Hundreds of learning leaders came together at the Training Industry Conference & Expo (TICE) to discuss the latest industry trends and challenges. In this episode, several conference attendees shared how they engage learners and how they're beginning to embrace AI's potential to drive employee growth and organizational success. d'Vinci Client Solutions Consultant Angeline Evans and d'Vinci Senior Instructional Designer/Project Manager Beth Buchanan attended the conference and also share their thoughts.
Show Notes: The learning leaders interviewed in this episode shared many challenges and opportunities including ways to navigate the use of artificial intelligence.
Special thanks to the guests who appeared in this episode.
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.
Learn more about d'Vinci at www.dvinci.com.
[00:00:00] Today's learning leaders face old challenges and new ones as they focus on learner engagement, changing technology, and how to navigate the world of artificial intelligence. And so we've used AI to provide some of that formal support by cutting down some of our time to be able to do more engaging, real time.
Dr. Kristal Walker:
Um, work with the use of AI, being able to think through and provide shortcuts to things that probably would have taken us hours to brainstorm or to cultivate in a brainstorming session.
That's Dr. Kristal Walker, Vice President of Employee Wellbeing, Sweetwater Sound. She and others who attended TICE 2023, the Training Industry Conference and Expo, join us to share their biggest challenges and advice for leveraging AI. Next on Powered by Learning.
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 dvinci.com.
More than 600 learning leaders from around the country attended the recent Training Industry Conference and Expo in Raleigh, North Carolina. d’Vinci Interactive was one of the sponsors and client solutions consultant, Angeline Evans, senior instructional designer/project manager, Beth Buchanan, and I attended the conference.
Beth and Angeline, it was a great couple of days of learning and networking. I know it was your first time attending. What did you think?
I thought it was so great. I honestly, I could not believe the turnout this year. I mean, I thought I knew what to expect. And I was like, overwhelmed by just all of these learning and development professionals in one place.
There was so many of them. Uh, and it was just, it was wonderful to hear the new tactics that they're exploring and technology they're checking out. Uh, and just really interesting to hear how many organizations are finding their footing post pandemic and dipping their toe back into in person training again.
Thank you. [00:02:00]
Yeah, I agree with all that. I had a really good time. It was my first time attending. So that was fun. One of the sessions that I attended, it was called connection before content. And you know, to me, that was the theme of the whole experience. We really want people to learn and we have all these bells and whistles to do it.
But really, what's fundamental to that is connecting people to each other. Um, and then you get these things like authenticity and vulnerability and people really go deep with their learning. So yeah. That was great. I enjoyed it and I can't wait to go back again.
Yeah, I think what you just said is perfect for this conference even because even though this I think was the largest turnout they've ever had, I mean, I remember going years ago where it was around 200 people and this was, I think, close to 600.
But even though there are more attendees attending now, the conversation is still so meaningful. So I think they did a good job of facilitating that networking and those meaningful conversation points. In fact, we spoke to many of the conference attendees who stopped by the d’Vinci booth to learn more about what old and new challenges they're [00:03:00] facing.
And Dr. Kristal Walker, who's Vice President of Employee Well Being, Sweetwater Sound, she stressed that having that plan in place is really key.
Dr. Kristal Walker:
Oh, trying to determine what the priorities are would definitely be one of the challenges. I think with so many competing priorities within an organization where you have to meet the need and you're transitioning from just being an order taker to a solutions architect, it is super difficult to determine where should my focus be at this time.
And of course, that's when an L and D plan will serve a great purpose. But even with an active plan in place, you just never know what direction the industry or your business may take you in where you may have to adjust your priorities accordingly.
Loren Sanders, Senior Manager, Enterprise Learning, CVS Health, says one of the challenges she faces is to look beyond skill building.
The biggest challenge I have as a learning leader is that often learning and development people forget about the development part of their role. And the fact that we're part of a greater talent management organization and that we have to use that lens when we think about the [00:04:00] work that we do, which means we have to stop responding to things that talk about what skills people need and start thinking about what practices people need.
