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Sneak Peeks

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“A lot of people have a tendency, especially earlier on in their L&D career, to show the value of training by creating a lot of it. I actually think of it the opposite way. The less time I need to pull people out of their flow of work to do something, I'm actually proving my ROI as an L&D professional that much more.

I'm showing that I have a skill set where I can transfer critical and important knowledge with the least amount of disruption. You're going to do yourself a better job of showing your worth by providing less training, but doing it right.”

What is “right” in this scenario? Well, that’s up to interpretation (and the teams you support, your company size, what your tech stack looks like, the level of process adoption you’re seeing… you get the point. The list goes on.).

But something most L&D leaders can likely agree on – and something Aaron has perfected in his role as Senior Manager, Customer Experience Enablement at Faire – is that less really is more. And that often means moving away from traditional training methods that require memorization and embracing (and allowing) more time for real-time application.

In this episode, you’ll learn:
• How Aaron approached his first project at Faire: revamping the entire onboarding program
• Why L&D leaders are shifting to a success model where application is more important than memorization
•  The change management necessary to make people comfortable with a new way of discovering and sharing knowledge
• The many ways L&D leaders can get out of the way

Where to find Aaron MacDonald:
• LinkedIn:
• Faire:

Where to find your host, Ken:
• LinkedIn:
• Twitter/X:
• Change Enablers, a community by Tango:

Like what you heard? Subscribe, leave us a review, and let us know who in Operations and Enablement should be our next guest.

Ken Babcock 

All right, today we have Aaron McDonald. Aaron leads customer experience enablement at Faire. I'm actually catching Aaron sort of at the end of December. This podcast will go live later, but it's a pretty busy time at Faire, as all of us are winding down for the holidays. Faire's supporting a bunch of retailers.

responding to customer purchases and all these things. And so, you know, we're grateful to have Aaron here for the time we have today. So thank you, Aaron.

Aaron MacDonald (03:54.293)

Yeah, no, I'm super excited to be here. Appreciate the invitation and happy to talk shop with you, Ken.

Ken Babcock (04:01.774)

Cool. And Aaron's been an enablement leader for most of his career. Right before Faire, he was leading learning across global operations at Metta, has historically always held roles in L&D. So we're getting a wealth of experience here. And I think what's even more remarkable is, Aaron, you've been doing L&D and enablement since like the beginning of your career, right? How did you know?

that like that's what you wanted to go into, you know, even when you were like leaving school.

Aaron MacDonald (04:37.129)

Yeah, it's kind of funny because you do find often like people fall into enablement or L&D not as early in their career. Often it's like SMEs that become trainers and then they find the passion for it. But I was a little bit different where it was kind of a chosen career path. In my undergrad for college, I was a cognitive psychology major and

I knew I wanted to do something with psychology. I was always fascinated by it, but I very quickly learned that I wasn't gonna be able to be a psychologist or a therapist. As much respect as I have for the profession, I quickly learned that it would be very difficult for me to not bring my work home with me, just from the level of empathy that I tend to carry around. And I knew that would be a very difficult career choice. And I had to kind of step back and be like,

Well, crap, what am I gonna do? You know, like I'm paying all this money for this degree and now I'm not gonna be able to use it. And as an elective, I was able to take a business psychology class, an organizational behavior class, and a light bulb kind of went off. You know, I was able to realize that I could take those same principles of psychology and apply them in the workplace to be able to help people and organizations there. And so I...

made just kind of like a decision that I wanted to pivot and go down that road to where I could still use the things I was genuinely interested in, but in a way that felt more in line with like what I was comfortable with and what I wanted to do. And so I kind of just planned the rest out from there to go to grad school and get a degree in that field. And then you're right, I've been in the L&D and enablement space ever since.

Yeah, a little bit of a different trajectory than some folks in the industry.

Ken Babcock (06:35.914)

Yeah, that's really fascinating. And I think the more you talked about kind of the psychology aspect, I think about even my own experience, like leading Tango. There's so much of, yes, you're building the business and you're building for your customers, but there's also this internal organizational element that is an equal part of your time in thinking about how you set people up for success, how you deliver feedback, how do you create a culture of

growth mindset, I'm sure those are all things that you've had to think about. And that's kind of a good segue into my warmup question, which I think given your experience, you'll have a strong view on something, but what's one sort of learning and development or operations hill that you'll die on? And we love spicy takes here, so feel free to throw it at us.

Aaron MacDonald (07:32.469)

Yeah, I mean, for me personally, I don't see this as very spicy anymore because it's just so ingrained in me. I don't know how others might view it, but like I would die on the hill that training content is not and never should be a source of truth. And kind of getting back to that psychological piece of it, like your training content, regardless of modality, whether this is a live training, an eLearn, a video, like that is...

a vessel more or less in which you're trying to facilitate some sort of knowledge transfer, a skill, an idea, a concept. But within training, you really are using a lot of those psychological foundations and learning principles to transfer that message. So making sure that the value is properly conveyed. And then beyond that, you might not be giving as much detail or maybe you're giving over detail, which is going to lose the message.

And at the end of the day, that to me isn't a source document. It's more just this vessel. Like if I.

have, if I can't point to my resources at the end of that training and I say this deck is your resource, that just, that gets under my skin and I'm guilty of it. I can think when I was like thinking about this, I know that there's a time in the last like year and a half where I had something in my mind and I was like, I was asked to present on it and I just went and made a deck and I realized at the end, beyond like a book, I didn't have many resources to point the people towards and that's not that helpful.

for a few of the reasons. One, like I said, it might be too much detail, not enough detail, but when someone needs to go back and review that, it's not a very efficient way to go back and review material or look at it. It's just, that's not how training content is set up for. And so I even think and say, after someone sits through training for the first time, they shouldn't be going back and necessarily reviewing that in the future. They should be looking for those source documents. They're on the job performance.

Aaron MacDonald (09:38.085)

whatever that is. But I just I hate when training is seen as the source of truth and not as supplemental material to help transfer that knowledge to folks.

Ken Babcock (09:55.358)

Yeah, I think that's a really helpful way to think about it, which is, you know, at the end of the day, the medium is just as important as the content, right? Like the ability to meet people in their moment of need, which is something we talk about a lot, or even just like deliver something that can be directly applied to the problem that you're solving. And we'll get into that a little bit. I know that's something that you're passionate about too, but...

You know, for, for operations, for L and D thinking about, okay, yeah, I have to get this knowledge across, but is it, is it in the right vessel? Is that vessel going to deliver the message and allow people to, to learn and apply, um, what ultimately they're, they're going to do. And so in talking about that, we actually, you know, in prepping for this episode, we talked a lot about your work. So revamping Faires onboarding program. Um,

which is a critical touch point for every employee that comes into the company. And it really sets the tone for a, here's how you're going to be effective in your role. And so, um, I want to talk about that moment when, when you joined to enable customer experience and you said, you know what? Onboarding needs to change. Talk us through kind of your process of, you know, the whole world of problems you could have gone and solved.

and why you landed on onboarding and why that was the biggest opportunity for the Faire team.

Aaron MacDonald (11:25.237)

Yeah. So landing on onboarding was, well, it's interesting how, how it shifts throughout the journey of it because onboarding was identified by my leadership team as a priority for bringing me in and the impetus around that was there was a, you know, a new head of CX and she is a very data driven individual and she lets that data drive a lot of her strategic decision making.

And what she had noticed prior to me joining that was at our time to ramp or our time to be fully onboarded was looking like it was almost double that of Industry standards and wasn't really sure why If there was a good or valid reason she had a hunch that maybe you know it really shouldn't be taking that long, but I came on and Wanted to dive into that a bit and

One of the first things that I noticed was...

that the Faire product is relatively complex and nuanced, like a lot of software or tech companies and their products out there are. And although there was a lot of really strong content in the onboarding in terms of like how the product works, how to like troubleshoot stuff, by the time I came in, it was really starting to outgrow the boundaries of what it was created for. So...

You know, coming out of COVID in 2020 and into 2021, a lot of companies, Faire included, had this or experienced some moments of like hyper growth. And so at that point, a lot of the goals were just, we need to onboard these people. We need to get this done and, and keep things moving. And there, by the time I come on, there was a time to step back and look like, is this still serving the purpose that we wanted it to serve? And the product had also gotten so complex that

Aaron MacDonald (13:26.353)

unintentionally, the onboarding program was making people rely on memorization of the product, but not necessarily giving them the skills to be resourceful and teach you how to utilize those resources in a way that would make you effective long term. And so because of that, our time to

Aaron MacDonald (13:56.385)

because of the way that people were needing to learn. And so that was like a very quick thing that I recognized that we needed to shift was that we needed to set the program up in a way that was going to teach people how to utilize their resources and be self-sufficient and step away from, again, the unintentional method of relying on them memorizing content.

Ken Babcock (14:25.298)

Yeah, I think those are two really good points. So I just want to play those back. Like you had a highly complex product. I mean, Faire is a marketplace. So you have different personas, different products for those personas, probably different sets of questions. And so you're expecting people kind of to cover bigger surface area. And then, you know, the other one that you highlighted, uh, which is interesting too, cause when we say onboarding, I think some people think of it as like. This time bound activity, all right. Onboarding lasts from month.

one to three or one to four, one to five, whatever it is. But the reality is like the challenge that you were facing was, OK, after that onboarding period, how do people self-serve the knowledge that they need or the information that they need? And so what was getting in the way of people self-serving at that moment that you were hired? Well, you know, why weren't people sort of to use the analogy, you know, why weren't people sort of like taught to fish?

Ken Babcock (20:17.89)

Okay. So there were really two themes there that you shared, which I just wanna highlight for the audience. One is that you had a really complex product, Faires of marketplace, different personas, different products for each of those personas, expecting customer support agents to kind of ramp up on both. That's a lot of surface area.

Aaron MacDonald (20:20.161)


Ken Babcock (20:46.018)

And then the other piece that you highlighted, which is super interesting is, onboarding is not just this like, temporary month one to month three, month one to month four, whatever it is for your organization. But what you were really thinking about is, how during onboarding can we, excuse the analogy, but like teach people how to fish so that once that onboarding period is over, they can self-serve for the information that they need. And so my question is,

You know, what were the blockers that you saw that were preventing agents from self-serving? You know, what were the things that were getting in their way where they couldn't find the knowledge or information that they needed?

Aaron MacDonald (21:28.725)

Yeah, I think it's interesting on how this shifted, how our approach to revamping the onboarding program, but you kind of just said it. One of the biggest problems was they just couldn't find the information. And if they could, it was difficult to know if it was up to date when it was last validated. Is this the source of truth? So there were messages.

in Slack and we had Wiki pages and some of it was just institutional knowledge that people that had been there for so long held. And so it quickly became apparent that we weren't going to be able to teach people to utilize their resources if there was no consistency in the creation, maintenance and government or governance of said resources. And that was kind of like...

a big light bulb moment that I don't know how effective we're going to be in revamping this onboarding program if there's not some of these other systematic opportunities that we think through first. Back to your point, it was really important where I saw it as a larger win or we all saw it as a larger win, where if we can get this knowledge piece in place as well, we're not just helping like...

future new hires, we're helping the existing team as well. And if you're gonna look at that from an ROI perspective, like there seems to be much more bang for your buck in figuring out your content and knowledge management situation so that everybody is benefiting from that rather than just all the net new folks coming in.

Ken Babcock (23:10.434)

That is such a critical point that I just want to underscore that, especially when you're going through those periods of hyper growth, like you alluded to. It's not just, Oh man, we have our biggest onboarding class ever. We've got this many new hires. That strain on the existing team too, because what you just described where, you know, it's hard to trust knowledge. It's hard to know what's, what's up to date. I mean, it's a tale as old as time. So many companies feel that and see that.

And so minimizing also, you know, kind of the shoulder taps that happen from, for, for existing employees. There's huge ROI there. And not to say we want to completely detach new hires from the existing team. There's, there's a lot of like critical things that need to happen there. But for all the, the L and D leaders who are listening to this, the operators who are listening to this, you know, don't just think about the people that need to

get to a certain point. Think about the people that also need to help others get to a certain point when you're designing your systems.

Aaron MacDonald (24:17.766)

Yeah. And you do see a lot of that too from the existing folks. When we would do some interviews, we did some surveys of people were saying that sometimes it is difficult for them to maintain the level of productivity that they need to or to hit their goals because they are dealing with a lot of people just sending them messages day to day saying like, I need help with this, I need help with this. And they're trying to find that balance of like...

I want to be a good partner and teammate and help you out, but I also want to be able to get my work done as well. And so it prevents people from doing their job in multiple ways. So you can just kind of go down, it's kind of like down the line and find all of these like unintended consequences of not having that knowledge in a centralized and maintained space.

Ken Babcock (25:08.734)

Yeah. Well, not to mention, you know, you're, you're working with customer support professionals and so by nature, they all want to help each other. So, you know, they don't, they probably won't admit like, Oh yeah, like I'm actually being distracted by this because it's just, it's just who they are as people, which is awesome, but it becomes challenging. Um, one of the things we talked about when we were preparing for this is, you know, that transition away from memorization.

