Training Leaders Share Insights at ATD Panel Session
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By Jenny Fedullo, Director, Learning Solutions November 27, 2018

The ATD Central Pennsylvania Chapter recently hosted a panel discussion in partnership with The Hershey Company focused on onboarding, learning delivery and technology, metrics and sustainability, and employee development.

The panel was moderated by Grayce Langheine, Talent Management Manager, Turkey Hill Dairy. Corporate panelists included:

• Mary Farrell – Director of Centralized Learning and Development, The Hershey Company

• Kevin Hostetter – Director of Training, Auntie Anne’s Inc.

• Lenny Sweeney – Director of Training and Development, Milton Hershey School

I represented the panel in a training vendor capacity in my role as Learning Solutions Manager at d’Vinci.

Here are a few themes that emerged from the discussion:

Connect Employees to Culture and Values

Through the initial onboarding process, whether it be two days or five days, it is critical to connect employees to the culture and values of the organization. At Milton Hershey School, living their sacred values is infused in everything they do. Regardless of role, all employees attend a two-day intensive orientation focused on the question, “How can we be in service to our students?” Similarly, all employees at Auntie Anne’s go through a five-day program to learn not only the basics of the business, but to learn about Auntie Anne’s culture.

Blended Learning Solutions are Alive and Well

The Hershey Company is in the realm of 80% eLearning and 20% classroom with live virtual sprinkled in to address their global organization. They reserve the classroom for content that needs to be taught in a classroom – the science, the mechanical pieces of the operation – can be done via eLearning. Key to the instructional designer role is to choose the right modality and not just default to classroom. The blended solution and use of technology extend beyond the training event. The Hershey Company is experimenting with an app (Microsoft Power Apps or Articulate Rise) to provide post-training resources and tools to support people when they have to actually perform what they’ve been trained on.

Embrace Microlearning

Auntie Anne’s uses video to train their employees and would not even consider a ten-minute video today like they used years ago. They have embraced the microlearning approach and have a library of over 80 short videos that are accessible via an app so employees can view them in the stores (malls) where WIFI is not necessarily strong. They are looking to more than double the videos in the next year. The Hershey Company recognizes that the more they can chunk and reduce material, the more they can target for individuals based on their needs. Milton Hershey has taken away the “spray and pray” model of learning and made it more modular based on audience.

Focus on Return on Expectations

Like the other organizations, The Hershey Company uses the Kirkpatrick model to measure training effectiveness. Broadly for level one, they use self-reported knowledge gain by conducting pre and post assessments. For level three, they ask employees how likely they are going to apply what they’ve learned on the job and if they think their manager will be supportive. They’ve found that an affirmative answer to these two questions leads to application. They also use Return on Expectations, by asking the stakeholder upfront, “How are you going to know this worked?” It’s important in a training organization to truly identify what the stakeholder wants as a result of the training. The answer may surprise you and help point you in the right direction. Auntie Anne’s attendees complete an action plan to identify key takeaways and things they are committing to do. They include regular touchpoints as part of the action plan – one month, three months post – to continue the dialogue on how they are using the gained knowledge.

Is it Really a Training Need?

In our industry, we have to be performance consultants to determine if the business problem will be solved by training. The Hershey Company uses a four-point performance analysis model to determine the root cause because many times it is not a lack of skills, knowledge, or motivation, but other things. Doing that upfront analysis of performance – consulting and really getting underneath it – may help you see that it’s not just skills and knowledge that will solve the problem. Milton Hershey recognizes the importance of performance consulting as well and helps individuals unpack the performance issues.

Buy-in for Employee Development is Key

Years ago, Auntie Anne’s developed a comprehensive program, partnering with AchieveGlobal. They had their owner/president’s buy-in and trained the entire executive team first, then the training trickled down to VPs and Directors, and so-on. Having C-Suite support made the path much smoother. Auntie Anne’s continues to add courses (some custom and some off-the-shelf) and hold an open house each year to preview the courses and learning tracks. They partner with their marketing team and subject matters experts to get the word out.

Acquiring Soft Skills is a Journey

Making soft skills a requirement is tricky. At The Hershey Company, the focus for required skills is more related to the food industry – reserve required when employees know they need it and because they want it. At Milton Hershey, leadership soft skills are viewed as a journey – you never stop getting better at soft skills, because it’s very situational. At Auntie Anne’s they’ve adopted the view that soft skills are power skills. Having the right power skills can open many doors for you.

What Keeps you Passionate about Training

The panel was concluded by the final questions, “What keeps you passionate and what keeps you up at night?” Passion for the panelists comes from being seen as the value-add partner, helping people be successful, and technology – there’s so much coming. Sleepless nights are attributed to relevance – the need to be relevant immediately, finding the right blend and building relationships with technology, and embedding training where it is part of the flow, because people are so stretched for time.

The energy at the panel discussion was very high. The audience was engaged and participative and inquisitive. Many attendees commented how valuable the session was and suggested more panel events for the future.

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