We have a very short lens when we're thinking only about skill. And if we start to think about what are the practices they need to pull the skills through, we're going to get much better impacts, we'll have better measurement, and long term approach to learning is going to be greatly impacted for the entire organization.
Can you affect that kind of a change in an organization?
I think it starts with the way that you lead and the way that you listen to your stakeholders and the way that you connect and empathize with the challenges they're having, coming alongside them, understanding their challenges, and then listening for when they come to you and say something like, we need a training on listening skills, critical thinking, and 27 other soft skills.
It's what I heard you say is that you need it. Practices to build these skills into what you do. [00:05:00] Let's talk about that. Don't start with, well, that's not this or that's not that start with. Here's what we can do, or maybe you're right. Let's talk about how to do that most effectively rather than just going to the solution right away.
We've got to ask more questions deeper into. The conversation and understand that skill and practice can be not the same thing.
Janessa Jacobs, director of learning and development at second Avenue, a real estate company says her challenge is to shift the conversation, to focus on the business's needs.
Janessa Jacobs :
I think one of the biggest challenges that learning leaders are facing is finding ways to plug into the business.
I keep hearing a lot of chatter around saying, Hey, I have all these fantastic ideas, but I can't get anything. Asked X level of leadership. So what's happening and what I'm seeing is we're getting caught in this habit of these leaders saying, Hey, can I grab 10 minutes of your time? Hey, will you come meet me here for 20 minutes of your time?
Hey, can you come to my level and meet me here instead of us saying, Hey, what existing meetings do you already have? What [00:06:00] existing habits might you have or relationships might you have that I could potentially plug into or observe? Or look at or, you know, debrief with you in order to get a better understanding for the business and a better understanding of how I can service you.
So meeting them where they're at and plugging into existing habits of the organization is a huge thing that I think learning leaders have a challenge with. Any solutions of how to make that happen? Exactly. Figure out what's already going on. So, you know, talk with your leader first and foremost and say, you know, what are the important meetings that are happening around the business?
When are they happening? When are decisions being made and who is making those decisions? Then get with those people and say, Hey, look, I'm really working to develop, our learning function and make sure that we're aligned to a lot of the organizational goals. But I'm lacking the visibility to do so and make sure that Your initiatives and your change that you want to bring to the organization are successful.
Where can I plug in or shadow you on some of these meetings so that I can get an [00:07:00] idea for, you know, what you want to accomplish and how I can help you get there, you know? So it changes the conversation from I need this to how do I help you? And I think that's a big part of that.
Paul Smith, Head of Coworker Development, Baker Construction Enterprises, shares that a big challenge is educating workers about the importance of training.
One of the biggest challenges is that we increasingly have a worker population that struggles with understanding why we're making them go through what we're trying to train them. By that I mean, previously, for better or for worse, we had a lot of individuals who were just compliant. They would show up, they're on the clock, they've punched their timecard. The boss says, you need to go through such and such training. Okay. And they just go through it. And as a result of that, organizations didn't really think about having to sell their people on why you, you go to training because I tell you to go to training. Well, now we have evolved our population to the point where we now have workers coming in and just because I say so doesn't work for their parents [00:08:00] and it doesn't work for their employer.
And so we have to do a better job of being able to illustrate to the learner. Why are we making you go through this? What are you going to get out of attending this? This isn't just for us, the company, it's what is in it for you? And that can be a challenge that why needs to also, I mean, it is good for the company, but.
As the learner, I need to know why it benefits me because we have this mindset shift now where we have a workforce that no longer comes to work for the benefit of the company, they come for their benefit, for the paycheck, if they feel uncomfortable or unappreciated or whatever, they'll up and leave.
Because there is no longer that obligation or commitment or connectedness with the organization like there had traditionally been in generations past. And so because of that, the learner comes into the classroom with them too. If I don't understand why I'm here, I don't care. Time is always a challenge for L& D leaders.
According to Lydia Gill, Learning and Development Specialist at Options for [00:09:00] All, a non-profit that helps adults with disabilities.
Lydia Gill :
We're in a interesting place in the world where We want to upskill our employees, but we don't necessarily have the time or the resources. So even though I want to get you that training and I want you to come to our session, maybe it just doesn't fit in your schedule.
Or maybe, you know, you're already at the 40-hour max for the week. And so really kind of also navigating that time realm and, you know, getting the buy in from the managers to get their employees to go to those trainings. I feel like is a huge challenge.
Some really great insights. Angeline and Beth, what are your thoughts about the challenges our guests shared?
One thing that really stood out to me throughout the conference and it, picking up on one of these, um, comments before was just this idea of focusing on business needs. Right? Um, I heard that over and over again in sessions that learning leaders need to get more comfortable with business and data. Often we find that L& D departments they have to sell their legitimacy to executives and they have to do that by [00:10:00] aligning themselves with the business and that way instead of seeing it as an expense, you know executives can really see it as an investment. That was the message that I heard over and over again - learning leaders really trying to take on this challenge and you know. Find a way to really see the value there and have executives and higher ups see it as well.
I completely agree, Beth. I heard that over and over as well: just how to align with the business to truly make an impact how to be agile when change happens so swiftly. And really making sure each individual learner is bought into the training, right? So what can we do to ensure that they're feeling seen, valued, and empowered to grow?
Yeah, we hear some of the same challenges year after year, but new ones, of course. And, uh, one of the ones that continues to come up is how to best focus on the learner. Robert Smith, Curriculum Designer at Discover Financial Services, says he tries to keep the learning simple and engaging. What do you do at your organization to make sure that you're engaging learners?
I mainly build e learning, so the thing that I always try to keep in mind, especially with that, is [00:11:00] less is more. Things that I do is I try to keep as many words off the screen as possible, I try to make sure there's a lot of movement, and I try to be very concise with my message. I kind of go by the mentality that there's a reason why most commercials are 30 seconds long, because after you get past that, you're probably going to lose them.
So just try to keep it short, sweet, and don't, and use as few words as possible. Use animation. It keeps their attention. But be deliberate about it. Don't just do it to do it. You use animations to help engage the learners. Tell us how that works. Well, if you watch most TV shows or that, the camera angle and like people are having a conversation seems to change about every three to five seconds.
So if you're just sitting there talking and there's not much happening on the screen, they're going to lose their focus. So just, uh, just try to try to make it interesting to look at.
Janessa Jacobs of second Avenue offers that learners need to know the “why.”
A lot of times, I think just as human nature, if we go down to the very primal brain, it's [00:12:00] what am I going to get out of this for my own survival, you know, so if we go back to that primal brain there, and we talk about engagement on top of that, the things that are going to keep us engaged are what gives us a dopamine hit in our brain, so when we look at the actual chemistry and the science of all of it, keeping them engaged all comes down to What is going to give them that dopamine hit that they need in order to continue paying attention because that is essential for their survival, ultimately.
Now, if we bring that over into the modern world and the modern workplace, we talk a lot about meeting learners where they're at. First of all, gather a baseline as to where they're at, and that may be on an individual basis. That may be on a group basis. That may be on very large scale survey kind of basis or something.
Once you have that baseline there, then adapt what you're doing in order to meet their needs, but to market and frame it in that way, in the sense that. We're doing this for you again, you [00:13:00] know, and we're doing this so you can achieve X, Y, Z, you know, or whatever your goals may be based on the feedback we've already received.
Keeping them engaged is all about the what's in it for you, first and foremost. But, you know, then there's always lots of technology out there to make it showy, make it a little flashy, do a little bit of marketing, but ultimately talk about the impacts, talk about the impacts of what's happening, why it's happening, um, you know, and how they can make an impact.
We see now that culture is shifting in the sense that we're all talking about retention, right? Retained employees are engaged employees, usual. When we talk about that engagement, we talk about that retention in there. And what's leading to those is actually connection. Now, it used to be appreciation. It used to be, you know, Hey, I'm getting all these opportunities or, Hey, I'm getting all this recognition, but now it's actually connection and feeling like you're making an impact.