Aaron MacDonald (25:17.438)

Yes, yes.

Aaron MacDonald (25:25.545)

It's innate, yep. Yeah.

Ken Babcock (25:37.434)

And really what you were emphasizing was a transition away from memorization into actual application. So being in the flow of work, accessing information in someone's workflow. Can you talk about the insights that kind of led you to, to making that conclusion and then, um, you know, once you started implementing solutions for that, how that was received.

Aaron MacDonald (26:03.477)

Yeah, I think we touched on it a little bit earlier, just on understanding that The product is complex. And like you mentioned, there's different customer types, there's different personas, and there might be  general topics that come through, but even on a person to person basis, there might be just  a tiny difference in how they asked their question versus someone else. And so it was like, again, from thinking of like a cognitive load perspective, I was like, this is...

a lot to take in and it's not going to be feasible that we want to reduce someone's time to proficiency with the same method. And to kind of validate that, we went through a series of interviews with some of our production agents that had been there for varying amounts of time. And it was pretty clear and consistent that people wanted to...

more practice and they wanted somewhere to go if they didn't have the answers. Which when we're talking about it right now, it feels like such a simple solution. And I guess in some ways it is. But again, when you're going through that hyper growth and you're just wanting to kind of keep the train moving at that point, it's not always this like lifeable moment. And I think you see that with companies a lot. You know, I was at Metta.

at well after it was fully established. And there was a lot of processes we needed to go back and rework because they served a purpose at one point, but they weren't going to allow us to scale and continue growing if we didn't go back and do that. And so really the conclusion came out that there's a couple of things we need to do. Like one, we need, we need to figure out our knowledge-based situation and content management, and there's going to be just exponential benefits from that.

And then on the flip side, once we have that is taking what already exists in onboarding that is great. Like I said, there was a lot of amazing content on the product itself, but we need to switch up how we're assessing folks on that and make sure that we're assessing them in a way that makes them utilize tools and resources and mimics the flow of work as much as possible.

Aaron MacDonald (28:26.881)

big things that came out of it with the knowledge base being the priority there.

Ken Babcock (28:33.814)

Yeah, so talk to me about that because I have a lot of conflicting views on knowledge bases. We had a guest on that described it pretty well and said, you know, knowledge base is like a bucket and a bunch of people throw stuff into the bucket and sometimes you know if it's good and maybe you know where it landed in the bucket, it's going to be harder for other people. Other stuff is going to pile on.

And then eventually you're going to have to dump out the bucket and figure out like what should rain. And so, you know, when we described it like that, I was like, oh yeah, like that, I could actually be one of the issues. And, and, and a lot of times is the barrier for folks to self serve. Cause it's like, I, I'm going to search, um, you know, refund. Oh my gosh, here's 15 pages that reference refund. Right. So how did you, how did you wrestle with that? When, even though that's like, that's the number one priority.

Aaron MacDonald (29:26.961)

Yeah, I mean, yeah, I mean, you're not wrong. And we ran a pretty strict RFP process for like determining which knowledge base we wanted to onboard. And I was super lucky that very quickly after I came on, again, like my leadership noticed some of the need for this as well. And we were able to bring somebody over that was existing in the team.

into like a content and knowledge management role that's part of the enablement function now. And she drove this very strict RFP process around what we needed in terms of what it could do. But I think to avoid what you were just talking about, it's a lot about that preparation and planning. And like I said, on governance and like processes. So we ultimately landed on Guru as the knowledge base that we go with. But

There's a lot of

rigor around what's allowed in there, who's allowed to put it in there, what is the format, what are like color coatings. And so there's a lot of that back and we have like validation set up. So after like 90 days, if a card hasn't been, even if nothing's changed, if it hasn't been validated, it turns red. And so that's gonna tell people like, I don't know if I can trust this content, but we have very strict guidelines around who is allowed in there.

there's plenty of features in it, like comment features. So if you don't think it's clear, if you think it might be outdated, you're able to comment on that and that gets tracked, but it's a very tight knit group of people that are actually able to review, say, yes, this is feedback we should action on, no, it's not. And they go in and keep it very crisp, clean, and up to date, but.

Aaron MacDonald (31:21.449)

Kind of like to sum that up in the beginning, I think just making sure you have the right governance in place before just throwing it out there is super important because you're right. If we just told everybody like go document your knowledge in this one place. We're going to have the same problem that like, you know, from before. It's just that now the problem is concentrated in one software tool rather than across like two or three and is that much of a win. Probably not. And so

Like I said, the individual that worked on that piece of it, like the rigor that she just put behind it was really impressive. And I think that is just was absolutely critical to making it be successful.

Ken Babcock (32:06.986)

Yeah. And, and, you know, I think different folks that are listening to this, you know, you might have the ability to have that type of resource. You might not. I think highlighting Guru, I mean, Guru's come up a few times on, on this podcast, even specifically, we had a guest from Guru and then we had other, other folks who have, have utilized it. But, you know, Guru is that knowledge base that gets you closer to being in the flow of work. You know, the, the cards pop up.

They recognize what page you're on. I mean, that, that matters a ton, whereas, you know, a lot of the other ones, it's just, it becomes this black hole and it's really hard for folks to find the information that they need. Um, so you mentioned knowledge base was, was priority one. We talked through that. You know, if we, if we come back to this goal of like shortening the, the ramp onboarding period, ensuring that people can self-serve longterm, what were some of the other priorities that you tackled?

Ken Babcock (33:15.946)

You mentioned knowledge base is priority one. Uh, so it's actually more like what were some of the other, what were some of the other, you know, levers you pulled on.

Aaron MacDonald (33:26.653)

Yeah, so with knowledge base being priority number one, like the next priority was to actually get into the weeds of the onboarding program itself and define if you change some things and define a few things. So first and foremost, and this gets back to a point you were talking about earlier, where like this term onboarding, like what it like, is it month one to three? Is it one that like, when are you done onboarding? And

I think a lot of people have different viewpoints on that. And I think it's fine that like what my idea of it might differ from yours. But I think what matters is that like, collectively in your organization, you're thinking about it the same way. And so you might've, I've already been using this term a little, but like we talk about like time to ramp or time to proficiency. And so we kind of segmented that out. Like, you know, they're like.

I like looking at time to proficiency. So that includes your formal training. It includes this like application and practice time, but we're really just looking at how, what is the time it takes for you to be able to effectively like do the job that you were hired to do. And we broke that out a little bit. And so your first X amount of weeks is, is that formal training where, you know, you are going through eLearns, you have facilitator led sessions, you're doing shadowing,

getting that knowledge, we introduced a new modules again that teach you how to use Guru and our knowledge-based tools effectively. And then from there in our assessments, like I said, we revamped them a little bit to feel more like you were in your flow of work. So we're not asking you multiple choice questions. We're asking you to respond to like fake customer tickets. Or if we are asking you a multiple choice,

multiple choice question, you're only able to answer it if you use your resources to go find the answer. It's not contained just in the eLearn that you're looking at, that you could easily just look, hit the button, but you have to do utilize the tools correctly in order to answer that. And so we kind of, we reshaped those elements of onboarding a little bit, but I think one of the more critical pieces is at the end adding

Aaron MacDonald (35:45.505)

at the end of that formal training, adding like a quote unquote nesting period where this is the time for you to really like take the knowledge that you've started to learn and started to understand. And the stakes are a little higher because you're now answering real customer tickets, but you're not being held to the same performance standards as other people that are fully proficient or fully ramped. So in those like nesting weeks, we give you specific goals. So if

you know, a fully ramped production agent is expected to make like 100 widgets a week in your first week, we might say you only have to do like 20% of that. Um, and here's like, use your resources. Here's it. And each week we evaluate that and say, did you meet that goal or not? If not, why and work you up. And then our goal is like at that. You know, three month mark now, instead of six months, you're able to make the same amount of widgets or answer as many customer tickets.

as your peers. And so for me, that transition from like formal training, but not just throwing you into the deep end and saying, okay, like, you're on the same page as everybody else now was a really important element to make sure that you're getting your feet wet, but at the right amount. And slowly just increasing that week over week until you're at the same level as

your peers.

Ken Babcock (37:16.106)

Yeah, I think that nesting period is great. And the key element there is right. Like the performance standards where you give people a place where it's, it's safe to, you know, maybe quote unquote fail or safe to kind of struggle through something, um, such that when you exit that, then, then you are proficient. Like you said, um, you also alluded to the fact that like, you know, any initiative like this, you have to revisit and you have to think about, okay, well, what phases the company in and what do people need today?

So I'm just curious as we kind of wrap up this conversation on the onboarding process, like what's next for you on onboarding? Like what is kind of that lighthouse for your team in thinking about how onboarding needs to continually improve?

