Rita Slogrove, Learning and Organisational Development Manager at Fletcher Building joins Blake Proberts on the Strategic L&D Podcast to discuss how L&D can deliver on business outcomes (both business improvement and people uplift), the power of piloting programs first, and how to give learners freedom within a framework. Listen to the full episode above or watch below.
Rita, can we start with your background, where you’ve been and what’s led you to where you are today?
Okay, yeah, well, thank you for having me. I’ve had a bit of an unusual career path for me. I started in the field of psychology. So I’m a registered psychologist and I grew up in psychometric assessment. Starting in New Zealand, working for consultancies around—and using assessment for selection and development, and coaching. And then moved across to Brisbane, where I worked for a consultancy as well and really, kind of, broadened the offering around OD, L&OD, coaching, career transition, leadership, facilitation, and things like that.
And I’ve spent most of my career there, which has given me some really good skills around stakeholdering and influencing and pitching and things like that. About five years ago, I moved internal to Fletcher Building Australia as the Learning and Oorganisational Development Manager for Australia. So we have five divisions of Fletcher Building, four of them are in New Zealand with about 10,000 people. And there’s about almost 5000 people on flexibility in Australia. And so I look after learning or development for, for that division. So it’s a slightly different lens now I’m, I’m in the business now. And which is good, it’s a slower process, a longer process, but it’s a deeper process, which I like.
And then I look after—we have a safety culture project with leadership and frontline programs that we’re running. I look after inclusion, diversity, talent, for top talent and succession, and accessible learning. So we have a whole strategy around accessible learning for everyone. Which is important because Fletcher Building Australia is both manufacturing and building products, and distribution. So while there are a number of people we call wired or online—like we are now—there is a significant number of people who are not. So they are driving trucks or making insulation or row forming and things like that. So we have an entire strategy around the concept that everyone should be allowed to learn or should have access to learning in some way, even if they don’t have an email address.
You came from a psychology background. That must be a tremendous benefit working with people, I would imagine?
Hugely helpful, I think, particularly—everything is around behaviour, right. So people have skill sets, and then they have how they behave in different environments. And it’s fascinating, I do a lot of senior coaching, and we spend time at the exec level. And we spend most of our time talking about behaviour. We don’t talk about capability. We talk about insight raising, feedback, honesty, transparency, role modelling, all that kind of stuff. That’s actually what’s really important when it comes down to it. Because generally, when you’re in a leadership role, you’re probably pretty good at the skill set of the function that you’re leading as the assumption. It’s actually that extra behavioural stuff that’s really important.
“We spend most of our time talking about behaviour. We don’t talk about capability. Because generally, when you’re in a leadership role, you’re probably pretty good at the skill set of the function that you’re leading.”
And it also helps because we also look after the wellbeing and resilience strategy for the business too. And that’s obviously been very critical in the last two to three years. And so that’s been something that’s gone from a nice piece that we offer to a major strategy item in order to assist our people with resilience, wellbeing, burnout, all of those things as they’ve gone through lockdown and out the other side.
With that access to leaders, how do you about aligning your day to day and your L&D strategy with the business strategy?
Yeah, I think that if I didn’t have our L&D offerings aligned with strategy, I just wouldn’t get anything across the line. So there’s a few things that we do. We have two reasons that we would be running with a strategy or linking to strategy versus for business improvement. So what are we doing with the business? So we focus on innovation, sustainability, efficiencies, and do we need to have the capability there in terms of being able to understand financial implications and things like that, in which case, we need to align our L&D for that. And the other is around people uplift. So how do we retain and develop our top talent? We call them top talent, because we run talent forums in order to identify who they are. How do we do that to a) keep them here, because they’re thriving on it, but b) line them up to be successes for the business?
And then what we then do is think about, okay, what does the business need? What are they focused on? And what are the other deliverables that would help execute the strategy? So that’s where mental health and wellbeing comes in. And I would liaise with the leaders and create a business case around why we would need to do this as a strategy, in order to get them across the line.
The other piece that’s really important for us—we’re very fortunate at Fletcher Building in that we have an Education Trust, where we’re actually able to access funds, in order to help the L&D and the capability uplift of our people. We’re very fortunate. To get anything from there, you must have a very, very strong business case. You must know your costs, your return on investment, what you plan to do with it, and how you plan to turn the dial, so to speak, on either the business or the people or both.
