When you move beyond designing a learning event to creating a learning experience, you can amplify your performance outcomes. This is how Marybeth (MB) Weiss, VP of People and Culture approaches her work at FORME, an at-home fitness technology company. She explains in her conversation with d’Vinci CEO Luke Kempski.
Combining her experiences as a learning designer and personal trainer, MB Weiss recommends putting the learner at the center of a comprehensive learning solution. Here are some key points from her interview.
Learn more about FORME on their website.
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.
Susan Cort VO: [00:00:00] This is Powered by Learning, a podcast designed for learning leaders to hear the latest approaches to creating learning experiences that engage learners and achieve improved performance for individuals and organizations.
Voiceover: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.
Susan Cort: Hello, and welcome to Powered by Learning. I'm your host, Susan Cort. Today I'm joined by d'Vinci's CEO, Luke Kempski, and our guest, Marybeth or MB Weiss, the Vice President of People and Culture at Forme, an at-home fitness technology company. Welcome to Powered by Learning, Marybeth.
Luke Kempski: I'm so glad you could join us, MB.
Marybeth Weiss: I'm excited to be here, thank you for having me.
Susan: First, start off by telling us a little bit about your background and also about your team of personal trainers who provide the on-demand classes on a home smart gym. What a great business to be in.
Marybeth: Yes, sure. I have a background in learning, design, and technology. That's what my education is in but I really started as a personal trainer in the industry, and I just grew to love helping people and helping people learn how to move and how to just learn about themselves through that process. That really got me into the education space and the learning space and grew to love everything people and culture, and that helped me elevate myself at that Forme and into the role of people and culture, so here I am today. I'm really excited to talk about everything we're going to talk about today around learning experiences.
Luke: Great, thanks for sharing that background, MB. I know you speak about learning experiences. To get us started, tell us how you view the difference between a learning event and a learning experience.
Marybeth: I think this is a really great question because you [00:02:00] can really think of them as like the same thing, but they're really not. I view a learning event as a single instance of learning. It can be a training or a course or even a curriculum sometimes, to me, it can be an event. Whereas a learning experience really puts the learner at the center of an ecosystem in my mind.
Rather than thinking about it linerally, where learning is straight from the teacher to the learners, you really have to put the learner at the center of their world, and then facilitate all the activities around the learner. Whether that's the activities, the materials, the information, emails, infographics, classes, discussions, presentations, when there's anything that affects the learner becomes a part of that ecosystem. It's not just the teacher or the facilitator to the learner, it's everything that surrounds them, that affects the learner's experience and that all encompasses that world.
Luke: Why do you think that there's a lot more talk about looking at learning from an experience standpoint rather than an event? Why do you think it's evolving right now?
Marybeth: I think we have to look at not just the learners in their context of learning. We need to look at the whole person. I think that the same is true for personal training, which is the world that I come from. You can't just think of their world as they move or the learner in their context of learning. You can't just isolate that anymore. We have our phones in our pockets, we have the computer at our fingertips; information is everywhere. We're also seeing this shift in purchasing. We're seeing this shift from possessions to experiences.
We have to actually consider the learner outside of just learning.
They're placing more value on buying experiences, going out, especially after COVID, we want to go out and do things. The same is true for learning. We want to experience learning versus just attending and being passive in our learning. We have to really take what they're doing now into the learning context as well. If we're making that shift in other areas, in purchasing, in what's happening in the world around us, we have to also apply [00:04:00] that to learning as well.
Susan: MB, I have a question. I'm curious, you mentioned what you learn from the business that you do in training people as personal trainers, how does that relate to your world of training your trainers? We talk about training the trainers in L&D, but you're actually training the personal trainers. Talk about some of the lessons learned from your business and how it impacts what you do from an L&D standpoint.
Marybeth: Oh, it's a great question. There's so much overlap besides the confusion between training and training, but the human connection piece and the personalization piece, I think personal training, it's really about taking what does this person need for their journey and really making that connection to them personally. The same is true for our learners - what do they need? How do we make that human connection to them and design the experience for them specifically?
There's obviously things that are consistent across all humans, across all movement, across all learners, [00:05:00] but we have all unique differences that we'll need to take into account. I think that's true whether that's personal training or that's learning and development. That really is something that has carried over for me in both of the worlds that I live in right now.
