How to drive learning that counts – with Porter Novelli [PODCAST]

Why does supporting learning conversations at scale matter? How can you create space for learning within a business? How can you support global audiences without an LMS? Simon Greany is joined by Melissa Taylor, Global L&D leader at Porter Novelli, discussing live examples of how you can motivate your audience to drive learning that counts. Read on for our 6 key takeaways from the conversation.

Melissa Taylor drive learning that counts

Play the episode….

Driving learning that counts…in one minute

Don’t have time to listen or read right now? Here are Melissa’s 6 key takeaways for driving learning in less than one minute. 

  1. Blend background experiences together in creative ways.
  2. Effective communication and audience needs are at the heart of learning.
  3. Reaching an audience does not always equate to using the newest technology.
  4. Gauge ROI by utilizing feedback from learners.
  5. Balance audience and business needs by working from the top down.
  6. Provide permission and legitimacy to encourage learners’ growth.

Read on for Mellissa’s expert opinion on these points…

Our 6 key takeaways from Melissa Taylor

1. L&D provides a unique opportunity to blend background experiences together in creative ways.

“I do feel like I have this opportunity to bring a variety of experiences together, truly understanding our agency. Again, the pressures of providing high-quality learning and development experiences to our employees, but also recognizing that we’re a professional services firm; so, every hour spent in training is an hour we’re not billing. Then, combining that with a deep interest and understanding in what motivates people and what underlies our behaviors I think gives me a unique perspective and a strength in being able to approach the development of a learning and development programs.”

“It’s interesting, because I… just to be really honest about it, when I first stepped into the role in this, I was looking at others who had similar to roles to mine. And looking at backgrounds and experiences, I started to think, “Oh gosh, maybe I’m behind the curve, here. I haven’t grown up learning design or organizational development, or the HR field.” But the more that I’ve had the opportunity to connect with the community and really learn from them, what I’ve come to appreciate is that marketing and communications background and the behavior change background is a very adaptable skillset. And then, when you combine it with the passion for learning and talent development, it does bring together this strong sort of perspective, even though it’s a bit nontraditional.”

2. Effective communication and audience needs are at the heart of learning.

“One of the challenges we often face is coming from the standpoint of “if you build it, they will come.” It’s easy to get enamored with the shiny things, in terms of using the latest technology to develop and disseminate programs. But at the core of it, you really still have to understand what does your audience need, and how are they best going to learn?”

“I find that the most meaningful and I think effective programs start with the question of, “What does my audience need?” And, “How can I best meet that need?” And then, we do have… the exciting thing about this time is that there are so many different tools and options that can help us in getting our messages out. I’ve found for myself that sometimes you have to figure out how to do the best with the limited resources that you have.”

3. Finding new ways to reach an audience does not always equate to using the newest technology.

“So, when we first started – we didn’t have an LMS, here. One of the things I’ve needed to do is develop and communicate via a lot of webinars. On the one hand, I get it – that is not the most personal way of communicating and disseminating information. However, after being a participant on many different webinars and online trainings, what I am proud to say is that I think what we’re able to do here is create really interesting and compelling content, delivered in an engaging way, that can help to overcome some of the distance, if you will.”

“One of other things that we did to further emphasize the accountability and help with the tracking is we’re in the midst of our review process right now… so we timed it that the webinar series ended, we said, “Okay, you’ve got 30 days to take the quiz, and then when you are doing your review you have to enter your quiz score in your review.” So, it’s a checkpoint to make sure that they’ve taken it and they are talking with their manager about that.”

4. Gauge ROI by utilizing feedback from learners.

“Because we added one other component to the quiz, which was to ask, “As we’re describing this new consultancy model or methodology, what would you like to learn more about?” So, we had a more open-ended question for that, and again, it’s mainly – for me, I’m going to look at the data overall, and that’s going to help shape some of the training priorities for 2020, but for the performance management conversations, again, we’re asking them to bring their answer to that to their manager. Have discussions with them about what it is you want to learn and focus in on.”

“The third component is looking at ways to empower people to own their own learning journey. That’s going to be an even bigger theme for us in 2020. And sometimes, that will mean providing people individual opportunities to go get tailored training. But I think more than anything, it’s going to mean being more intentional about the on-the-job experiences and opportunities. So, who can they shadow? What are the stretch assignments?”