“Write your business case down on the page. And if you can’t finish the business case, it’s not a good one.”
So linking it to strategy is hugely important. And I think working in consulting has been really helpful for that. Because you know, I remember being taught years ago, write your business case down on the page. And if you can’t finish the business case, it’s not a good one. And they won’t say yes. So if you can finish it, here’s what I need. Here’s why. Here’s the catalyst for it, here’s how it will be implemented and here’s the cost compared to the benefit. If you can complete it, you’re probably going to get it across the line. And if you can’t, just start again. It’s just not ready.
In terms of the business case, have you had anything go really well or maybe really poorly?
Yeah, so we’ll start with poorly—because lots of those. First of all, poorly, I think comes down to two things, in my experience. The first is timing. And the second is, know who you’re speaking to, and whether they’re the right people. So, in an internal business—sp if you’re working internally—timing is everything. There’s no point talking about programms and capability, uplift on what you’re going to do in June because budgets are set. It’s too late now, strategy’s written. We need to be warming up to these conversations— well, in our business timewise—in January, December. January, start talking about where they fit and why. And look, to be honest, if it doesn’t fit the strategy or support the people, we’ve got to ask ourselves why we’re doing it.
And so I’ve learned the hard way, trying to get in there with somebody that I think is really amazing. And it’s too late. And they’ve said to me, cool, no, we can’t do it. And then the second thing, which I learned in my consulting days is just because someone’s really enthusiastic about your idea, and someone thinks it’s so great, I love it, I want to implement it—doesn’t mean that they’re the decision maker. And doesn’t mean that they’re the people who could say yes.
“Just because someone’s really enthusiastic about your idea… doesn’t mean that they’re the decision maker. [Understand] who are your cheerleaders [and] who are your influencers.”
And so understanding who are your cheerleaders—so just really pumped, but have no influence. Who are your influencers, so you need to get them on side because they’ll help you. Or maybe they’ve got the ear of the senior person that you need. And then who was the actual decision maker, because when I worked in consulting, I’d get all the way through on this project. And they’d say, thank you so much, I’m just going to take this to my manager to sign off and you’re like, oh, oh, I should have been talking to that person.
Now I’m back to 50/50. And I was 90. So I think where I’ve not done very well is where I’ve misread who the decisionmaker is—which is as easy as, so do you make the decision? And timing. Knowing when—it’s the same as when I coach people around asking for a pay rise. Don’t do it in July. It’s done. It’s locked in. They’ve, nothing they can do about budgets. Like, warm them up to the idea so they can at least consider it and put money away for you. Otherwise they may completely agree with you, but their hands are tied.
So, and also storytelling. If you don’t start—tell a good story, if you don’t show them how it works, if you haven’t thought about their people—so you know, if I want to take them offsite for three days, I gotta be really careful. That’s three days of lost productivity. This better be the greatest program of all time. To do that, you know, how am I thinking about the people? Am I running it ain short modules? Am I really working so that they can see the benefit? That’s, that’s—if I haven’t done that well enough in my past, that’s where I’ve gotten no. You know, that’s where kind of L&D falls into that’s really nice, we’ll do that if we have time. And that’s the box you don’t want to be in. Yeah, you want to be in this is critical.
During that storytelling process, when you start to look into the different learning activities that you might execute on?
Yeah, I think knowing your stakeholders is really important. So, I have really strong HR leaders. So we have the Australian division, and we have six businesses that sit underneath—well, kind of five and a half—underneath. And each of them are we have heads of HR, but we also have executive general managers. And so I’ve worked really hard on relationships with our senior leaders. And so have they to, to get to the point where where you are going to recommend something they say, okay, yeah.
And so it’s around, first of all, doing your homework and getting to know the business and know what the business needs. So we have almost 400 sites, all around Australia, that’s very difficult. You know, if we ran a workshop in Brisbane face to face, people in Brisbane still have to travel and have accommodation in Queensland, because it’s a big place. So, it’s around making it work. So for example in—and getting them onside first, because if the leaders are onside, they will make the time to do so.
