5 Takeaways from HR Exchange LIVE: Corporate Learning

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For two days, learning has been the focus of conversations amongst HR professionals attending HR Exchange LIVE:  Corporate Learning.  For about six hours over the two days, professional logged in to online sessions discussing aligning learning strategy with business goals, how to develop the 21st Century employee, how leadership is an overlooked component of learning, creating a learning culture that asks employees to own their development, and bridging the divide when it comes to gaps in learning.

Here are 5 takeaways from the event.

  1. Align learning goals with business strategy

Cinemark is one of the country’s premier movie theater chains.  They have 28,000 employees worldwide and invest heavily in their learning strategies.  A key objective and a factor of success is measured by their culture and the ability to link their learning goals with the business strategy.  In fact, Sid Srivastava, the Senior Vice President of Human Resources for the company, says not a single piece of their learning strategy is created without the implicit goal that it serves to support the business.

So, how does the company do that?

To help explain, Srivastava and Brandon Hobby, the Director of Organizational Capability, discussed three particular strategic business objectives and their corresponding learning objectives.  For the purposes of this explanation, we’ll focus on the third set of objectives.

As you can see, Cinemark wanted to deliver consistent industry leading results.  As a result, their subscription loyalty program, Cinemark Movie Club, was born.

As part of their Movie Club subscription, members receive one movie ticket per month for $8.99.  If a member doesn’t use the ticket, it rolls over to the next month.  Members also receive 20% off concessions, a benefit they can share with friends, and online fees are waived for additional tickets purchased.  They currently have more than 400,000 members, an average of 1,200 per theater.

Cinemark was the first theater to create and implement such a program.  As such, there was a huge amount of secrecy around its launch.  So much so, employees did not receive training until right before its launch; to the tune of two weeks.

“So, that’s a huge challenge.  How do you get that out there to the team,” Hobby said.  “We were able to do that in a short period of time; get all of our employees and our management team prepared for the rollout of the program, understand how the program works and all of the ins and outs of how the program would be deployed.”

And the results of that training are positively staggering.

The company exceeded their target goal of 250,000 members within the first six months and, in fact, is on track to exceeding that target by 150% by the end of the year by signing up 500,000 members.

  1. A key component of a learning culture is having employees own their own development

At the center of learning for Global Custom Commerce (A Home Depot Company) is this concept of a learning culture.  What does it look like?  How does one define it?  Marcia Porchia, the Vice President of Accountability, and Corrin Duarte, the Director of Performance Improvement, for Global Custom Commerce (A Home Depot Company) defines it as such:

Knowing that definition, how does a HR professional go about building that culture.

In GCC’s case, they looked at several “building blocks”.

The first deals with leaders.

Porchia said the company hired a Chief People Officer, a key move.

“The person in that role spends their time trying to connect the company strategy, or core values and talent management with a dedicated focus,” Porchia said.  “The other thing we did was have two leaders, one focused on the academic side of learning and the other of the administrative side of learning.  There’s more to learning than just the academic side of things, but there’s a lot on the administrative side when it come to launching programs, for instance.”

Next: the people strategy block.

Porchia said they created a corporate university called the Institute of Leaders of Innovation, Advancement, and Development… or ILIAD for short.  Then, they created a team of staff members dedicated to Learning and Development.

The final piece of the people strategy block is soliciting ambassadors and champions of Learning and Development.  Simply, Porchia said they can shout from the rooftops the great things they offer, but they’ve found it is more impactful when an ambassador carries that message for them.

The next building block is resources.

Here, Duarte said they deployed several development tools such as the one-to-one planner and also a development blueprint.  They also launched several learning platforms… some of which are still being piloted.

The final piece focuses on the behaviors block, and this hold one of the more critical components of their culture shifting development ownership to the associate and leader.

“Quite simply, it is not the responsibility of L&D to have ownership over every L&D initiative,” Duarte said.  “And when you think about it, it’s not even feasible.”

