Penny Mattix, CPTD, is the Director of Learning & Development and Talent Management for Transdev North America. Since 2016, she has directed the overall learning and talent development strategy for the organization. Penny has more than 20 years of experience in education, training, learning and development, and marketing and public relations prior to her time in L&D. In her role, she oversees the whole training lifecycle, advises and collaborates with leadership on learning and development needs and initiatives, and maintains and builds bench strength through the use of talent assessment, succession planning, and individual development plans.
What have you found inspiring about your work?
In general, I think people who get into L&D are “helpers.” Whether it’s helping employees succeed in their current role or helping them with their career progression by identifying recommended next steps—they are interested in helping people. Sitting down with an employee, understanding their needs, perhaps identifying their gaps, and helping them put together an action plan is incredibly gratifying. For me, it is a good day when I can play a role in an employee’s success—it is why I do what I do. When I get that email or thank you card that acknowledges the work, appreciates the effort, and says that my team and I helped their career, it reinforces that I am making an impact.
What projects or work have energized you over your career?
I worked for the Chicago division of a national grocer where my team created pipeline training. When I started, there were two programs, and when I left there were 12. We taught employees the needed fundamentals for each role. We supported frontline employees who wanted to be department managers, up through store managers who wanted to be a district manager. The position provided me with a great balance between designing programs for my particular division and playing a role in the development of corporate-wide initiatives and managing their roll out and implementation.
One such initiative centered around identifying people who wanted to do and learn more, but no one had the time to have those career-focused conversations with them. We didn’t know who was happy in their current role and we didn’t know who wanted to do more. We implemented a plan to identify people and start those conversations. We arranged store visits by the HR business partner to meet the employees and talk to them. The store manager also was encouraged to hold either team or individual meetings to have conversations with all employees.
What we found out: some were good in place and quite content in their current position, while others wanted to be challenged and learn more to help them advance their careers. This program helped target development programs and create a “bench” while the outreach resulted in a more engaged and vested employee population. Ultimately, the program was deemed successful for both the employees and the organization.
Another gratifying development program was the one created for high-level clerks who wanted to become a department manager, and focused specifically on developing soft skills. Once a month there was a half-day training with actions to do back at the store. The next month they would report what actions they had taken and their level of success. There also was an increase in communications around when open positions became available. Between the training and the increased transparency, the result showed an increase in trust in the hiring process and an increase in applications. Over the course of several years, we also started to see a difference in our diversity profile and began to positively impact the numbers of both female and minority managers—another success for the employees and the organization.
What tips can you give learning leaders for creating programs that work for the business?
There are often two types of requests for help, and they are not always in sync. One is what the end user needs and the other is what leadership feels is needed. It is important to understand both wants and find commonalities. Sometimes they are very similar, and the difference exists in the messaging of the program. Craft something that addresses both needs, even if it is a phased program that starts with a few pilot sites. It is important both audiences feel listened to and that their needs are being met.
When starting a new role in L&D, what tips would you give to people to be successful?
Understand L&D is a service and support role and it exists to add value. Our customers are our employees, managers, and the business. It is important to support the revenue producers and add value wherever we can. It’s about knowing the business, identifying the needs, understanding the gaps, and presenting L&D as a trusted and reliable partner. Sometimes it’s also about the little things—listening, doing the research, responding to emails in a timely manner, answering questions, and helping others connect with the right person. Get to know clients before they become clients. Build the relationships before they need you, so they think of you and come to you when they have a need. Understand what success looks like to the organization. Make that your goal, in addition to your other goals. You can’t make a difference with what YOU think needs to be done, until you meet the company’s expectations first. That should be your focus.
The more service-minded we are, the more accepted L&D becomes. We want to be viewed as there not only to support, but also to be an integral component of the business.