So when we came five years ago, we wanted to really create a learning culture, a culture of learning where learning is pulled, rather than pushed. And that’s a hard thing to do. So we made learning smaller and bite-sized and relevant. So when we—come 2020, we decided we needed to do so much more on mental health and wellness. I got the senior leaders together and we told the story of mental health. And we also told the story actually of suicide rates, and—particularly in the regions—because our demographic is 20 is 26 to 48 males. And all of a sudden, we are the dominant demographic now in this mental health category. And an at risk category. And once we talked about that and once we told that story and talked about it, the response I got from the leaders was what do you need us to do?
“We wanted to really create a… culture of learning where learning is pulled, rather than pushed. So we made learning smaller and bite-sized and relevant.”
And so when you get them there, you think a) I’ve made a good point, this is definitely important. And then what we offered was support that was tangible for the business. So it wasn’t—we actually steer away at the moment, and for the last couple of years, from anything face to face anything long. If it is face to face, it’s short and it’s bite-sized, because I went to a workshop with Dr. David Rock a number of years ago for the Neuro Leadership Institute. And it changed everything I did about L&D. I walked out of that workshop and went, we’re doing it all wrong. You need three minutes to learn something.
So any program you’ve got, you know, every program I went, I reassessed all of it. Does it really need to be eight hours? Could it be six? Could be five? Could it be two? How are we doing this differently? And so with this mental health strategy, we had options for using an app and options for 45-minute webinars. But we also turned things into toolbox talks on practicality. And so what we were able to do is give ownership to the businesses to decide what they wanted to use and when.
So people don’t like being told what to do. They like to have a bit of control themselves and they should—this is five businesses so you know, they’re all a little bit different. So they like to be able to be given the framework and then support in order to deliver it, and then they like to be able to go you know what, I’ll choose the toolbox talks. I’ll choose the webinars, that’s what we’ll do. And that’s really when you’re looking at shaping a solution.
You know, it’s best to get out in the business and hear, you know, hear what they’re saying, hear what is going to work. And ometimes a poster and a cheat sheet and a toolkit—that’s what we call them out onsite or on those notice boards in the lunchroom—is actually hugely beneficial, as opposed to necessarily jumping on a webinar. So it just we give those different options. And we’ve definitely moved away from the longer programs, unless we think it’s valuable, right into the bite-size, deliberate, development-oriented and kind of just-in-time learning. So that’s kind of where we’re moving to, or have moved to.
How have you gone about assessing which of those programs is working for you?
So really good question, because we need data for momentum. We need to be—if we’re going to say this is going to work, we better show that it’s going to work. So I’ve got a couple of great team members who are very good at this. And what we do—we have a few philosophies. The first is everything is a pilot, until it’s not. So we’re brave. I went to a conference a few years ago and heard from some real big powerhouses, and was completely inspired because they decided to fail fast. They try it, implement it, go. And everything’s a pilot, and I thought, yes, that is exactly how we should do it.
“Everything is a pilot, until it’s not.”
So we run everything, as a pilot. We try it. And we try it because you can’t get five businesses to align and go at the same time. It’s madness, grab the one who’s ready to go now and run it like a pilot, and we measure everything. So we actually, we think about what it might impact. So when we’re looking at our top talent, we have a top talent academy, and a top female talent academy. We look at what it, what it might turn the dial on and we think retention, internal mobility and turnover, and engagement. So we think, okay, how on earth are we going to measure that? So we look at outcomes of the programs they’ve been on. Feedback from them, both qualitative and quantitative. We look at—so for our safety culture program, we look at safety data, engagement data, and we actually measure everything, because at the end of the day, if it has—if you’re thinking that’s a real stretch, I don’t think that’s correlated. It’s fine. We haven’t lost anything. But we need to have all that data upfront.
So with our safety culture program, which has been a huge program, we measure TRIFR, so total recordable injury frequency rate. We measure our safety culture using a bradley curve model. We measure engagement, which we can’t attribute solely to that. But when we measure the, when we look at the qualitative comments below, we can attribute it to that. We’re gain their feedback too, which you know, it’s, arguably, it’s their opinions, and it’s very subjective, but we still collect it. We get quotes, we get interviews, we get reflections. And then we look at some of the harder data as well to see if there’s been an impact.
