Suzi Bellon, VP, Sr Manager Onboarding, Mentor & Development Programs, has been with BMO Harris Bank for 34 years, transferring previous knowledge and success into leading multiple areas such as sales support, a team focused on incentive compensation, and L&D teams specializing in frontline learning and onboarding, mentoring, and development. During these 34 years, she has managed small and large teams in the field, obtaining a strong baseline of banking and non-banking knowledge, and providing the opportunity to develop and hone leadership, analysis, sales, and customer experience capabilities.
Tell us more about your various roles with BMO!
In my role leading a sales support team, we began utilizing the ADDIE model without even realizing it! We leveraged it not for learning, but for transferring the steps and concepts to assess and solve for frontline challenges of over 600 Retail branches. The assessment, proposal of solutions, and design/development of appropriate support programs later allowed me to take advantage of a new opportunity, leading a team focused on incentive compensation design, development, and implementation for multiple areas and segments within BMO. These skills plus utilizing the ADDIE model transferred to another opportunity in L&D to build out appropriate learning for our frontline teams. This brought me to my current role, focusing on L&D within onboarding and mentor development programs, which utilize role-specific learning bundled with cohorts and immersive experiences across the bank. Each of these opportunities continued to build upon lessons learned, to bring more success to each subsequent role.
What do you see as the key to success when reporting to HR and serving stakeholders in the business units?
Assessment and collaboration are the key—we must understand the needs of our team members through detailed assessments that include senior leaders, role leaders, partners, peers, and HR. Then, we partner L&D and HR to propose employee-focused solutions and implementation. This method feels less like a process and more like a collaborative problem-solving evolution that is both effective and efficient.
What do you see as the keys to managing learning design?
Assessments are the most critical of all elements of the design process. Managers of the teams who focus on, participate in, and coach on assessment skills will be most successful, allowing designers to propose the most effective learning solutions. In a previous project, the assessment was not completed thoroughly; this resulted in losing time and placing the project on hold, while a new needs assessment was conducted with a more appropriate solution proposed.
What do you see as essentials for efficient/streamlined creation of learning solutions?
Having a dedicated team of Learning Consultants whose role is to provide feedback, partner in assessments, and then focus on project management, implementation, and communication. Efficiency is at its best when allowing designers to focus on what they do best—design!
What delivery challenges or struggles have you experienced?
We typically (prior to the pandemic) deliver learning through one of the following modalities: eLearning, ebook, VC (virtual classroom) and ILT/F2F (in-person classroom).
Policy, process, compliance, and even culture can be delivered through eLearning or partnered with virtual classroom to reinforce key content. Conversations and coaching can be demonstrated in eLearning. However, behavioral changes are more likely to occur and more likely to be successful with interactive practice and coaching, followed by more interactive practice and coaching.
What are focused role ready learning plans and why are they important?
We create learning plans to ensure that on Day 1 in a new role, new hires are already enrolled in the learning plan tailored specifically for their role and previous experience. There is a specific program guide that will help them to access and understand their learning plan. We find many benefits to new hires learning from Day 1, including a faster time to productivity.
Are there trends you love or hate?
The trends I love AND hate… in our business, we have so much change, so fast. While the change is good for our customers and our company, keeping up with the changes and most appropriate solutions and modalities becomes more and more challenging.
Also, we are working to shift the mindset of leaders who believe in-person learning is always the most effective approach. We have many learning components that can be delivered effectively via eBook, eLearning, or virtual classroom, which saves money and time. To keep up with the change, our team has leveraged learning designed for large conference settings then adjusted without a complete rebuild for classroom and interactive practice. Our resources are utilized more efficiently while we are able to more easily ensure that the content is consistent while being delivered through various modalities for new hires and in-role audiences.
What do you find is most critical in learning today?
I see a huge need for onboarding, development, and mentoring.
We hear this over and over again—not only from our leaders, but from new hires, their peers, and partners too! We’re addressing the following needs with better role preparation and support: