Learning and development leaders play a key role in retaining, attracting top talent, and inspiring and facilitating change. According to research by TalentLMS, limited career progression and a lack of learning opportunities are the top reasons why 72% of tech employees say they’re thinking of quitting their jobs in the next 12 months. At a time when competitive employers across industries are focused on navigating The Great Resignation, I thought it would be helpful to connect with Britt Andretta. Britt is a former Chief Learning Officer of Lynda.com and the CEO of 7th Mind, Inc. She creates brain science-based solutions drawing on a background in leadership, neuroscience, psychology and learning.
Rachel Montañez: Based on your wealth of experience in the training and learning industry, what are three must-haves that make training enjoyable and effective?
Britt Andretta: First, training needs to solve the real challenges people are facing. Otherwise, it’s a waste of people’s time, and they are less likely to be interested in future training.
Second, training needs to be aligned with how the brain learns. We can only focus on learning for about 20 minutes before our attention drifts, and so the best learning is delivered in 15 to 20-minute chunks of content followed by a processing activity. This helps push that knowledge into short and long-term memory.
You can have engaging and thought-provoking training that also helps people build new habits that sustain long after the training. Training should be designed to create sustained behavior change.
Montanez: Along the lines of change, from your perspective, what brings out the best in others?
Andretta: It’s all about helping people maximize their potential. We are wired to want to learn and grow, and we hunger to become our best selves. But unfortunately, managers and workplace cultures often undermine that, causing people to disengage and for productivity to drop.
Second, people need opportunities to learn and practice. With The Great Resignation, competition for good talent is intense, and organizations with great learning cultures have a big advantage. Millennials list “opportunities to learn and grow” as one of the key elements they are looking for in an employer, and it’s also one of the top reasons they leave an employer. Managers need coaching and mentoring skills, and workplaces need to offer robust learning and professional development opportunities.
Montañez: In addition to coaching and mentoring skills, what other advice would you give to a new manager managing a global team?
- Be sure to utilize whatever diversity and cultural competency training are available to you. Respecting your team and setting them up for success means that you take the time to learn about cultural differences and show respect in the way that matters most to them. Also, prioritize making sure that everyone feels included. The brain registers exclusion the same as physical pain; it’s incredibly harmful to people and teams, so you’ll want to focus on this critical element.
- Rotate meeting times so that everyone shares equally in early mornings or late nights.
- Spend extra time on helping people get to know each other, both personally and professionally.
- Be sure you talk about each person’s strengths and successes so everyone can value their contributions.
- Finally, ask for feedback periodically and listen to what people tell you—showing that you are willing to grow and change will build trust that will help you successfully navigate future challenges, should they arise.
Montañez: What are some subtle signs that a company may need intervention to help its team perform better?
Andretta: Teams can get on the path to dysfunction where bad norms like withholding information or excluding members become toxic. If allowed to continue, these negative patterns crush productivity and trust and ultimately, the team moves to learned helplessness where people give up trying. Managers and team leaders play a crucial role in the path teams take by intentionally using early meetings to set the team up for success and nudging them back on track if they see anything concerning.
Montañez: In your Brain Aware Manager training, which won an award from the Association for Talent Development (ATD), you speak about the barriers to execution. What’s one of them?
Andretta: Not celebrating successes can undermine all your other good efforts. The brain is designed for reward, and it plays a critical role in our motivation. Many team meetings focus on all the problems, and we miss those opportunities to acknowledge both effort and progress. When we celebrate successes, people feel more valued. and they are more likely to work harder, even when they face challenges.
As a learning and development professional or as a leader who cares about the growth of employees, I know you’ve worked hard this year. Like Britt says, celebrate your success. Don’t just stop there, though; you’re a master at filling in the gaps to recognize when there’s a high-impact way to solve big, costly problems like upskilling managers or burnout.