We also measure, across the business, we measure learning completion. So that’s from our anytime content, where people can pull the, pull the content, like microlearning. And we also—so we can see what people are learning and how much they’re learning. And we also measure hits to our SharePoint sites and our learning hubs and things like that, to see what they’re using, what they’re looking at, and hopefully that it is increasing based on what we’re doing with the content. So we measure, very long winded way of me saying we measure absolutely everything so that we can understand what’s going on. And if we’re having an upward trajectory, and it drops, let’s go check it out. What has happened, what has changed? Is it a business impact? Maybe they’ve been doing stocktake? So, it’s fine.
But what is it that we’re doing? And because we have that pilot mentality, it doesn’t matter. You know, we try something, like it’s not working, stop, pivot, move forward, keep going. And everyone loves being part of a pilot, it’s actually really easy to get people on a program if it’s a pilot, and they’re the first ones. Yeah, it’s a lot. There’s a lot more momentum going on there.
And in terms of technology, how do you decide what to implement?
Well, actually is a really good question. Because we are—our head office is in New Zealand. And actually, to a certain extent, while I look after L&OD, I don’t decide on a lot of those big things, because it’s a group-wide initiative. So in terms of our LMS, or the way we run things, we run with whatever the business does. I think what we do, that I’m pretty proud of my team for, is that we look for all the little things that we can find in order to help us. And sometimes it doesn’t need to be too complex at all. We have this philosophy that if you want to do something, it’s probably been done in another area of the business some time ago, so go find it, and utilise that.
So when we’re collecting data, we will collect—we have a platform to measure all our safety data. We actually just use things like Teams forms and things like that to map data. We have formulas, we have a lot of business analysts that can help us to create formulas and tables in order to measure what we’re doing in terms of our outcomes. And we have a lot of—we have an HR system that we measure our people stats as well. So what we do every month is we have reports that we’re pulling and generating and then we’re filtering them out. And then we’re actually sitting back and looking at them.
“I just started creating monthly reporting data, and I slotted it into [leadership’s] monthly ops packs. We use the data to show success. And then we use the data to help us secure a budget or programs in order to move forward again.”
And in terms of getting L&D up there, I just started creating monthly reporting data, and I slotted it into their monthly ops packs. And they were like, cool, thanks. So I don’t think they didn’t want it in there. I think that they were always just looking at people data and things like that. I was just like, hey, here we are! And I think you can look at that trend data too. And then we have a newsletter that goes out monthly. It’s funny how much traction a newsletter gets, but they really like it. So we’ve given ourselves a page in there with and we share the learning data and things like that.
We like to gamify things. So people love a bit of competition. And when we show how well the business units are going and this one’s behind the other, they want to get up there. We ask them to send in photos and things like that. And we give out prizes and things like that. People like a little bit of reward, and a little bit of incentive. And that really helps us to get our, our data up.
But we use the data to then show success. And then we use the data to then help us secure a budget or programs in order to move forward again. So it’s kind of our reason why, in order to help us.
Have you found that after leadership has seen that, it’s unlocked some doors?
Yeah, it does. And they start reaching out anecdotally and things like that. And I think for them, one of the biggest struggles we have—and will be similar to other businesses—is that we are pressed for time. Yeah, so resources are tight, there’s a low unemployment rate, we’ve got a lot to do. Demand is here. And supply is here. You know, we work really, really hard so people can’t think, I don’t have time for learning.
So we get a lot of traction where we’ve really heard the business. And we have really great people and performance functions in each business and they actually roll out their own L&D as well. So around the technical skills and things like that, and they have their own little initiatives that they are very successful with. So we get traction there, we either support them or off they go. But we talk really well together and I think, for us, it’s just about hearing the business and the more you can hear the business and, to be honest, stop when they, when you think it’s best to stop —like pause and hold—which is something in consulting I’ve never even heard those words, right. You just barrel ahead. Knowing when to stop, and when to hold, is almost as important as knowing when to launch. You know if the timing’s not right, we wait. You know, sometimes—we are L&D. We’re not paramedics, it’ll be okay.
Actually what’s worse? Rolling it out and launching when they don’t want it and they’re busy and flat out, or waiting, saying, we heard you, we’re going to do it here now. So that consultation with the business is really important. And just knowing them well enough that we can almost fend off. So if something’s coming down, and we think, hey, that our business is not going to be ready for that, we can say, hey, can we move that by a month or so? And knowing when the timing is, it gives you a better impact and better traction. Because you can’t un-launch something.