So those are the two bigger things that we're seeing emerging in the marketplace. So talk about the impact, talk about the connection. Talk about what it's going to do for them long [00:14:00] term.
Susan Cort: For Yolanda Campbell of Wake County Government, she and her team tried to set learners up for success from the beginning.
Before I begin any training, I usually like to ask the person to introduce themselves, but not your typical introduction. Tell me why you're here. Why did you think that this position was a fit for you? And then that allows me to be able to determine. I hate to say, you know, the potential or the longevity that we're going to have here, but we work in an environment of human services.
So you really have to be connected in the human side of things, you know, being able to exercise some empathy and compassion to the clients that we serve. And so someone that's bored of that or missing that I like to. Make sure that they understand what the nature of our job is and the way I can do that is by asking them, what is your impression of the job that you're going to be doing?
What is your understanding of what it is that we do? And when I find that there is a strong connection between them, understanding their job, and they're actually going to be doing for the community they work in, then they're more successful.
I loved what Janessa said. [00:15:00] Um, you know, retained employees are engaged employees, which is so true.
And it was really interesting. Her notion about how we engage learners by releasing a dopamine effect. Um, and we can do that, you know, in our e learning. And we do that now, you know, it's simple rewards, enticing presentation of information and making sure they understand why they should be engaged, how they're making an impact in their role and by the trainings relevant to them.
Yeah, I agree with that. And I also really liked what Robert Smith said about, you know, putting yourself in the learner shoes using just a simple guideline that less is more. I think sometimes there's a temptation to crowd the learning experience with detail because we want to cover everything and make sure get through all the topics that we think someone needs to know.
But that's sort of counterproductive and it can shut the learner down. So less is more concision with your messaging and content. I think those are really important things to always have in your mind.
Yeah. Good points. And then of course, the two of you know, this, anybody who was at the conference knows this, the whole world is talking about artificial intelligence.
It was [00:16:00] definitely a hot topic. What were some of your takeaways from the conversations surrounding AI?
I went to several sessions on AI and you're right. It was everywhere at the conference. It was a, you know, the bell of the ball. Um, but each, each of these sessions was really interesting, informative, and was kind of demystifying, right?
It just sought to answer basic questions about how to use AI to make us more efficient, make us more agile, do our job better. It wasn't there was no threat, right? It was really just seeing AI is like your partner in this. And if you keep the learner in mind again, how do you take away the grunt works so, you get to focus on what's most important and deepen your learning and make it even better. So I was encouraged by all the sessions I went to, I thought everybody did a great job delivering that message. And I definitely came away with a lot of ideas about how maybe I can play and explore. With a I as well.
That's awesome. Yeah, I'm really excited to just see how the nature of our work will evolve as [00:17:00] we embed AI into our workflow. You know, how are things gonna be more efficient? What are we gonna have more time to do? Or, you know, what's what's gonna be happening next?
I was really impressed by how many people we spoke to are actively using AI in training.
In fact, let's hear from Amanda Himes from the Krauss Group, Michelle Echevarria, Director of Learning and Development at JBS International, Janessa Jacobs of Second Avenue, and Kristal Walker from Sweetwater to see how their organizations are navigating AI.
We have recently looked at using AI at GPT specifically for building out scenario-based training.So how do we build out scripts to help our customer service sector follow and interact, especially when it comes to deescalating high tension customer scenarios, so. How can we provide better speed to market when we're building those out and make sure that our associates have the experience they need to talk to customers and deescalate scenarios as needed.
What's that been working for you?
You know, it's been working pretty well. It's a new process for us, but we recently rolled out a couple different customer [00:18:00] service CVTs to try and get a feel for how are folks like interacting with customers and how are they responding to these scenarios? We've had good feedback.
We're really focusing in on our food side of the program because we recently started offering made to order food. These are folks that previously were mostly behind a wall in the kitchen and didn't interact with customers very often. So now they're having the opportunity to interact and really have a better customer experience with them.