Aaron MacDonald (38:05.225)

Yeah, I mean, we just that's a great question. And I think there's a couple elements to it to think of. First, it's I'm thinking like, how do we improve this for the next round of new hires? And we did, you know, I will say like the first time we implemented this revamp, we were successful in it. So we were able to cut that ramp time from six months down to three months, which is huge.

But there were a lot of learnings that came out of that as well. And I'm talking about like even those performance goals that we put in, like we had them and but we were so focused on some of the application stuff that like that first week of nesting, we kind of just saw what happened and like are the numbers weren't as like high as we wanted to be and realized that as soon as we were much more hands on with like setting these performance goals, like people rose to that occasion. So we just needed to make that expectation very clear. And so.

for the next round that we'll do this. Like we wanna be talking about performance expectations from an onboarding perspective, like even earlier and more frequently that they were. So constantly thinking about for the program itself, how do we improve for the next batch of new hires? But another thing that we'll do as well is continuously look over, you know, a period of three, six.

nine months that we're doing with our current new hires to make sure that performance is sustained. And I think that's the biggest element as well, like their formal onboarding might be done. And did they perform at that three month mark? Yes, but we want to be able to track those trends farther down. And if they start dipping, did they dip it six months? Why? And if not, like, those are the indicators to me that we are setting people up for success long term. And so

in terms of like that continuous improvement, I think you need to track performance behaviors beyond that formalized end of onboarding time period and make sure that there's a continuous feedback loop there on how you can do better for your next round of new hires, but how you can continue to support the people that are currently in your organization.

Ken Babcock (40:22.314)

Yeah. And I think like kind of separating those two sort of end customers for the L and D function is so important. I wanted to ask you a little bit, you know, just knowing how much your team brings data into some of these decisions. You've brought data into some of these decisions. Talk to me a little bit about just like the role that metrics play for both

you know, maybe both new hires as well as like the existing employees. You know, you talked about goals, you talked about standards, but how often are you measuring them? How often are you going back and saying, you know what, is this individual performance issues or is this something that like L and D needs to take ownership over?

Aaron MacDonald (41:09.365)

Yeah, we look at performance based metrics for like our intergroup on a weekly basis. We look at them week over week, and identify trends into like that is a really big

distinguishing thing that we talked through a lot is like, if there is a dip, like is this happening? Like you mentioned at an individual level where this is potentially more something that a lead should step in and there's some coaching to be done versus are we noticing like systematic trends? Like, okay, this type of question, like we haven't been performing on very well for three weeks now across the board. Is that an indicator then that the enablement team should look into this and understand?

Not just jump to training because that's also I'm sure you've heard lots of people say that like I don't like this like you see an issue and people are like go Do a training on it and that is never where I want to jump to first Like maybe our resources in the knowledge base aren't clear So you could interpret it two different ways because if that's the case, we don't need to go retrain everybody We just need to clear up the policy or the process so that when people are following it, it's interpreted

only one way. I am a kind of a tangent, but not really like I use this kind of my like golden rule. When we're writing a policy or process, I don't want to give it to one person and say like, does this make sense to you? Or how would you interpret this? Like, My goal would be that we could put five people in five different rooms, they would all read that policy or process, and they will all make the exact same decision on whatever

task is in front of them because that's showing that you have a valid and reliable process that can be repeated. And so when we do see those trends, that's kind of the first place we want to look is like, are the resources there? Are they clear? If not, go step back. What was our training like? Did we have the right learning objectives? Like, were we training to the right thing and kind of work backwards? And so from metrics.

Aaron MacDonald (43:23.305)

post onboarding, like during onboarding, I think it is really important to say, like, are people completing their trainings? Like what are their assessment scores? Because that's the indicator you have of how they're going to perform later on. But once in the role, like when we put out training, like, yes, on the L&D side and enablement side, we care about that people are completing them because we believe there's value in the training we put out and we're trying to set you up for success.

But When I'm talking metrics with like the larger leadership team and we're able to look at performance behaviors, like that's always where I think we should start. And then you work backwards to say like, well, did people complete the training? Were the resources clear? And start with those as your check or Start with those performance, uh, behaviors, and then work backwards and using your enablement ones as check metrics, um, or places that might guide you to where the gap is versus

Ken Babcock (44:14.101)

We're good.

Aaron MacDonald (44:20.321)

saying 100% of people completed their training must not be a training issue. Cause that, that doesn't really tell you as much. Like the data is not as rich when you're just looking at something like, did people like the training, did they complete it?

