The Future of Work is Now: Cherie Hicks

Episode 37 February 24, 2022 00:33:44
The Future of Work is Now: Cherie Hicks
The Edge: A Skillsoft Podcast
The Future of Work is Now: Cherie Hicks
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Hosted By

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek

Show Notes

On this special season finale of The Edge, we invite two insightful leaders to discuss Skillsoft’s 2nd Annual Lean into Learning Report– uncovering learning trends and lessons from 2021, and what else is to come in 2022. In part two, we speak with Cherie Hicks, a Diversity and Inclusion Learning Leader at Trane Technologies, who shares how Trane Technologies has worked to overcome the gender gap through their Women in Action™ Leadership Development Program, powered by Skillsoft. 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:07 The views expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft. Welcome to the edge, a Skillsoft podcast for learners and leaders alike. You know, this every episode we're engaging in candid thought provoking conversations on the topic of learning and growth in the workplace. And welcome back to a very special two-part episode of the edge, where we are diving into Skillsoft's 20, 21 lean into learning report. Now, if you haven't already done so head on over to skillsoft.com/podcast, to listen to part one where I chat with Christy Hummel, Skillsoft's chief people officer. And in that episode, the two of us talk about the various trends in this year's report. And we really get an opportunity to hear Christie's perspectives on the finding. But as I said, this is a special two-parter. So today I have the honor of sitting down with Sherry Hicks, a leadership development strategist and learning manager at Trane technologies. Speaker 1 00:01:09 And one of our very own customers whose learning story is profiled in this year's lean into learning report. And as organizations think about how they can create skills based learning and development programs for a hybrid workforce train story is the perfect example of how to do so triumphantly. So I couldn't be more excited to get this started and to speak with Sherry today. Learning more about her and the incredible programs that she's spearheading at train. Well, Sherry, thank you so much for joining us on the edge. I, I have to say first on behalf of Skillsoft, I want to thank you for being our customer and for the wonderful partnership that we built together. I think we are so fortunate to work with incredible companies like train technologies and to help support learning and development within your organization. And we couldn't be more grateful to have you featured in this year as lean into learning rapport. And I'm so excited to dive into this incredible leadership program that you've been running. So, so welcome. Speaker 2 00:02:14 Thank you, Michelle. I appreciate the opportunity. I'm excited to talk about our collaboration or partnership. Speaker 1 00:02:20 Oh, good. Good. Now we always want to start with a little bit of fun and give our listeners a little more insight into who you are, cause they already went through your professional background and look so, you know, I also put Christie Hummel, our chief people officer through this. So I promise it won't be painful. You ready? Speaker 2 00:02:37 Sounds good. Okay. Speaker 1 00:02:39 Ready in the spirit of, of the time that we're in a limpic winter or summer? Speaker 2 00:02:46 I would say summer I'm prone to winter because the winter Olympics are going on, but I love the gymnastics and the track and field portion of the summer Olympics. So I would say suffer Speaker 1 00:02:57 I'm with you. I track and field is my absolute favorite. Okay. Favorite movie genre and movie Speaker 2 00:03:06 Favorite movies. Aren't well, one thing I'm a huge movie buff, so I feel like I like them all equally based on what movie it is. I mean, from scary hard drama comedy, I would say drama is my favorite. Um, cause I love a good story. Favorite one. That's a tough one. Um, I wanna say the color purple because that's the one that I remember from childhood that had just a huge impact that I, you know, still could watch right now almost as if it was the first time. So I would say drama is my favorite, even though I did just see the screen movie a couple of weeks ago and I loved it so Speaker 1 00:03:59 Interesting. Interesting. All right. Here's here's a big one. Tik TOK or no tick talk, Speaker 2 00:04:08 No tick talk for me. I appreciate some of the videos. I see them, um, you know, uh, seeing them on YouTube, the compilations, but I personally am not on Tik TOK nor have I made a take tock video. So one of the few people, um, let's see how long it lasts, you know, everywhere, somebody wanting to take top videos. I know. Speaker 1 00:04:37 All right. And then the last one, and then I'll stop subjecting you to lightning round questions. What, what is the one subject that you'd like to learn more about? Speaker 2 00:04:49 I would say for me, I'm always looking for opportunities to improve my business, acumens skills, business knowledge. So, because I work on the people side, I'm always, I feel like it just gives so much credibility to the work that we do and the people on the people side, then I'm always trying to understand the business more because it's so different from, from my background. So like in manufacturing, for instance, I'm always trying to understand your products or services. Um, so yeah, Speaker 1 00:05:30 I love that. I love that because it gives you so much more insight into the customers that you're serving and that your employees are engaging with. I really do like that. Speaker 2 00:05:38 Exactly. Um, yeah, those are our customers. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:05:42 Yeah. Yeah. So, so why don't we start by having you share a little bit about your role train's overarching philosophy on learning and development and, and the programs you're leading to create this culture of learning across the organization. Maybe you can touch on that a little. Speaker 2 00:05:58 Sure. So I'm a little bit about my background. Um, my role has really been with train technologies for about seven years, always in the leadership, excellent space. My, the target audience for the work that I do has evolved over the years. So we're, you know, it's gone from working with frontline leaders to executive leaders. And now in the past few years, my work has primarily been focused on women's leadership development. So really expanding the development opportunities for women at Trane. And you asked about the philosophy of, of train as far as development. I would say, w we've been committed to diversity and inclusion, which the work that I do with women, just really a women is really a unique partnership that I have with the diversity and inclusion team. Um, and I would say we've, we've had that partnership for quite a few years. I've been focused in as the diversity inclusion space and these programs are a result of that commitment. Um, you know, we looked at back in really 2017, our company signed the paradigm for parody initiative and our, our senior leaders have actually, you know, join a couple of different coalitions. The one TN the CEO action for diversity and inclusion. And these programs are a result of some of those commitments where we're trying to make sure that we focus on opportunity for all, and that everyone at every level in the organization has access to development. Speaker 1 00:07:54 I absolutely love that. It's one of the things that we espouse here at Skillsoft and, and, and I think this notion of making learning growth opportunities, skill building, skill mastery, accessible to all is so, so critically important. So I love hearing that about train. Um, I'd love to learn and I wanna, I wanna switch and talk a little bit more about the women in action leadership development program that, that you alluded to, that you've been spearheading and in this year is lean into learning report. Um, we emphasize the importance of raising awareness and taking action to address gender equality in the workplace. And I think this program is a perfect example of how organizations can empower and support their own female talent. Now you started this program if I understand correctly back in 2019, so Sheree, can you, can you tell me a little bit more about how and why it was started and maybe provide us with a sense of what the framework behind that program is? Speaker 2 00:09:00 Sure. So at the time we had, um, a women's program in place that was really structured in a traditional way. It was, it was a global program, but it was primarily onsite in person and it was focused on leaders, women, leaders that we identified as key talent. And so, again, going back to some of the commitments that we've made around paradigm for parody, we were looking for an opportunity again, to reach more women. And then not just women that were already leaders. We wanted to reach women at every level, emerging leaders, informal leaders, and this program provided an opportunity to do that as well as being assessable to women that were outside of the U S cause because we are a global program. And so we wanted something that women could really incorporate into their day, so they didn't have to commit to, okay, I have to be in a classroom or I have to be in a session for four to eight hours. Speaker 2 00:10:18 It was really about, you know, taking this really traditional non-traditional approach to learning like, like learn on the, go, like the learning is integrated into your day. So, and that looks differently for all of us. So, you know, whether you're in HR, whether you're in engineering, you know, regardless of the business that you're in, you can make a decision of. Oh, okay. So, you know, Tuesdays at four o'clock work for me, I don't have to be in a session with other people I can log in and I can learn at a time that works, um, with my schedule. Speaker 1 00:11:02 I, that sounds, that sounds incredible. And you know, I think a lot, a lot of organizations, a lot of organizations are trying to better align programs with the real needs of an increasingly hybrid workforce. Because as you talked about the original models where we were in person spending, you know, hours or days on end, that doesn't work. And it sounds like, um, you've made that pivot to meet the changing needs of your learners. Um, successfully, can you, can you talk a little more about how this program has transformed as you saw the move from in-person to digital and like, you know, what had to be done differently and what were some of the challenges that you faced and what have you realized about, you know, how digital can be integrated successfully, um, or use successfully for a program like this? Speaker 2 00:12:01 Yeah, so I would say, um, there is quite a few things that we learned. So really going back to your question around the culture, I think it was a huge paradigm shift. Um, because most of us, of course, this was pre pandemic we're used to in-person learning. So w when we piloted the program in 2019, even though, you know, made it very clear, this was virtual, it was self pace. A lot of people still came into the program, not expecting that to be completely mobile. And so just trying to, you know, encourage that paradigm shift of, you know, no one's tracking like we, they, they're given a deadline to complete the work. Um, it's about eight weeks, but just understanding that I'm not monitoring you throughout this whole eight weeks, you were really empowered to, Hey, if you have a Friday and you want to spend, you know, four hours, uh, plowing through some of the courses or, you know, listening to an audio book, that's up to you. Speaker 2 00:13:16 Um, and so I would say that was one of the big things, like continuing to get them to understand that you really own this process, like how successful you are. You're not going to have a facilitator holding your hand through it, but I would say as the program evolved, we're, we're constantly because we want to keep the content fresh and relevant. And so even though the topics that we focus on haven't changed since that time we've tweaked the, you know, the number of hours or some of the, the books. Um, we received platforms where people really wanted to do more micro learning versus read or listen to a six hour audio book. They wanted more variety. And so, so those are some of the changes that we've made over the past couple of years, um, based on participant feedback, but it, you know, it's been pretty amazing that, you know, since our launch, um, a lot of our learners still find a lot of value in the topics that we've selected, um, and still find them beneficial to, um, helpful for what they need. Speaker 1 00:14:40 I, I really, I really love this. And, you know, I mean, look, it's something that we talk about across the board with respect to learning that you have to own your own development. And that's a hard thing, right? Because oftentimes learning is a push organizations, push