And what kind of key or leading indicators do you have to establish that timing?
Yeah, we have, we have yearly calendars around when we want to drop things. And then we speak to the ops leads and the people performance leads around their individual calendars to and we kind of map them up together.
But we have this concept, which I think is really successful for us. It’s called freedom within a framework. What that means is we provide the framework, we provide the context. So I’m running a, we’re helping to rollout a frontline safety program, which is really cool. It’s, it’s not even technical safety, it’s behavioural safety, hearts and mind stuff. And we’ve got the framework, and if they want, I will support the rollout and drive it every month for them. And some businesses have said, yes, please. Yep. Come on in. And other businesses said no other way. Good, thank you. And they’ve got it, and they’re rolling it out how they want. And so long as you’re giving them that flexibility, you’re gonna get a lot more traction. And all I need every month is the reporting. Who’s attended, how many versus forecast? What did they think, how did they go? What’s the feedback? What are the action plans look like at the other side? What’s the shift we’re seeing?
And so when we get that data every month, we find comfortably that business is often flying and a few of them are, it’s fine. And then checking in with the right people. So again, you know, sometimes you’ll check in with someone that’s like, yeah, that’s fine. Come on in, launch this project—and we haven’t asked the right person. Who’s saying please, no, wait, we are under the pump. This is not okay. We can’t do this right now.
So a lot of it is really good stakeholdering and just knowing when to do what. And so that’s a big learning for me coming internally, and that, you know, it’s against my nature to pause. There just seems counterproductive to me, but now that I’ve seen it, it’s better. It’s okay. You know, months, like May: Hectic. It’s just before month, it’s just before year-end. It is a crazy, crazy productivity month, we need to rethink what we do in May. December in January, keep them clear.
“A lot of it is really good stakeholdering and knowing when to do what. There’s nothing wrong with thinning back your offering and making it more impactful.”
You know, knowing things like that about your business, knowing November is pretty good at the beginning and then take the accelerator off. It’s hugely helpful, because they’re busy kind of ramp, you know, going into Christmas as well. And it does shorten what you can drop when, but there’s also nothing wrong with thinning back your offering and making it more impactful.
Yeah. Some of it, some of it has to be done, right. And they’re like, I don’t really want to do it. And it’s compliance or whatever, right. But other stuff, you’re probably doing it because there’s a need. If they understand the need, you know, generally when we’ve done a good job at conveying that. It’s not a no, it’s not now. And no, they can’t put it off forever.
But, you know, sometimes we do also re-evaluate, is this still a need,? You know, if it’s not a compliance—so compliance is a lot of our privacy and anti-bribery and corruption, things like that. But also things like inclusive leadership,. You’re just you’re doing it. It’s not what, it’s when. It’s not whether you’re doing it, sorry, it’s when you’re doing it, and that’s your freedom within a framework. But other things; is there still a need? Let’s check.
With the freedom within a framework, is that something where you’re supplying them with an array of learning opportunities that they can then take at their own pace?
A little bit, yeah. So we, we create what is needed to be done. So with our mental health framework, we have a three year strategy, we’re in year three. And the strategy is more around the mindset of what we’re trying to do. And then we would have a calendar of things that, that are we are offering, and then we would— so for mental health and wellbeing in particular, we have our HR teams that are assisting to roll it out. So we would give it to them to roll it out in their business. And then we also have champions, so we call them ambassadors. And they are upskilled as well in mental health, and they have the keys to do it, too. So they’re the ones out in their businesses, 200 of them chatting away and finding a need. And then it will go up the necessary chain to get a manager’s approval. And off they go.
So there are elements that everyone’s doing together. And there are elements that we can pick and choose from. And we find that particularly useful. And it actually, it feeds our data usage. So we partner with a company called Groove, they have an app. So we can see data usage going up.
Do you apply the same methodology to capabilities or using a capability framework-based approach?
Yes. So we have a really strong focus at the moment on succession. So growing our, our future leaders from within. So we actually have a clear capability framework. We also have clear success profiles, as well. So—and it’s competency based. So we know that if you want to be head of sales in a particular business, these are the competencies you need, and pull us some extra criteria that you need.