Ken Babcock (44:25.402)


Ken Babcock (44:36.474)

Yeah, yeah. I, you know, I completed a hundred percent of my classes in high school. That doesn't mean I, I aced every single one or I, I remember everything. Um, I think that's a really good point. The one thing that I like that you said, which relates to a topic we talked about a lot, which is, um, you know, creating something that then five people of varying preferences, backgrounds, contexts can consume and make the same decision.

We have this concept called minimum viable context because ultimately what it comes down to is like, and we talked about this, the vessel, people are going to disengage if there's too much information, if there's not enough information, if there's like screenshots where there should be, if there isn't like it is so, uh, important to think about how your content can be delivered, you know, across.

the spectrum of employees that you have. So I love that you brought that up related, you know, to, to metrics and, and kind of how, how you all diagnose, is this a problem with something that we've done? Is this a problem of performance? How do you think about balancing? You know, maybe there is a scenario where you need training and you need to kind of pull people out of the flow of work, but how do you balance those moments where you say, I want people to stay in the flow of work versus

All right. We actually need to pull them out. We need to help them train. We need to create more content and resources.

Aaron MacDonald (46:07.957)

Yeah, we deal with that pretty daily as we think through new feature launches that are gonna come out. And one of the things like myself and I ask the team to think through on a case-by-case basis is how complex is this behavior change? If it's a behavior change at all, if it's an FYI, we should be going the communication route. They can click an acknowledgement in Google when we're good.

But if we're asking them to change their behavior, how complex is it? Do I need to be doing something totally different or is it like, oh, when the button that says enter now says submit and I click that instead, just these very minimal things. And I think as things go up in complexity, there becomes more of a need to potentially pull people out of the flow of work, but also balancing with that to.

the risk of people getting it wrong. So even if it's not as complex, but it might be a topic that's very sensitive for our customers. Like maybe there's like a lot of financial impact where it's, we just wanna be a bit more hands-on because the risk of doing it wrong is so high. Those are some of the scenarios where we'll start to like move the scale from, okay, this needs to go beyond a communication to.

this can be an e-learn too. We need to pull you out of the queue and we need to do kind of a live session on this to make sure we've really crossed our T's and dotted our I's. But I guess that's probably the two main things. It's like the complexity of it related to the behavior change and what is the risk of getting it wrong. And I feel like when you can talk about those things, it's a lot easier to convince your

leadership team or other stakeholders as well, that it is worth pulling out because in an operations environment often, and especially in a customer support environment, like I'm in, pulling someone out of the queue is like that is a cost to the business. Where I think a lot of times we think of L&D and it's like, oh, it's all of these people that are, you know, they're getting their work done at different hours, but

Aaron MacDonald (48:29.257)

It's easier, but we have people staffed to chat. We have people staffed on email queues and those customers need coverage and support. And so you need to make a really good case that you're pulling them out for the right reasons.

to be able to, again, it goes back to trying to be able to show that ROI that if we don't do this, there's actually a higher risk and it's worth the cost to the business.

Ken Babcock (48:55.994)

That's a really good point. I will never forget shadowing our customer support agents at Uber and just marveling at all the tabs and like communication that was flying at them constantly, uh, and the level of productivity I'd sit there for 45 minutes and I'd be like, Oh, I, I thought I was productive. Nothing compared to.

Aaron MacDonald (49:19.225)

But yeah, they're super humans. It's crazy between them and Metta, I worked with content moderators. And again, the amount of knowledge they are able to store in their head and the amount of things they're able to do, it's mind blowing. But yeah, just wanting to always remain conscious of those elements, if we really need to pull out. And it's funny because it makes me think, I think that...

Ken Babcock (49:39.693)


Aaron MacDonald (49:47.177)

A lot of people might have a tendency, especially earlier on in their career for L&D, to like show the value of L&D and training by creating a lot of it. And I actually, over the years, think of it the opposite way. Like, The less time I need to pull these people out of their flow of work to do something, I'm actually proving my ROI as an L&D professional even more because I'm showing that I have a skill set

that we can transfer this critical and important knowledge with minimal disruption versus we're going to pull you out for everything. And Especially at a time right now where people are paying close attention to budgets, and It's a scary world out there from the economy perspective and with all of the layoffs that have gone on and I think you're going to do yourself a better job of showing your worth by providing less training, but doing it right

and being very minimal and thoughtful with it.

