AAA CLO: Need to take risks in learning

An Interview with AAA Chief Learning Officer Dan Hill

Need to take risks in learning_Technology and life conceptual design as a machine learning abstract concept with mechanical robotic hands made of gears connecting together

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” 

That quote is attributed to Wayne Gretzky, arguably the best hockey player of all time.  The same can be said of learning.  As an example, learning professionals are at a particular crossroad more often than not:  what is the best delivery system for a specific piece of learning?  Sometimes, the only way to figure out the answer is to experiment, and that carries some risk of failure.

During the IQPC’s Chief Learning Officer Exchange in Austin, Texas, HR Exchange Network editor Mason Stevenson had an opportunity to discuss the topic with Dan Hill in an exclusive one-on-one interview.  Hill is the Chief Learning Officer for AAA – The Auto Club Group.

Mason Stevenson:  Let’s start big and go small. First, what are you hearing from your peers, in terms of challenges in the learning space? And then what are you hearing in terms of how they're mitigating them?

Dan Hill: So, I'd say a couple things. One is just the speed to market for learning solutions. I think we all get pressure from our respective organizations, when they have requests for learning. It used to be, you could take months and weeks to design and develop and pilot a course, but now they want it, they need those solutions in place quicker. So, that's a challenge that we all experience.

Mason Stevenson:  Now, let's go down to the AAA level. For your company specifically, what are your challenges in the learning space? And what are you doing to address those?

Dan Hill: I would say it's similar. it's the speed to market, so they want things and need things faster. But also, they don't want to bring people out of the workplace to a central location for training. So we've always been really good with eLearning, putting simulation and technical training out there. But there's a lot more we knew we could do in the virtual training space, so that you can still have that connectivity to an expert, a trainer, and bring that information together. And yet not have to leave the workplace, or travel somewhere to do that. They still need to dedicate time for learning, whether it's right there at your desk or in the room next door. But we can greatly reduce the expenses and the time it takes to learn by using those technologies.

And then it's just an art and a science of how do you reserve the higher level skill building for in person. So, if you're going to teach people advanced sales techniques and skills or customer service, those still work best face to face, but then they've got a foundation, they've got all their technical, they know the products, the services, the sales techniques, and learn some of that before they come to class. So, you can jump right into the higher level skill building.

Mason Stevenson: You bring up an interesting point there. They're trying to figure out the proper strategy for learning. How do you go about that?

Dan Hill: Usually, when I get to that crossroad, where it's hard to know if it's going to work, or if it's the right decision, you can build yourself a safe zone. And that's just by calling it a pilot and say, ‘Hey, we're going to test this. We're going to try it pick one audience, one group, and then see if that really fits.’ Because some of those things, it's a pretty big gamble.

A great example:  we had a member experience guide.  It really encompassed how we wanted the member experience to exist.  When someone walks into one of our branch locations, how do you offer and cross sell other products and services that may benefit that member during that experience?

We tried that a lot of different ways to teach our employees that member experience guide. We tried it virtually, and you couldn't keep the audience focused and they didn't get the dynamics of people being in the same room. We couldn't push it out through eLearning either.  It wasn't dynamic that way.

So we tried different things and we kept falling back, until they landed on the training needed to be face-to-face. And that's the best way. It was too important to do it any other way.

Also, we were trying to change a culture, so that's change management. That's hard to do virtually. That's hard to do electronically.

Mason Stevenson: You’ve hit on another critical point. Specifically, when it comes to learning, companies have to develop a healthy relationship with risk. They just have to say, ‘Okay.  This is what we’re going to try it, and we're going to see what happens. If it fails, it fails, but at least it fails in a controlled situation. And then you can say, ‘Okay, what did we learn from that?’ Then regroup and then attempt it again.

Dan Hill: Exactly. And that's what I was going to say.  With risk, we have to be open to failure. That's what makes all of us a little more comfortable taking those bigger risks.

Mason Stevenson: Right. We'll make this the final question. Is there something that really sticks out in your mind that AAA struggled with? You got through it, and looking back, you can see that it was a huge success; as a company, you really were able to just get through it and come out on the other side of in a really good place. What would that be? 

Dan Hill: In the past, what we would do is bring people into labs and put them through training, and we've had some big things such sales management systems that we've rolled across big and broad audiences.

I think we've hit a level, where we're really producing some good quality simulation. If you can create good simulation for technology, you can push that out to people and they can learn a new system fast and efficiently, because you give them opportunities to practice. And then they're efficient before they leave that classroom. You're confident that they’ve used most of the functions in that system, you're confident that they know how to do it.

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Now, when they go back, then you measure their success and see how well they adopt the system. But you're pretty confident going out of the training, that you simulated that as close as possible to the real system, that they go back to the work, back to the job, and there's their success with that. And our most recent system implementations have been very successful.

It was a lot of work on the front end to build it, but once it was built, and it was something you push out, they could take it when it was most convenient for them, and demonstrated proficiency and then we're able to transition to the new system. 

Mason Stevenson: That's such a critical component to any implementation, whether it's a learning system or a talent management system, or whatever it is, the devil is really in the details. It has to be in a good place on the front end before you roll it out to anybody. And if you can solve that part of it, you almost guarantee yourself a win on the back end once you start seeing the results for a lot of it.

Daniel Hill with AAA, fantastic talking to you! Thank you very much.  

Dan Hill: Thank you.


Want to know more about the CLO Exchange?  Read our Day 1 and Day 2reviews.