And if you’ve been identified as a successor, we ask some qualifying questions like a) do you want to be the head of sales? This is a question we often don’t ask. And then we’ll actually form a tailored development plan based on the capability or the competencies, sorry, that I’m missing so they can build them. Because, you know, you see in a lot of places where people are on succession plans as a future leader, and then the the role becomes vacant, and they apply, but they don’t have this particular experience. Well, we never gave it to them in the first place. So they’ve been there for ages, and they’ve done nothing specifically in order to get in there.
So what are we doing? Are we moving them in the business for a short period of time? Are we upskilling them? Are we pairing them with an internal mentor? What are we doing to help them close that gap? So that if an opportunity does arise, they are ready. So that’s where we’re particularly focused on our capability framework to know what we need.
So there’s a bit of two things there, right. There’s developing and retaining our people. But there’s also, this is good for business. And it’s really important, particularly the candidate market at the moment, there aren’t a lot of candidates around and people are being headhunted all over the place. Why would our people stay with us? That’s where L&D plays a massive role.
“Development planning is really important. A development plan should be really bespoke. It might be that you actually just need a coach… as opposed to a generic leadership program, which is going to take six working days out of your time, and not going to make you a better successor anyway.”
And it, it doesn’t always mean Johnny’s great, let’s put them on a course, that’s not what it means. In fact, if anyone comes in, I want to do it some kind of leadership course, we’ll say we’ll stop you there. What specifically do you want to know? Because it might not be a course, it might be a couple of things that you want to get you in that direction. So development planning is really important. And to be honest, something we really need to work better on because that is the key. A development plan should be really bespoke, they should be individual. And it might be that you actually just need a coach, or you need a mentor, or you need to do this little skill set piece on financials or P&L management, as opposed to generic leadership program over here, which is going to take six working days out of your time, and it’s not going to make you a better future successor anyway.
How do you manage the benchmarking of those capabilities to address gaps?
So when we built our success profiles in the first place, we build them in conjunction with the business. So we have our capability framework, which has been built in quite detailed in terms of positive and less positive behaviours that go with each of these capabilities at different levels. So we have a lot of layers in our business. So I’m talking mostly about the senior layer, with different strategy to use for further down. Further down is just retention and general development. But further up is really capability-based.
And then we are testing them with people currently in those roles. So let’s take head of sales, we have a head of sales in every business. So we actually have five on tap, ready to go to talk to us about what makes a great head of sales. And then we’d talk to the head of the business as well and get their take as well. And everyone is testing that success profile. And then we even have, once we’ve kind of narrowed down, which is which and what we need, and we have it signed off by our chief executive, we actually have a few extra bits that might be business unit-specific. So you know, we have Iplex. So we look at pipes versus roller doors versus, you know, bathrooms. There might be some business unit-specific things you’d need in order to be the next head of sales, but for the most part is checked by the businesses and their testing is very, yes. If somebody had those things, and yes, they might not be able to get all of them, but if they had most of those things, we would take them.
To call back to your psychology background, why do you think people always say they want to learn more, but don’t always consume the training more?
It’s a really good call out actually, yeah, it’s completely true. I think from a mindset perspective, it’s just a nice gift, you know, oh, we just need more of this. We need more of this. And then when the rubber hits the road, I don’t have time. So I think, you know we do, again, “we need more training” can sometimes be a throwaway comment, maybe it’s actually they’re asking for something else. Yeah, maybe they just need more support, or more help with prioritisation and things like that.
Or maybe when they get in the learning, they’re like, oh, I didn’t mean it like this. So something that we find quite tough is when we have someone on doing a particular piece of learning, it’s really important that their manager is briefed and onboard and allows them, almost gives them permission to learn. So they’ve got the time to do that. Because that can be really tough. Because if the manager is not quite across it or things like that, they can say, well, that’s great, but I actually really need you here. And that can happen a lot where you’ve got that conflict around things.
“It’s really important that their manager is briefed and onboard and allows [an employee] to learn. Because if the manager is not quite across it, they can say, well, that’s great, but I actually really need you here.”
So it’s easy to say I need more training, right? That’s easy. But what does that look like? And what is the learning? And it’s funny, because we did a lot of work with our nonword teams around what they would want to learn. And they all went, oh, we don’t want to learn stuff. We want to do our shift and go home. You know, no, thanks. But actually on observing them, we realised they were teaching each other little skills often and they called them hacks. So all we needed to do was record the hacks. And it was peer teaching and peer learning.
