of too many virtual meetings and too many virtual things. What we have learned is that really that [00:15:00] combination is critical and really identifying the specific needs of the organization.

So we often do a lot of work. with the organization before we come in and train anything in understanding what their needs are, what their culture is, what their concerns are, what kind of dynamics they have in terms of the engagement of the workforce, the demographics of the workforce make a difference.

And we learn all of that about the client beforehand so that when we come in and do learning experience, it is customized and tailored to that client. And it actually meets the needs of the employees much better than just an average off the shelf training. Monica, it

Susan Cort: Sounds like you really build thoughtful learning experiences. Do you ever have the opportunity with the clients you serve to measure how that training's working and if so, what kind of data are you looking at?

Monica Gould:  We love to use the Kirkpatrick model of, of learning and development to really understand the, you know, the level of learning and the impact it's having on the business.

And most [00:16:00] trainings are like the smiley face, you know, sheets that you get afterwards and you say, Oh, everybody really loved it. the training. What we like to do is three to six months after the training is really start to see what did the learner, you know, obtain or, you know, or absorb, what are they applying?

And the best way to really gauge that is through their leadership is have you seen a behavior change? Are you seeing some impact to, to what is happening to what this employee is bringing to the table? And so that's not an easy thing to do. And sometimes, you know, it. It's a, um, time consuming as well as a costly way to go about it, but it is actually the most effective way to train, to, to judge whether or not your training is actually making a difference.

What we like to do is we like to look at holistic programs, um, in the organization and we start to measure retention. We measure promotion rates. Um, we measure, you know, cultural change because we do a lot of employee engagement [00:17:00] surveys and those kinds of things. Are leaders actually being more respectful or are they being more engaging?

Are they setting better communication goals and expectations with their employees? And you can gauge that through 360 surveys. You can gauge that through employee engagement surveys. So With our clients that we do, you know, a lot of our learning and development, especially those customized solutions, we actually work with them to, to identify what are those metrics we want to measure, and then actually start to measure them.

Three months, six months, nine months, a year, two years in, and we have seen significant jumps in retention and engagement when we are customizing solutions the way we do.

Susan Cort: And probably for your long term clients, you're able to use those metrics to inform what you do from a learning standpoint moving forward.

Monica Gould: Absolutely. And then we see where the gaps are. We get to see, okay, so we did this great program and we thought, you know, [00:18:00] communication was a challenge and, you know, did we actually move the needle on communication? And so we can start to measure that through these, through these surveys and through interviews and focus groups and things like that.

Yeah, our engagement with the client. Afterwards, to measure is really a critical way, um, for organizations to be able to see whether or not it's actually moving.

Luke Kempski: So rewarding to see that impact, um, over time and then to be able to adapt the solution to, to meet the new needs that emerge. Uh, I guess, um, to wrap us up, Monica, talk a little bit about maybe something that you're working on right now that you're excited about, uh, inside strategic consulting partners.

Monica Gould: Oh, well, gosh, we have so many fun things that we're working on right now, but I think one of the, one of the big things that we have been doing, um, for the last two years is we've been supporting USAID at a federal level and supporting trainers across the globe. So there are, there's a, there are [00:19:00] trainers that go in and support missions across the globe.

And they all are, you know, adult learner, you know, adult learning, you know, folks, they, they understand the need for training, but the world has changed in terms of training. So they have hired us USA to actually do quarterly trainings on the changing needs of the work of, of the learner. And how to build more effective training programs.

So, um, most recently we just, uh, facilitated a great training on neurodiversity and understanding the differences as to how people think, uh, and how brains work and, and how that impacts the learner in a training classroom. We've talked a lot about diversity over the last couple of years, and we do a lot of diversity training and inclusion training and talk a lot about, um, what inclusion looks like.

When you think about neurodiversity, it's a, it's a whole new aspect of diversity in terms of the way our brains work and, uh, and incorporating those [00:20:00] principles in developing training is so critical. So, uh, it was very well received and we had people from 25 different countries on the, on the line and, uh, and they had 90 minutes of, you know, of really intensive learning about neurodiversity.

Luke Kempski: So nice to see, uh, now your impact is going global, taking what you've learned over the years and what you've applied to so many organizations and now, uh, working with an organization that is actually, actually taking it out internationally. Thanks so much for sharing that, Monica, and all of what's going on with your organization and how you're thinking and doing things for, to have such a positive impact these days.

Susan Cort: Yeah, definitely Monica. And I think you've also volunteered yourself to come back as a guest on Powered by Learning to talk about neurodiversity or some other topics. You're doing so much great stuff. So thank you for taking the time to share with us

Monica Gould: today. Thank you for the opportunity. It was a lot of fun to see you today. Take care.

Susan Cort: Luke, it was a real [00:21:00] pleasure to catch up with Monica again. She certainly has the recipe for helping organizations succeed and grow through learning that not only guides the leaders, but also engages team members.

Luke Kempski: Yeah, I really think Monica's career story and her passion really come through in the impact Strategic Consulting Partners has on its clients.

You know, she started her career as an individual leadership consultant, and now she's really scaled a company that organizations hire to align their strategic planning, their capacity building, their leadership development, and their training. And she's doing this for large enterprises in the private, public, and non profit sectors.

You know, they're really thoughtful. about the custom learning experiences they create, the desired impact they want to have, and the measurable results they expect to see. You know, it's inspiring to see that alignment and the outcomes focus that they have and how they can really make a difference in an organization's success.

Susan Cort: Yeah, it sounds like she has a lot of success stories. So it was a great [00:22:00] conversation and she had some great advice for our listeners.

Luke Kempski: Sounds good.

Susan Cort: Thanks, Luke. And many thanks to our guest, Monica Gould. If you have a suggestion for a podcast topic or guest, please let us know. You can email us at And don't forget to subscribe to Powered by Learning wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Luke Kempski

By Luke Kempski, CEO

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