“We know learning and development happens on the job; it happens in the moment.  And the person who knows what they need, more than anyone else, is the associate themselves so they have to take ownership of that.  And their leader has to partner with them and own development of their team in order for their team to be successful,” Duarte continued.

  1. Learning should not be seen as a detriment but as a benefit

Paul Rumsey is the Chief Learning Officer for Parkland Health and Hospital System.  From his vantage point, millennials and other professionals feel frustrated with development opportunities; this feeling that development is focused on a few people and not them.  As a result, he says employees will go to companies they feel are ready to invest in them.

“As companies are investing in these groups and others, workers will be more apt to bring their ideas, their energy each day,” Rumsey said.

So, how do HR professionals do that?

First, lead cross functional alignment discussions. 

“This will demonstrate a significant return on investment,” Rumsey said.

The next step, Rumsey said, is to integrate values and competencies into daily work routines.

Finally, expand strategic influence outside of your area.  Here, Rumsey says interactions with other departments in the form of cross-departmental projects are vital.

  1. Use Leadership to Build Collaboration.

Leadership is key. HR professionals know the concept is fundamental to many parts of a business. That includes learning. But how does a HR professional practice a learning strategy through leadership? Jim Trinka, PhD is the Chief Learning Officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Information and Technology.

His department uses it to build collaboration.

First, Trinka said you have to define what leadership looks like.  He does so in the following way:

  • There are four levels of leaders: Emerging Leader, Frontline Leader, Senior Leader, and Executive Leader
  • Each level is tied to a theme for the leaders to master and build upon as they develop (e.g., Leading Self)
  • Learning events are aligned across the levels and include a mix of corporate and executive training as well as project-based learning opportunities
  • Each learning event is designed to support VA employees become leaders and agents of change

“I call it purposeful leadership development, because it has to be very, very closely aligned to the strategy of the organization. People always say that, you know, learning strategy has to be aligned with the strategy of the organization, but this is actually taking it to another level,” Trinka said.  “I take it to another level by saying my leadership development creates the environment where we figure out how to implement, sustain and evolve the Office of Information Technology (OIT) transformation.”

From there, leaders learn how to collaborate with their teams for astonishing results.  Here are just a few of the programs Trinka’s department has created as a result.

“I force project teams to come up with projects that will implement, sustain and evolve the OIT transformation. So, I'm creating my IT transformational strategy as I'm going along through my leadership development efforts and they're learning a heck of a lot more because of it. They're actually doing strategy design in the development course. You know the 70/20/10 model? They're there they're living it,” Trinka said.

  1. When it comes to learning, think right tool for the right job

When it comes to learning, there are lots of different forms to technology out there, but what it really comes down to is finding the right tool for the right goal.

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For his part, James Mason, the Director of Learning Solutions for AD, it’s important to have a healthy mix of different technology offerings on hand.

“Sometimes—yes, even in 2018—a simple printed job aid is still the best solution, even though there is definitely a place for interactive learning,” Mason said.  “I’ve delivered programs that run the gamut and often take advantage of multiple modalities to deliver against each of their specific strengths. The trackability of content delivered through a learning management system can be attractive, but one must consider whether the learning experience itself is truly best delivered online.”


What is the overall theme from HR Exchange LIVE:  Corporate Learning?  If you look through all of the takeaways listed above, it should be easily spotted.  Learning needs to be continuous, but it also needs to be collaborative at all levels.  Marcia Porchia and Corrin Duarte’s presentation captured this concept best when they asked the question who owns development:  Leaders, Learning and Development / HR, Associates or all of the above?

The answer is clear.  It’s all of the above.

Now, while the primary focus of HR Exchange LIVE:  Corporate Learning was learning and development, it serves as critical piece to a much larger puzzle.  That puzzle is talent management.

It is for that reason HR Exchange LIVE:  Talent Management was created.  The free-to-attend online event is set for December 11-12, 2018 starting at 12p EST. The focus of the event is modernizing management and creating leaders.

Registration for HR Exchange LIVE:  Talent Management is now open.  To sign up, click here.


Mason Stevenson
HR Exchange Network