So we are seeing positive engagement with our customers based on it. I think we're still really new at it, but we're really excited about it. We're just looking at building efficiencies. Like, what are their things?
That we can do faster and better based on it and get content out to our associates in a faster way. I think it's really just allowed us to focus on the things that matter, like our leader development program. How can we focus on the human side of that more than we focus on just the procedural? Let me get this done.
Just better speed to market.
Tell me how you are using it or how you plan to use it in your organization?
Um, so how we've started to use it, our current approach [00:19:00] is that we've been using it more so on the production end of learning and development. So we've been able to identify tools that either streamline certain processes, but then also, in some cases, completely eliminate some more menial, redundant work.
For example, something that once took several hours to do, to review in terms of media, now we literally press a button and within a few seconds it's done. So now, our developers, instead of spending five hours or more working on this, they can spend that five hours being creative. S
It sounds like you're already putting this into place.
How successful has it been for you? been extremely successful. So much so that, you know, other people within our agency are looking at the tool and looking to us for recommend additional tools that can help enhance their internal processes. And there's so much out there and there's a lot that we're currently testing to ensure, you know, efficacy.
Um, also there's a security piece too, because we do the government work. Um, and that's [00:20:00] something that we're very mindful of, you know, not putting it, like, for example, of. We use ChatGPT from time to time. We make sure to not to put any proprietary information in there, but it's really, really great for creating first drafts, video script, storyboards. You can even set up ChatGPT where you can create obviously learning objectives to go back in further topics, right? And along with your analysis, they can put together questions for you as a part of your analysis process. Learning objectives, you can put together a storyboard, it can suggest images, it can write the script for you if needed, and also it can actually suggest a prompt for you to put into programs like Mid journey, DALI E, and etc, etc.
It's been a great boon for us. We're really looking forward to the future. We know this is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.
A. I. Is such a great tool for learning and development, not only for the learning and development team, but for your organization as a whole in the learning and development function.
Obviously, we're utilizing a lot of it [00:21:00] to help us with some of our outlines to gain a lot of knowledge on like, Hey, you know, how do we phrase some of our notifications so that we market some of our training programs really well within our business. We go through and redesign orientation and onboarding programs.
And with The orientation programs, a lot of times we will use AI as things like creating these individual characters that then they create a relationship with, you know, and can, uh, kind of do the jungle cruise adventure online, all on their own. We're utilizing ChatGPT too, for a lot of our leaders to do practice coaching conversations, you know, they can use the AI to get in there and say, Hey, you know, as a part of your leadership development program, we show them how to use Chat GPT. We show them, you know, how to have a conversation with the chat AI so that they can practice their coaching conversations for things like corrective actions for their succession planning, for their development, talk to their employees in a way that gives them confidence to just begin the [00:22:00] conversation.
I'm absolutely using it. I'm using it in course development. I'm using it as I write copy. I'm using it to determine just my thoughts as I'm streamlining a process, or I'm trying to get my thoughts out of my head on paper. I think the key to how you use it, obviously, you don't want to use it to the point where it dehumanizes an experience.
Um, you definitely want to use critical thought, emotional intelligence, and all of the norms when you're engaging in any kind of technology. But what's been helpful for me, I actually had a conversation with a colleague and we were talking about will AI eventually replace human interactions and human workers?
And I think where we ended up in that conversation was, no, it will not, but people who know how to use AI really, really good will. Right. And so we may see the emergence of roles like prompt engineers, right? How can I create the best prompt to feed this artificial intelligence so that it's going to help me do my job much [00:23:00] more effectively.
I like being on the cutting edge of some of this stuff and I'm not even hip. But to say that I got a hand in AI and I've seen, you know, so a lot of my work, we have a very lean team. And so we've used AI to provide some of that formal support by cutting down some of our time to be able to do more engaging real time work with the use of AI, being able to think through and provide shortcuts to things that probably would have taken us hours to brainstorm or to cultivate in a brainstorming session.
And Michelle and Kristal also have some great advice on how to get started using AI.