And I think one of the big things that I’d call out there, because you raise an excellent point, is what people actually think learning is. And learning, if you take David Rock’s viewpoint, learning is just that moment where the synapses connect, and you got fire and you go, ah, that’s it. That’s learning. So does it need to be a module? Maybe not. Does it need to be, hey, have you thought about doing it this way? Oh, cool, thanks. That’s learning, you know, and the way that you learn should be, it should be really open to what that is. Because once we realised that, we were like, you guys have a learning culture! You’re fluid. You, who don’t want learning, who don’t need learning, are doing it and doing it beautifully. It was just we needed to give it that name.
You know, I think we, when we first moved into the learning and the flow of work piece, and, and that micro learning, one of our senior leaders was over from New Zealand. And he said to me, I said, how was your weekend or something? He goes, oh, I change the light bulb in the roof of my car. And he said, it’s really hard to do because the German car. And I said, Oh, well, how did you do it? And he goes, well, I looked at the manual, and it was 1000 pages long. So I threw that on the floor, and I looked up a YouTube clip that was in German. But in seven-minute YouTube clip, I learned how to change the light bulb in my car. And I was like that, that’s learning. He chose to spend seven minutes doing it in another language and it was still more helpful to him than the 1000-page manual that was on the floor of the car.
“One of the big things that I’d call out… is what people actually think learning is. There’s really only three things you need to do: Introduce a concept, allow them to experience it, and then allow them to reflect on it socially.”
And that’s how we should be learning. If it’s worth being there for a day of course, but we need to test whether it really is and what format it needs to be in. And people get very, you know, nervous about the virtual learning space and want to get back to face to face as soon as possible. And yes, there’s definite merit in face to face. But we need to think about what we’re doing and why and what works best.
You know, when we talk about learning, there’s really only three things you need to do. It’s just introduce a concept, allow them to experience it, and then allow them to reflect on it socially, talk about it, and reflect on it or write it down or whatever it is. And that experience piece is either watching a video, watching it live, experiencing it themselves, whatever it is, so that they get that “a-ha!”. And then they need to talk about what it is. And it doesn’t matter what format that comes in, like the hack that these guys were doing on night shift without even knowing it, versus our, you know, four hour half-day workshop on inclusive leadership. It’s just, it doesn’t matter so long as those three things are occurring. It can be anything, and we need to be open to them doing that, because they’re more likely to do it.
I think it comes back to impact on the day to day. How do you go about prioritising the activities you do based on the business impact?
nd something happened, a girl caught off, and I was like, I get to show up. She’s like, No, no, I’ve watched a YouTube video. And I’ve taken the whole thing apart, and I found the problems come problem. And I’ve put it back together. You know, it’s just something that is it wasn’t a thing that was available. Until sort of recently, right? That the hacks I think lamda really well to that style to right, where it’s something where, hey, if we can capture this, and we can record it. And I think it comes back to impact. There’s trust there because your coworkers done this. And you can see the business, the impact on your day to day life, it’s easier to maybe to undo that bold or change that light bulb in the car or whatever it might be. How do you go about prioritising the activities you do based on the business impact? Is that something that you sort of look into quite a lot?
Yeah, I think we have, to make it easy, we have pillars, and key strategy items. And why we’re agile is, we’re agile within those. So we know they’re coming. In terms of priority, strategy is king. So is it going to turn the dial on the business? Is this going to increase retention because people are thriving? Or if we put them on way too many programs, they’re actually burnt out now, because they can’t cope because they’re trying to do the job. So we will prioritise based on that; will it turn the dial on the business? Will it support our people more?
“In terms of priority, strategy is king. So is it going to turn the dial on the business? Is this going to increase retention because people are thriving?”
So we will prioritise things that are giving us good results as well—like we piloted a mentoring program, where we mentor across businesses. We didn’t know how it was gonna go. We’re in our third year of it, and it’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger. So we prioritise that.
Cost also matters. So if something is a lot more cost effective, we will prioritise that too. We actually have found the social learning part of things hugely valuable. So your expert is standing next to you. Why are we not getting that person to lead a hack, as opposed to bringing in a facilitator? And why do we need to do that? You actually gain a lot more respect, because, you know, we have a lot of people who work very hard in our business. And so sometimes if someone comes in externally, they’re like, who are you? You don’t know our business? What are you doing here!