Luke: That's excellent. When you think about creating learning experiences and the people who are responsible for creating them, which are a lot of our listeners are, in helping them look at learning design differently and designing learning experiences and also how they work with the subject matter experts they work with, how do you think that framing of learning experiences really helps them?
Marybeth: I think it helps them because you really have to understand and know your learner really well. I think it goes beyond a little bit of learner analysis and really get on a deeper level. Think design thinking. Think user persona, something that we learned from the UX, UI world. You have to go a little bit deeper and actually take the time to really empathize and understand your learner just a little bit more. [00:06:00]
I think for subject matter experts, for your clients, for whomever, they may have a broad understanding, but for the instructional design to really understand them on a deeper level, it'll help really connect to that personal connection, that personalization piece that you really need to create that learning experience.
Luke: I agree. Do you have an example of a learning experience that you've created? One that can really be a model for our listeners in terms of thinking about this approach to design.
Marybeth: We're still in the process of building out and piloting our curriculum process at Forme, but what I am happy to share is our thinking and our approach, which I think may be a little bit more helpful, is how you go about conceptualizing the learning experience. We started with how we wanted the team to feel as they came on board to Forme and what they were going to feel throughout the process, so what they felt as soon as they stepped into our doors, which is a remote team, so it's a little bit metaphorical. What were they going to feel day one?
We really wanted them to feel this sense of community, this sense of support, and this sense of autonomy at the same time because they're adult learners and they're on their own. How do they shape their own path in this sense? When we were designing the curriculum for them, we knew we wanted to have a lot of social learning opportunities through seasoned trainers supporting them, through smaller groups because we had a bigger cohort coming in.
Even with a remote team, a big cohort can be overwhelming, so we knew we wanted to add in social learning so that was part of the experience. We knew we wanted to give them an opportunity to give input because we're a startup too, so we've input at every aspect of the curriculum, feedback. We knew we wanted to implement that along the way. That was part of our design.
Then we knew we want it to be an experience, and I emphasize the word experience. I know we're talking about that. We knew from day one from the minute they got their equipment, it was branded. It's hello, it's hi. Then the minute they have their first class with us, it's everyone's there, [00:08:00] they're saying hello. It's a social event. Their email's branded. It's a whole thing. We knew that's how we wanted them to feel from the beginning, and then we designed the curriculum around that, objectives, and goals, et cetera. That still exists. The instructional design process doesn't go away because we shifted our thinking, but we really started with what we wanted them to feel and what we wanted them to experience as they went through and then designed the objectives from there.
Luke: How, as an organization, do you think that that would improve your performance to have that kind of an experience? What metrics or what things would you be trying to take to another level?
Marybeth: I think we're seeing a lot of organizational research around business drivers and business impact around learning culture and innovation and how more engaged employees are always learning, and there's a growth mindset there too. You can look at productivity, you can look at how fast your company is evolving, you can look at turnover. All the same business impact and drivers that you're looking at already, [00:09:02] but also look at employee experience, employee engagement, and then retention.
Then look at employee NPS as well because the more engaged your employees are, the more excited they are to be there. Then also look at when employees go. You want word-of-mouth referrals from people who worked at your company and then refer back to your company. It's an even greater acknowledgment of how great the culture is at your company as well. You want to look at those things too.
I think it's important to know that if your employees are always learning and they're always engaged in the experience, the more value they're bringing into your company. We are also seeing the trend of people wanting more on-the-job training and more coaching, and that's more of an experience than going to a single event. We're seeing those trends as well.
Luke: It's really hitting them from all those different directions and making it so that it's not separated from the work that they're doing, it's really all integrated into their jobs.
Marybeth: Right, and that goes back to that personalization piece [00:10:00] and meeting the learner where they're at, which is what we're trying to do. We're going to see a lot of that trend toward mobile, basically meeting the learner in their every day and not taking them away from their job, but actually working upstream versus against the stream. It's going to help keep your learners engaged in their productivity and their job on day-to-day basis.
Luke: Yes, no doubt. Now let's look ahead a little bit what changes in technology and say changes in the economy and social environment and what would you expect in terms of how learning experiences will evolve in the coming years?
