Posted by Caveo Learning ● November 10, 2015

KPMG L&D Leader on Social and Collaborative Learning, Gaining Buy-In

crystal_hydeThis is part of our ongoing series, Interviews with Learning Leaders.

Crystal Hyde is an associate director of learning & development in the energy and industrial manufacturing industries for U.S. audit, tax, and advisory firm KPMG LLP. Her L&D experience includes teaching, instructional design and development, learning project and program management, innovation, and leadership. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Saint Leo University, a master's in educational studies & social science from Western Governors University, and she is a Certified Professional in Learning & Performance (CPLP®) through the Association for Talent Development. Crystal served on the 2013 board of directors for ATD Chicagoland, and she was honored as a 2014 Emerging Training Leader to Watch by Training magazine.

Are there any trends in your industry that have training implications?

One of my responsibilities is to keep people up to date on trends, which by nature change all the time. This makes the concept of training with shelf life a challenge, as it will be outdated soon. I have handled this more by sharing—here is the place to get the trends, here are the people or organizations to follow to build knowledge and stay current. So it is more about finding the right resources and then teaching employees to keep themselves up to date. One way to foster this kind of learning is to provide social and collaborative opportunities so they can stay up to date and form good habits. Industry trends are a big deal to me; I have to help people with this.

What about trends in the learning and performance space?

We are really trying to move toward microlearning, but it’s tough when we have to run all our training through a continuing professional education board for auditor recertification credits. Currently, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy isn’t offering credits for microlearning; it’s coming, though. It is harder to get people to attend or engage with something that will not contribute to their recertification credits. We are shepherding toward the philosophy of valuing the learning, not just the credit.

How do you leverage social learning, and what were some challenges to getting it started?

Social learning is such a big part of everyone’s learning experiences—it’s getting people together, providing opportunities to learn from each other. You can’t really formalize socialized learning. This is constantly on my mind—social and collaborative learning spaces.

One way to get started with collaborative learning is to have an expert talk about a topic of interest with just a few prepared slides. We started ours with a poll: “For today’s topic, which of these areas interests you the most?” The presenter was prepared for all of the options. It gets people who are used to just listening and multitasking through webinars involved. They ask more questions because they are interested in it. The goal is to be collaborative and interactive. This format can also be a good way to quick demo a new tool. For the unstructured social learning, sometimes it is helping them to create good habits, like how to watch Twitter for trends or actively engage in LinkedIn groups. Sometimes it’s about how you bake social opportunities into more traditional classroom settings. Are we taking the opportunities where these people are together to get them out of their seat and networking in a semi-structured way?

I try to see where there is a need for collaboration in an inexpensive or informal format and offer semi-structured and short virtual learning sessions on a monthly basis. If you brand these sessions as a series, you can hold them monthly, covering hot topics for the business. Making them optional and laidback, with minimal slides, is effective. People wonder at first why you are not reading to them off slides, but once they realize it’s a session where they can actually talk and engage with a leader in the topic, it’s valuable to them.

How are you able to achieve buy-in for nontraditional learning?

People can feel like it’s risky to introduce something out of the norm. L&D professionals can avoid it because we have plenty to do without putting ourselves out there. You can easily get into a routine and only do what is mandatory and required. I try hard to provide value by rounding out my strategies with various nontraditional pieces, as part of bigger solutions.

One way to get over resistance to less traditional ideas is to just say, “Let’s attempt it—if it bombs, we don’t have to keep doing it.” Just pilot it. This helps the naysayers understand that you know it is not a silver bullet, but it’s worth a shot to close gaps in various ways. I’m not afraid to have my name attached to something that doesn’t work well in the end. I approach it from a standpoint of, what did we learn from it? I don’t base the whole strategy on social and collaborative learning; it will be just one piece. Offering resources, a communication package from leaders, online training for credit, are all part of it. If you are doing different things, then it is not scary to fail at one. It all rounds out the strategy and gives freedom to explore social and collaborative learning in a safe way.

Explain the importance of a sound learning strategy.

How can you operate as an L&D function without a documented and agreed-upon strategy? When I document a strategy, it outlines the business goals, driving factors, upfront barriers to delivery, and all the learning gaps that leadership sees. I consider a strategy a contract between L&D and the business, and all solutions should be built in support of that.

You need to leave wiggle room, understanding that needs will arise. It needs to be updated in order to stay relevant. We create a strategy for a specific industry. If I am not ready to change as the business changes, I can’t show value. We have to understand what the needs are right now. In six months or a year, it may change. The L&D strategy has to support the business.

What has been your career highlight, and what did you learn from it?

Winning an inter-company contest that resulted in them developing an m-support app idea was pretty cool. The company had a crowdsourcing contest in which everyone could submit an idea for a new app. Employees could “like” or comment on the ideas they liked. 650 were submitted across 30 countries. My mobile support app idea was an interface where people could plug in the work they were planning for the week and access resources, training, and recently revised job aids that could be helpful. Having my idea selected was a great confidence builder. I had the idea about a year earlier and had talked to others in the company to formulate it; it didn’t get traction initially, so it was exciting when the contest happened and when it was built so people could use it.

There is an important lesson here: If you have an idea, socialize it. See what part of it might make sense. Don’t worry about being the hero with the idea—focus on how the company can make progress at the right time, in their time of need. Don’t let your good ideas die—keep polishing them.

Getting the right stuff to the right people when they need it is talked about all the time. But this is hard, not easy. We can just keep designing course after course after course, but who remembers everything they learned at a course six months ago or a year ago?

When taking on a new role in a new company, what is the first thing you focus on?

It used to be about honing my technical abilities and executing on hard projects. Now it’s more about focusing on my executive presence and preparing for meetings. For me, executive presence is about coming across as inquisitive to the business needs, and less about, “I have this great idea.” I focus on their needs and how the strategy will help address those needs—not wearing the L&D cape and rushing in to save the day. I have to interview them and find what their appetite is. How much can I experiment with? How much can I do and still retain their trust and not scare them off because it is too “out there”? I have to work with the executives to make something better happen. I’ve learned how to temper being “passionate about learning” with being more curious as to what they want and how they view learning in their setting.

Topics: Interviews with Learning Leaders