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Talking Training with Faith LeGendre of 1-800-flowers.com

Faith Legendre
Contributor: Faith Legendre
Posted: 06/10/2008
Training is a critical function within any organization—but picture trying to train your employees who are in multiple locations and can’t make it to the office for learning initiatives. 1-800-flowers.com has incorporated e-Learning and blended learning into their training strategy to make sure their employees receive the knowledge and continuous education they need to succeed in their careers. e-BIM speaks with Faith LeGendre, the vice president of training, who transformed 1-800-flowers.com from an organization with no formal training strategy to a company that has made learning central to its values.

What was your first job and what lessons did you take away from it? How have you applied those to your current role?

My first job was working in a call center. I was 14 years old. They ripped out pages from the phone book and told me to call the numbers and set up appointments for vinyl siding with home owners. I didn’t work there long, but I learned how to overcome fear, cold call and establish a rapport with people over the phone, and of course those are skills that I still use today in my everyday work life.

I then went on to work in retail for a cooking store, Express and Lerner New York. They were all located in a mall in New Hampshire. The managers would see me selling and providing great customer service and offer me more money at their store. So I learned at a young age that doing well at your job and treating customers with excellence will help you succeed.

I also had a very unique job at the age of 16. I was chosen out of all the high school students in New Hampshire to have my own radio talk show on the largest commercial station in the state at the time. It was for half an hour once a week. I learned how to call and solicit guests for my show on topics that I thought might be of interest to the community. Through this job I learned how to interview and speak with an engaging voice, which is an essential professional skill. It was by far my favorite job I have ever had in my life. I truly enjoyed the experience and am still applying what I learned.

What do you see in the future of the learning and training industry?

As time is a continual challenge and knowledge is ever increasing I see learning and training information broken up into what I have coined as "learning nibblets" and embedded into business practices. So, for example, if you are filling out a transactional form online you will be able to click a learning button and see an example form filled out and other information. Or perhaps you are about to conduct a monthly review with your associate. Before you embark on your review you can click a button and watch a video of a manager conducting a review with an associate to refresh you on the skills. Just-in-time learning would be embedded into your day. So learning will be more about knowledge retrieval in the future, more video and simulations when you need it and where you need it, via a mobile or other device.

How do you deal with the frustrations of training?

I always try and think of a different way. I also consult and collaborate with my team constantly and brainstorm on how we can improve our processes and set plans of action in place. We are always facing our challenges head on and conducting lessons-learned sessions as a team.

What do you think of blended learning?

I believe strongly in the impact of blended learning—that’s why we have many ways to learn in our organization. We have libraries where you can check out books, CD’s, tapes, etc. for your own personal professional development on many topics, from sales to leadership. We also have WebEx sessions and encourage utilization of chatting, polling, Q&A and testing, as well as the break off sessions. We also are heavy users of our intranet for just-in-time access to one page job aids and training manuals.

What did you find to be the most difficult task when implementing e-Learning into your organization and why?

People like and feel comfortable with paper. It’s a vice and something that in the very near future will separate the stronger, more successful workers/companies from the weaker ones. The workers/companies that are using paper and have not migrated to electronic forms of learning will be left behind. Knowledge and learning management quick retrieval will be the deciding factor.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Happy and healthy of course! Professionally I hope to be teaching at a college or university as an adjunct professor, have published several e-books and have lead many individuals and organizations to success and continue to do so.

How do you spend your free time?

Free time, what’s that? No, seriously I enjoy researching social networking and how businesses are using this medium. I also enjoy film, theater and live music.

Interview by Katherine Mehr, editor
Faith Legendre
Contributor: Faith Legendre
Posted: 06/10/2008