Marybeth: I think we're still going to see this trend toward a hybrid, blended learning model, where we're going to see a lot of e-learning blended with live events, live online learning, definitely more remote teams, but we're still going to have that need for social interaction and finding creative ways for us to come together. Zoom fatigue is real, video conferencing fatigue is real. The tool is not the problem, it's just being on the screen is the problem.
That need for social interaction, that need for personal connection. We're going to see more tools that bring people together in that way, but also more mobile learning. We're going to see a lot of tools that allow people to be on the train on their commute or on their way home from vacation, just learning something really quick, that microlearning. We're going to see a lot of that quick, not like you said, not taking them away from their job, but actually blending in with their every day.
Luke: At that point of performance, right?
Marybeth: Right, when they need it.
Luke: Yes, exactly. Before you leave us, MB, are you able to share something that you're working on now and something that has you excited in your position?
Marybeth: Yes, like I said, we're still piloting our curriculum process. We're about to launch some stuff in Q1, really that social learning piece. We're designing a really exciting mentorship process that I'm really jazzed for. We're bringing in a lot of personal trainers to lead it and it's going to be really exciting for them, but bringing them into small cohorts where they're allowed to work together, share feedback, and also [00:12:00] learn from each other. People learn more from each other than they do from the facilitator sometimes, or actually a lot of the time. Giving them an opportunity to do that, but design that in a way where we build the frame, but they paint the picture, I think is the most rewarding thing as a facilitator. Design that experience for them, I think is the most exciting thing I'm working on right now.
Luke: It all sounds good. We'll certainly like to have you come back and tell us how it's going after a year or so.
Susan: I think it'd be exciting too, thinking about you training your trainers and all those lessons that they learn, how that impacts the training that they then give to your end-user, your consumer. I would think your trainers can carry a lot of those lessons onto the end-user as well.
Marybeth: Absolutely. In a way, personal trainers are teachers and facilitators of movement, nutrition, recovery, and all these other things about lifestyle modification. I absolutely agree with that. I think they do a lot more than just count reps and I want to give them a lot more credit than- they deserve a lot more credit than they get usually.
Luke: Yes, no doubt. Well, thanks so much for joining us today.
Marybeth: Of course, I'm excited to be here. Thank you so much.
Susan: Wow, Luke, lots of exciting things going on at Form under MB Weiss's leadership.
Luke: That's for sure. Thanks, Susan. It really was a fun conversation with MB. I like how her background as a personal trainer impacts how she designs learning experiences. [00:13:25] She considers the learner at the center of an ecosystem. She wants to have multiple touchpoints that impact the learner, not just an event, and she not only wants to make them knowledgeable, she also wants them to be engaged and be proud to be part of Forme.
She also talked about having the learning experience consider the social and environmental factors currently influencing the learner. The more the learning touchpoints take into account the time of year or recent news or social trends in both the themes and the delivery, the more engaged the learner will be, and the better they will feel about the experience. [00:14:00]
As an example, she talked about the onboarding curriculum they're about to launch. They've designed it with defined learning objectives, of course, but beyond that, they've added objectives for how the learner should feel about each part of the experience. They're really considering social and learning experiences together with the outcome being knowledgeable team members who are brand champions too and fostering culture and referrals.
In summary, MB is following a fresh and hybrid approach and a blended learning model that integrates e-learning, live events, email, mobile messaging, and a lot of other tactics, and importantly also addresses a learner's need for social interaction. Just what you'd expect from a personal trainer.
Susan: Great summary, Luke. What's new at d'Vinci? Anything you want to share with our listeners?
Luke: Oh, yes, Susan. I wanted to mention the new learning module we recently developed with POZ. A print and online brand for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. The new module educates this audience about potential causes of HIV-related weight gain so they can manage their treatment and improve their quality of life. I know we've also developed other e-learning courses and assessment tools for POZ so their audience can learn more from testing and prevention to responding to a diagnosis and how to cope with aging. It's always rewarding to use our talents, to provide this kind of health education.
Susan: Absolutely great to see the work that we're doing really help educate people and make people's lives better. Thanks for sharing Luke. Thanks, Luke, and many thanks to MB Weiss of Forme for joining us today. If you have any questions about what we talked about, you can reach out to us on d'Vinci's social channels, through our website, dvinci.com, or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Susan Cort VO: Powered by learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, [00:16:00] corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.