“When you talk about ROI, that is going to get really messy because it is so individualized. But you look at all the literature – and again, so much of the learning happens when… and I look at my own personal journey. Those moments when I grew the most were those times when I kind of had that, “Oh man, can I do this? They’re asking me to do something… They might have more faith in me than I do.” You know? You get on the other side of that, and the awesome feeling that you have and what you gained and learned is amazing.”

5. Balance audience and business needs by working from the top down, creating both centralized and decentralized learning.

“There are a few things that come to mind, and there are a few things that are guiding my thinking as we go into 2020 planning. The more specific the organization’s goals are and what their priorities are, that is a very helpful place to start. I think that while there’s a big part of me that would love to completely individualize everyone’s learning journey based on their own interests and preferences, the reality is it’s a business. While we do want to give people space to learn and grow in areas that interest them, ultimately we need to be laddering up to meet our business goal.”

“What was transformational for me in terms of what I’ve been able to do this year was having clear priorities coming from the top down. I built my plan to support that. It was looking at what are the biggest things that we can put our resources against. I’ll continue to that into 2020. Part of will be looking at revamping our competencies, looking at what are these core competencies, what are some of the common threads across those competencies where I think that we could have the biggest impact on learning and development.”

“The next piece is, there are certain things that we’re going to provide from HQ, if you will, centralized. And then, we supplement that with a more decentralized approach, so we ask the offices to provide ongoing training opportunities that really fit the needs of their office. They’re the closest in – they understand what the interests are. My guidance to them is to try and have a mix of things that are, yes, business-oriented – maybe bringing in outside speakers – but then also do the things that are more holistic. Our employees bring their whole selves to work. So, do sessions on wellness and diet, or things of interest so you get that mix.”

6. Provide permission and legitimacy to encourage learners’ growth.

“I will say it was surprisingly easy to do because I’m very grateful that we had buy-in from senior leadership in the organization, from the CEO and CFO and all the way through. But what we did is, in our business, you kind of live and die by a billing code. How are you going to bill your time? So we had been offering all of these different learning opportunities, but we still were getting feedback from people like, “We don’t feel like the company is investing in our growth and development.” And as we dug into what they meant by that, they came out to say, “We can never take advantage of these things that are here, because we have to be billable.”

“What became clear to me is that we have to give people permission and legitimacy to take that time. So, for us, where we started was we said we were going to sign an actual billing code to learning and development, and every employee gets 24 hours a year to put toward that. So, you know, that breaks out to roughly two hours a month. You could choose to use that as attending a three-day seminar one month, or you can spread it out.”

“And honestly, my aim is, I want people to go above and beyond that. Because frankly, nobody works an eight-hour day, so there is time. But we had to create that sort of mental space for people. And then, the next thing was to say, “Local leadership, you have to support this too.” That made it visible to our employees. We tried to reinforce it with any kind of touchpoint we have around performance conversations; in fact, we kind of rebranded that to be performance and development conversations, because we really wanted to be more forward-looking in the discussions. Again, focusing in on the whole purpose of these conversations, which is to help you grow and develop in your role.”

Melissa’s Resource Recommendations

“I will say that I am a huge fangirl of the CliftonStrengths. As a website, there are so many resources on there about this notion of, if we start from looking at what people do right and how do we build on that to get them to excellence, versus always looking at how to address deficits, it has a transformational impact on an individual’s ability and opportunity to learn, their quality of life, their satisfaction at work. It’s incredibly empowering.”

About Melissa

Melissa is a global learning and development leader at Porter Novelli, a global PR firm with about a thousand employees in offices worldwide. She assumed her role as an L&D leader two years ago, after having worked on the business side as a managing director and partner for almost 20 years. With a background in behavior change communications, Melissa has a tonne of experience in public health campaigns and social marketing efforts. But, has always had a love for teaching and learning.

Contact Melissa

“You can find me on LinkedIn: It’s Melissa Kraus Taylor. I’m on Twitter @groovymomma. I’d love to connect with people and certainly invite anyone to reach out and connect with me directly.”

Join the conversation!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast, so feel free to get in touch on Twitter @learningatlarge with any questions or queries. You can also email me at As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Learning at Large in your favorite podcast app and leave us a 5-star rating if you enjoyed it. Thank you for joining us, and see you next time.

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