Interviews from LearnX - Transitioning L&D from being compliance focused to being a value creator with Terrena Hooper

Terrena Hooper talks about her journey at Sodexo where L&D has gone from being compliance focused to being a value creator for the organisation.   


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Transcript -  Transitioning L&D  from being compliance focused to being a value creator with  Terrena Hooper

Robin: Welcome to the Learning While Working podcast. Let's do a quick introduction to who you are and where you're from.

Terrena Hooper: Sure. Well, my name's Terrena Hooper. I work for Sodexo, which is the twentieth largest company in the whole world. We employ over 420,000 employees and work in over 80 countries. And we serve more than 80 million people a day. So, have you heard of Sodexo, Rob?

Robin: Yes, I have-

Terrena Hooper: You have?

Robin: --and actually I think of you as a support crew for large organisations.

Terrena Hooper: Well, that's a good way to think of it, yes. So we go in, we're sort of everywhere, but you don't know we're there. And we do catering, cleaning, facilities management. We're becoming more known as facilities managers. So, imagine chefs and cleaning crews. I mean, all sectors. Aged care, education, corporate mining, oil and gas. We're everywhere. Everywhere.

Robin: What will you be talking today about?

Terrena Hooper: Well, really for me it's about moving us to be more strategic. So, Sodexo traditionally has been a very much a compliance-based organisation. When we talked about training, we were talking about safety training. There were audits, “Have you done your training? Have you not done your training?” And that's pretty much where it was at. Safety-- the safety team was everything. And that's it. That was the training part-- here's our little cluster of learning things in a catalogue, pick what you need. And very basic. Very basic.

Robin: Strategic is always an interesting word. A complicated word. What do you mean by strategic? More aligned to where the business is going?

Terrena Hooper: Yes, so that's really fantastic. What I did, is I went to a talent development conference in America and a group called the 70:20:10 Institute actually came out with a model talking about what an L&D business model would be that was more strategic. So, for example, are you aligned to the organization's strategy? Or operationally, are you aligned to HR? Or are you aligned to the business? And ideally, you'd be aligned more strategically and to the business. You know it’s a performance engine. Not learning outcomes, but performance outcomes. So, doing all that 70:20:10 stuff, and not just focusing on that 10.

Robin: I sometimes wonder, actually just a lovely discussion, about whether or not learning belongs in HR, because essentially it's so important to the business.

Terrena Hooper: Well, it's true, Robin. It's really a fantastic point, because I think learning belongs to the organisation. I don't think learning is the training police and we don't certainly own learning. I think the business owns learning, and the learners own learning. And we're there to facilitate and help make that happen.

Robin: Yes, and some of the most powerful models are where core L&D professionals are actually embedded in the business--

Terrena Hooper: Yes.

Robin: -rather than being embedded into a HR function. The risk sometimes in embedding in business is essentially experts raise up from the business--

Terrena Hooper: That's true.

Robin: --and they don't have the performance outcomes. So that's an interesting thing to watch as well.

Terrena Hooper: Yes, it's fascinating, because the last recruitment drive we did in our R&D department-- I specifically wanted operators. I didn't want that L&D professional schmick thing. I need people to know what happens on the ground, when it happens. What systems are people accessing? How do we plug into that? How do we become more aligned to the business and not aligned to HR. It's a really good point.

Robin: So, for you, what's been the most important actions and different ways of operating and hopes to become more strategic?

Terrena Hooper: That's a really good question. First of all, to me, it's a mindset shift. Fortunately, I owned a business for seven years. Ran it, was MD, held the purse strings, did all that sort of stuff. So, I've always thought of L&D, although it's within an organisation, it's my business. And I think the first shift is to become an L&D business, and I have a business focus. I think that's first. The biggest ticket item I've got happening at the moment is we're re-inventing the learning journey. So, scrapping out these bloated induction and onboarding things where nobody remembers anything. Scrap that. Look at the new technology and what it can do to deliver in-situ training. I know that's something you're passionate about. Doing learning as you work. So, I'm very much there at the moment.

Robin: So, essentially, what you've done with your induction programmes is you've sort of broken them up into smaller chunks and turned them into--

Terrena Hooper: Well--

Robin: --or just got rid of lots of content?

Terrena Hooper: Well, the first question is, does this thing need to be training? Right?

Robin: Yes.