So I think one of the things that are important, especially for like, um, you know, enterprise and sort of business protection, it needs to be looped in in some capacity. So there needs to be some sort of general guardrails in place.
Uh, like for example, keeping the content generic that you put into these tools, but also giving them permission to play thin. Those perimeters, just play with it. Work with it, create a, [00:24:00] um, business challenge around it internally. That's something that I've been hearing here. That is one of the strategies that folks are doing and just let people think of creative ways that they could possibly work if you can try to sort of, uh, ease people's fears around it and sometimes just going in and playing with it and realizing that, you know what, we have a lot of content experts, a lot of sneeze, uh, where we're folks who've been doing it for over 30 years.
So it's just like no way in the world that this tool knows more than me, but we can do is, is can help you sort of create a scratch version of it. And a lot of times when they see the output of it going in, they, they're sort of scared is going to take their job when they see the output is like, oh.
There's just no, I know, I know way more than this AI tool, you know, there's no way, but it can kind of start you off in terms of ideas and brainstormers and things like that. And then you go in and you use your expertise to refine it, uh, before publishing it, presenting it to the client, etcetera. It's, it's like a partner.
[00:25:00] Look at it as your friend that doesn't get paid. And I think for the learning leader who do not use AI, you may be safe for a very short period of time, short amount of time. But I think the way that it's going and how most of us are seeing how effective and efficient is actually making us, that's a sure way to be left behind if you don't jump on the bandwagon sooner or later.
I think that there's no technology that can ever replace a human. Like, let's just be totally upfront about that. Even the most effective and efficient technological advances, like you still need a human to think through the logistics, the strategy and all of that, the personal emotional aspect of it. So I don't think that you can use technology as a sort of a replacement.
I don't think that's smart. I don't think that is even possible.
So what do the two of you think?
Yeah. I mean, I spent a lot of the conference thinking, okay, we can fit AI into skills [00:26:00] management or training on the job support all these topics. But what I love about what, um, Kristal says is, you know, it's still, you still need a human to think through this.
It's all about critical thinking. It's all about personal aspect and the emotional content that we bring as real people. So I just, I like the partnership there and I think we can get carried away in the technology, but really the balance is what makes it all work.
I agree. I mean, I feel like AI and efficiency go hand in hand, but I'm just so excited to see how it makes us faster and more streamlined because what are we going to be able to do then? Are we going to be able to deliver more solutions for our organizations? Or are we going to be able to take that time and really, you know, get creative with, with what we're, what we're delivering?
Probably a little bit of all of it. And I hope, I hope too, that it gives us all more time to be more strategic and more thoughtful if we can find tools that help us do our jobs faster, better.
Uh, it [00:27:00] may allow us more space in our day to really advance the thinking and the jobs that we all do.
Yes. And going back to what we were talking about earlier, aligning with the business and making sure that we're taking that strategic approach.
Yeah, definitely. It was so great to hear from all of the L& D leaders who joined us on this episode.
Do the two of you have any additional takeaways to share from the conference?
I think what I really took away is that to stay in this moment of, you know, rapid innovation of technology being everywhere in the space we occupy, we need to let go of a little control when it comes to learning and understand that flexibility is, is paramount for making L& D a success.
And so I think flexibility these days is all about getting curious and adopting that growth mindset. And I'm excited. I'm excited about that in the future.
I think what I took away was that, you know, we are still in the people industry. We talk so much about advances in technology and innovations and different approaches that it was really nice to [00:28:00] see in all the sessions, this common theme that, Hey, we're still humans serving humans. And we have this awesome impact, uh, the employees and the learning audiences that we're working with and, and just, you know, that. That feel good feeling that what we're doing really matters.
Yeah, no, definitely. And there was a great emphasis on just being present on connecting with each other and on listening to each other.
Yes, absolutely. Well, thank you both for joining me at the conference and for being on today's powered by learning podcast. And special thanks to all the guests who took time to talk to us at TICE. If you have an idea for a topic or a guest, please reach out to us at powered by learning at dvinci.com.
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