But actually, we have someone else who’s going to share something that they’ve learned or something that they’ve learned, we actually find that hugely valuable as well. And we’ll prioritise that, because it has so many positive side effects and increases cohesion, engagement, productivity, general happiness, which we know leads to a safer environment, and a more productive environment. And so we would prioritise things like that. But again, if it’s not going to turn the dial on business, we’re probably not going to do it.
Yeah, and we do bring external people on, of course, but they know our business really well. You know, and I think it’s around just that audience of, it’s not the teacher and the student. It is the let’s chat. Let’s find out what’s going on. Let’s learn. Let’s understand what we’re doing here. And let’s not be here for a minute longer than we have to.
If you had to sum up sort of like one or two of your biggest lessons over your career, what would you say?
I think—what would it be? Good relationships. Understand. Unnderstand where they’re coming from me. I mean, if you’re one on one leading a team, if you’re leading a function, and if you’re leading a strategy, understand your audience and what they need. Because you’re more likely to succeed. People don’t like things being done to them, they don’t like change being done to them—they do if it was their idea, and they were part of it.
So I think it is spend the time getting to know people, getting to understand and also identify if you’re not that right person. So if you’ve been trying to really build a relationship with a stakeholder, and they’re just not seeing what’s valuable, and you’re not kind of getting that traction that you need, well, who do they listen to? Go talk to that person. Get that person to get in there and get that across the line.
And I think that when you’re building those relationships, you’ll just be so successful if you just get in and listen and hear. My first three months of working here, I just went to branch in jeans and sneakers and listened, what sort of was going on met, everyone understood, made friends with people, so that I could hear what was important to them. And then when you deliver what is important to them, they’re like, see, they care, they heard.
“Understand your audience and what they need. People don’t like… change being done to them—they do if it was their idea, and they were part of it. So spend the time getting to know people.”
So I think that and then also, just be brave. Like we’re not paramedics, this is, it’s okay. This is not—the urgency isn’t there for us. We can actually—we have the luxury of giving something to try making it a pilot. You’ve built good relationships if you fail. And we have—oh, that was terrible. Okay, move on. Next. What are we going to change? How are we going to pick ourselves up? What is the data say? So I think that I did, prior to hearing those people speak at that conference, I would definitely perfect something and wait till it was perfect before I rolled it out. And now, give it a shot. It’s fine. And you’ve got good relationships, so they know that’s what you’re doing. You know, and if it fails, it was just a pilot.
Yeah, it’s funny. I was actually—my kids are really into the show about science in the brain and things like that. And they were talking about creativity. And they say creativity is two things. Not creativity, sorry—innovation is two things. It is enthusiasm, and experimentation. And that’s exactly what it is. Just be enthusiastic and try a lot of things and go I wonder if? And if it works, keep going and if it doesn’t, pivot.
And I think with L&D, while you’ve got big firm pillars, and big, firm deliverables, there’s a lot of movement within those. And people won’t mind if you’re like, you know what, this is not having the impact we needed, let’s, let’s call it back. What do you guys think? How would you like it to be? We just launched our frontline safety program, and it is designed because the business told us that’s what they wanted. They said toolboxes please. They said, no BS, and they said, be authentic. And so we did. And so when we present it, and we roll it out that like, we, we help with that.
Lastly, how can people find out more about you and Fletcher Building’s work?
I’ll be on LinkedIn. We put a lot of the stuff that we do on LinkedIn as well and Fletcher Building Australia, as well. Check us out—or the broader Fletcher Building too. It’s quite a big business in New Zealand. In Australia, you probably would know us more by our businesses, which are Laminex, Fletcher Installation, Olivary, Iplex, Stramer, and Tradelink. So those brands are probably a lot more commonly known than Fletcher Building Australia in Australia. But yeah, you’ll find us there.
This is a transcript from the Strategic L&D Podcast, where we venture through what key L&D opinion leaders are doing today to ensure they’re delivering a strategically impactful L&D function. If you want to stay up to date with our latest releases, subscribe to our learning and development podcast. We’re on most common podcast platforms, including Spotify and Apple. You’ll also find us in video form on our YouTube channel.
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