Skip to content

Behind the Scenes at Corporate Learning Week Silicon Valley 2018

4 min read

It is not possible to hire your way into a transformed, new workforce. There is just not enough talent out there.

– Rachel Fichter, Chief Learning Officer at S&P Global Ratings

Did you get a chance to attend Corporate Learning Week Silicon Valley 2018? I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to connect with top learning professionals from around the globe for this three-day event. Whether you attended and are looking for a recap or missed this year’s conference and need some L&D inspiration, read on!

Common themes from this year’s event:

  • Organizational change: Change is inevitable. In order to succeed, organizations need to be prepared for it, embrace it, and understand how to lead successfully through it. Today’s L&D professionals need to empower teams to thrive in the face of massive change.
  • Technology and disruption: Not only is technology disrupting the L&D industry, but it’s also transforming the industries that we serve. Everything from how we communicate to how we work to how we learn is impacted by the digital culture.
  • Soft skills: Soft skills are becoming widely recognized as necessary. Leaders are looking for new ways to develop these skills in their teams and throughout their organizations.
  • Leadership development: Only 13% of companies believe they do an excellent job at developing leaders. Companies are looking to L&D professionals to help grow, develop, and retain their teams.

Some valuable sessions and takeaways:

You’re probably not teaching your organization the most important skills

Greg Bybee, Vice President of Customer Experience at NovoEd, led a data-driven discussion on the importance of soft skills and how to develop them at scale. Greg asked the room which non-technical skills were driving the most value within their organizations and revealed that 33% of respondents said innovation, creativity, and problem solving; 30% said teamwork, collaboration, and communication; and 30% said leadership, coaching, influence, and management. To paint a picture, he also revealed that 90% of failed hires are due to lacking soft skills and less than 39% of employees believe their companies invest in inspiring greater creativity. So we recognize the importance of soft skills training, but we still won’t put our money where our mouth is.

Empathetic companies generate roughly 50% more earnings than those lacking empathy, yet only 20% of Fortune 500 companies offer “empathy-based” programs. Greg made it clear that soft skills training needs to be widely available for entire organizations—it doesn’t make sense to eschew the benefits of investing in development and ignoring the science behind learning in order to save a buck.

Prepare L&D for disruption in the age of immediacy and equip your organization with soft skills

Brandon Carson, Director of Learning for Delta Air Lines, spoke on the importance of preparing L&D for disruption in the current business environment. A study by Accenture found that businesses are currently investing 60% of their budgets towards new technologies and only 3% towards employee training.

Brandon warned us that the organizations who fail to equip their employees at all levels with soft skills are laying the foundation for failure. Investing in training is equally as important as investing in technology. Every worker is now required to be a knowledge worker—no one is simply “behind the scenes” anymore. If you’re not comfortable sending any team member to engage and connect with clients or prospects, then you’re training people wrong (or not enough). Don’t neglect the soft skills development of anyone on your team—soft skills intersect with every role, even digital talent or technological ones.

Nurture digital literacy within your organization

“It is not possible to hire your way into a transformed, new workforce. There is just not enough talent out there.” – Rachel Fichter, Chief Learning Officer at S&P Global Ratings

Rachel Fichter, Chief Learning Officer at S&P Global Ratings, sparked a discussion about how L&D needs to serve as a catalyst to transform an organization and foster a digital culture. To help our organizations through the current digital revolution, we must

  1. create space and time for our leaders to engage in big, transformative thinking (allow them to take alone time, reflect, solve problems using both sides of the brain, and lead from within)
  2. understand the importance of a “growth mindset”—and that this mindset starts at the top, with leadership
  3. treat learning like any other business project: clearly understand the problem, identify the desired outcomes, deploy strategically, measure results aggressively, and iterate.

She walked us through S&P Global Ratings’ approach to driving three specific leadership competencies: embracing a growth mindset, fostering career development, and showing high emotional intelligence. By quantifying these competencies and associating them with specific behaviors, the organization was able to measure results and provide meaningful feedback to program participants. Rachel reminded us that later is too late and that now is the time to empower our people to achieve a growth mindset.

Think like a marketer: how L&D can drive learning engagement

Shelley Osborn, Head of Learning and Development at Udemy, opened our eyes to how organizations can borrow tactics from the marketing function to bolster learning in organizations. She revealed that a typical NPS of L&D programs is a shocking -31, and reiterated the importance of L&D not operating as a reactive “check the box” function. Instead, we should stay proactive and embrace new, dynamic ideas to build the L&D brand and launch consumer-grade experiences for our own people.

She provided this important advice: consider how you communicate the value and benefits of training to your organization. Are you marketing training to your organization the way you should be?

  • Promote learning: This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many organizations consider learning more of a nuisance than an opportunity—don’t fall into this trap.
  • Incorporate storytelling in the deployment of training: Help paint a picture of what success can look like for your employees by using story to show them the structure of their journey and the benefits they’ll receive.
  • Make it fun: Use gamification as a tool to encourage people to enroll for programs or complete their pre-work (and maybe even include rewards).
  • Embrace social learning: Use tools centered around social learning like discussion boards, internal social media, and video to get learners immersed and engaged.

Search for a new savior: the importance of leadership training

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” – Andrea Volz, Head of Learning at Aries Pharma

Dess Wood, Vice President of Talent Development at Cineplex, challenged us to think differently about how we treat the onboarding of leaders (or lack thereof). She showed us why and how we need to help develop our leaders to build trusting relationships, assimilate successfully and painlessly, and increase their teams’ engagement by returning to a business-focused approach to L&D. To onboard our leaders more effectively, we must involve more stakeholders, host an assimilation meeting, and encourage our leaders to prioritize their team versus the organization.

Ready to put what you learned at Corporate Learning Week Silicon Valley 2018 into practice at your organization? Learn more about Ariel’s custom learning engagements, designed to help you tackle your most pressing business challenges and embrace learning and development with confidence.


Virtual Presence Guide: How to Help Virtual Teams Create Authentic Connections

Download this guide to discover tips and best practices to help your teams be productive and engaged when working virtually.

View Resource