Ken Babcock (50:45.818)

That is a great sort of capstone to kind of wrap up our conversation. I love that. I mean, that's the business environment that we're all operating in. And so thinking about that trade-off, thinking about that ROI is so important. So I do have two quick rapid fire questions for you that we ask every guest. I think I know the answer, or at least one of the answers to the first one, but what are three software tools you can't live without?

Aaron MacDonald (51:06.24)


Aaron MacDonald (51:17.021)

Oh gosh, yeah, I mean, after Guru, I will just throw that out there. It's been a game changer for our company and it does what we need it to. And I absolutely love it. Um, a second, this one's kind of funny. So for me personally, I don't know if you're familiar with Canva, but it, it's, I feel like when you're in L and D people naturally assume you're some sort of like creative artist, uh, and you.

can just make everything aesthetically beautiful and amazing. I'm not that person. I'm on the methodology and the analysis and all of that piece, and I can see it in my mind, but my ability to make training and content just like, beautiful and look not, it's just not there for me. And Canva is a tool that makes it look like I actually have a skill in that place, so.

I always feel like I need to step up my presentation game and Canva is a tool that if you are not an artist, if you are not a natural creative, can just make that happen for you. Luckily, I have quite a few people on my team that aren't natural and literal artists, but I would be lost without Canva.

On for the third one, I'm like nervous to say the actual like name because it's, it's less about the tool itself and more about what it accomplishes. But because it's what we use it there, like I will say, I'm going to go ahead and say Slack and I know Slack can be like very overwhelming, but it's less about Slack itself. But it's, I want, I like having instant communications. Like I prefer that over email.

There are some like, cause I can even just market like, I need to come back to this, I need to do it. But I think being able to just communicate with people in real time is just super helpful for a lot of reasons. And I think that it's made our ability to work remotely or work in hybrid environments, like that much more effective. And so I'm very appreciative of that. And I don't think we would have the same.

remote or hybrid environments that we do if we didn't have these types of tools that allow us to communicate like right away taking out that delay that an email might throw in there.

Ken Babcock (53:43.082)

Yeah. Hey, the question was what three tools can't you live without? I can't imagine living without Slack, so I totally get it. And your canvas secrets are safe with us. Last one, quick one. Who's someone you follow that makes you better at your job?

Aaron MacDonald (53:50.202)


Aaron MacDonald (54:01.481)

Yeah, so I love this one too. And I'm gonna, I might go off a little off script because I'm not gonna name anybody actually in the operations or enablement space. There's so many people that I love to just get little snippets from, like even watching the snippets that you post from this podcast. I'm like, those are like, yes, I love that. That was like a fun little thing. And there's kind of a constant learning there, but an individual that I follow, that I learned so much from is AmiVora.

Ken Babcock (54:21.37)

I'm going to go to bed.

Aaron MacDonald (54:31.061)

So she was at Meta and WhatsApp previously. She's now the chief product officer at Faire. And it helps me do my job to hear how the leaders think that my teams support. So we're building product features, or we're building enablement for product features that her and her team are designing, launching and implementing, and understanding her priorities, her perspective, her.

frame of reference, I think really helps me as an operator, bridge the gap between product and operations. And I think that that's really important is to just make sure that you're understanding the viewpoints of those other stakeholders, because it can be really easy to be like, they want us to move too fast. Like we can't build training this fast. But when you hear the lens of where they're coming from, where they wanna support the customers as well, it turns into like,

Well, yeah, that's fast, but can we think of a new way of doing things like so that we could bridge that gap and stuff and we don't want to be a bottleneck on from the traditional framework of training. Like, oh, we need one month to build a 15 minute eLearn. And yeah, I think it's just a rich... She has some really great insights into just leadership and all of that as well. But ultimately, I think understanding her frame of reference makes me a better operator because those are the teams that...

we're serving to serve our customers.

Ken Babcock (56:01.486)

Totally. And I mean, everything, everything flows down to the support team. You are, you're a product evangelist. You are a voice for a customer. You need to know the personas. I mean, and so I think being able to understand how product is thinking about development roadmap, why we build what we build. I think that's so critical. So, um, Aaron, with that, thank you so much for joining us today.

I have no doubts that the audience is going to take a lot away from this conversation. So just appreciate the time. And with that, everyone will wrap up this episode of the podcast. Feel free to reach out to Aaron if you have any questions about your own L&D enablement, onboarding, et cetera. He's seen it all. So thanks again, Aaron.

Aaron MacDonald (56:55.102)

Yeah, thanks so much. I had a blast.

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