Terrena Hooper: And the other thing is, with a lot of induction onboarding programmes, it's almost pedagogical. It assumes people know nothing. Well, I'm sorry, but people come with knowledge, right? So why can't we do something like a training needs analysis? A competency quiz? Do you know this information, or don't you? And if you know it, why am I training you in it again? And again and again as it sometimes turns out.

Robin: Cool. Okay, that sounds just lovely and it’s interesting. To track back about the business bit. That's a different way of thinking to the way a lot of L&D people think in terms of business sense. You're measuring yourself almost by the customer satisfaction?

Terrena Hooper: Yes, absolutely. We're looking at things like net promoter score. It's a very, very nice metric. And just shifting it. Another little thing about my history is I was in marketing for a really long time. And, to me, learning marketing, it's all sort of the same. You're a communicator and you're trying to get messages stuck in people's head. Whether it's how to perform a skill correctly. Or how to, again, shift a mindset. It's very similar to me.

Robin: Yes, there's lots we could learn in the L&D from marketing. And, I don't think L&D realises how often-- we're actually privileged compared to marketing. Marketing's actually got loose connections to people. Rather than we actually--

Terrena Hooper: Yes. Ours are very tight.

Robin: --we have tight connections. We're not right back at the beginning.

Terrena Hooper: And I think, honestly, Rob, the issues are still the same. Like how to cut through. How to take that bit of brain space. How to have that behaviour follow that little bit of thing you planted inside of their head. So I think the problems, and arguably some of the solutions, are somewhat similar.

Robin: So the inductions, you've refocused on making them more essentially personalised, more on the job?

Terrena Hooper: Yes. Well, there's a lot of different changes we're making. And there's a couple of things. First of all, questioning should something be training. That's number one. And then, we're very innovative nowadays and there's all this tech, and we've talked about VR and AR, and all this stuff out there. But sometimes you've just gotta go back to some basics. A poster might do it. Or, better yet these days, an AR enabled poster. But, nevertheless, why does it have to be this great big, huge thing? We could be simpler.

Robin: One of the big things that we can learn from Marketing is learning campaigns. And campaigns quite often work across different mediums and the posters are a really nice example--

Terrena Hooper: Absolutely. And that repetition. I think-- what's a clean message in making sure that's what's captured. The big thing I'm into at the moment, as well, is Design thinking. So, mapping our target audience. Mapping their experience. Following them. Shadowing them. Understanding what they interact with, when, how. So that we can inject learning moments into that instead of, "Hey, come all into a classroom. Let's train you [on] something." Or, "Get on the internet, do some e-learning." We want to change that.

Robin: Did you go along to Justin Stern's session? It was actually work we've taken away from human-centered design.

Terrena Hooper: I was actually presenting at the same time and I really wanted to go there, because that is the same. It's simpatico.

Robin: He actually talks about that mapping process, is my understanding.

Terrena Hooper: The customer journey as it were. Yes. Your ideal persona. So, yes, we're really into that.

Robin: The interesting thing in terms of this series of podcasts and what he talked about, was actually the notion that human-centered design just needed to be around the understanding, rather than Design Thinking. It's also about creativity and prototyping. It just struck me as almost taking some of the best bits of Design Thinking and using--

Terrena Hooper: Yes. Well where I'm at, at the moment, is we've got to reinvent that learning journey. So really, Design Thinking fits well for us. The human-centered design is an early part, the empathising et cetera. But we do need new solutions, new ways, new ideas, innovations, to deliver that training when it's needed, where it's needed, on time, on demand. We've got rather a big project and I really see Design Thinking as helping us through that.

Robin: So, just as a wrap-up a little bit. If you're giving an advice to an L&D person who was thinking about becoming more strategic in the way they operate, what's your biggest piece of advice?

Terrena Hooper: Well, I think first of all, and you raised it really, is understanding what strategic means. And understanding really what matters. How aligned are you to the business, its outcomes, where it's going, its values, its strategic priorities? How aligned are you, and how are you reporting on that? How are you linking that together, rather than just putting out a training catalogue and saying, "Right, pick from this everybody." How do you lift that up? So I think mindset shift would probably be the first step and then just thinking more holistically about it as not just a learning paradigm, but a business paradigm.

Robin: What a lovely sentiment. Thank you so much for this conversation.

Terrena Hooper: Thank you, Rob. Appreciate it.