things at people. And really, if you want to develop a culture of leadership and learning one in which learning becomes a daily habit, people need to pull that learning and they need to feel a sense of ownership over in. It sounds like you've been able to do that successfully here. Speaker 2 00:15:15 Yes, definitely. Um, and I've seen the change. We actually just started the program again this year and I just feel the energy just elevated year after year, because I think our learners really get it. They come, you know, excited. Um, they're, they're willing to share their experiences because we try to encourage, like, even though you're not, you know, in a classroom, you know, reach out to your other cohort members, you know, share some ahas that you have. Um, you know, we have debriefs that we provide a platform for them to come together a couple of times throughout the eight weeks, but we're trying to get them to really engage in a development opportunity and a non-traditional way. And I think it has really caught on, um, you know, now that we've met through the pandemic, especially that our learners are more open to sharing and aren't really shy about, you know, having these conversations virtually versus in person. Um, yeah. So it's, it, it's, it's been an incredible experience just to see just the shift in our cultural culture where our learners and participants, or really maximizing this experience, um, more so than they did at the beginning, Speaker 1 00:16:48 You know, and, and you said something that I just want to touch on because we've had this discussion internally quite a bit, but this idea of cohort learning, even when you're in a self-paced environment, that the, the, the reality or the, the, the fact that you were going through this with others and that others are experiencing, and the same, um, learning and growth, maybe having some of the same aha moments, maybe there are, are elements that, you know, they want to discuss, but they recognize that they're not alone. There's something really powerful. I think about cohort learning Speaker 2 00:17:26 Very much so because of what we try to encourage is for them to learn from each other. Like that can be a real, that's one of the benefits of still, even though it's a self-paced program, going through it as a cohort thing has, again, you may not have completed the same course at the same time, but the topic is still the same. And so you still can have those conversations and make those connections with others about the experience you're having in the program. Speaker 1 00:18:00 That's, that's, that's wonderful. I, you know, I, I think that the program sounds amazing, but I think it would be wonderful if we could talk a little bit about the outcomes. Cause I know you've had some exceptional ones and, and profound when it comes to your organization. Um, so, so tell us what, what's the impact that you've seen on learning and growth on, on your, you know, empowering your female leaders and specifically just on, on talent development and retention in and of itself? Speaker 2 00:18:33 Um, yeah, so we started the program in 2019. We started with about 125 women. Um, and because we divide the cohort into three sub cohorts, so we have emerging mid and senior from 2019, we have in continue to expand the number of women that actually participate in each cohort, but also we have increased the number that we actually offer. So for instance, in 2021, we had three cohorts, um, that ran over the course of the year and each cohort, um, was about 300 women participating. And so, and that is just based on, again, the interest and the demand for the, like I said, it has really, since 2019 really become extremely popular because again, I think culturally, now we get it. Um, it's, you know, this program is maybe something easier than what you were used to because this is self paced. So over the course of the past couple of years, we've developed about 1100 women. Speaker 2 00:19:52 So keeping in mind in 2019, we only had one program where we developed about 30 women per year. So just the number of women that we're reaching at every level has been extremely rewarding, extremely satisfying. Um, w I've also seen with this program because we have the three different levels. I've seen women go from the emerging group to the mid-level group. So you get to see the progression in their, their careers and then, you know, to share their experiences with other ones, other women. And, you know, even in some of the programs we have outside the other women's programs, you know, talk about the impact that this program is having and what what's really ironic, um, about our conversation today is about 30 minutes before I had a colleague to reach out to me and was just like, yeah, you're, you're still running the women in action program. Speaker 2 00:20:58 Right. And I was like, yeah. And it was, it was a leader. She was like, I had the most amazing feedback from four of my direct reports about the program, because like I said, we just launched it this year. And I was like, oh, that's great. And she said, no, seriously, like life-changing. And I was like, are you serious? And I was like, this is like, I'm having, you know, preparing to have this call and the intake give that kind of amazing feedback. Um, I haven't heard what it was specifically yet, but, um, when I think back to 2019, um, and I know some learners were kind of frustrated like, oh, you just expect me to just read a book by myself and, um, you know, take this class, like, what's the big deal, but it is those connections. Like it is really having an impact. And so that's just been extremely rewarding to see. Speaker 1 00:22:01 I, I cannot, honestly, I don't think I can imagine right now, a more fulfilling role. It sounds so amazing and excited. And you gave me goosebumps when you said that because, you know, I, I personally, this is a, this is a passion for me as well. Um, even within our own organization, I chair female leaders of Skillsoft. We call it floss and we are working very hard to put in place programs that are going to not only engage the women in our organization, but help them progress. And so, as I'm listening to you, I'm learning a lot and I'm probably going to say, Hey, Sheree, why don't you come speak to floss? Speaker 2 00:22:46 Um, I'm happy to, I'm happy because I am so passionate about this work and just, it's, it's very rewarding to, like, I tell people, I get to see how the story ends. It's been amazing that I remember last year I was in another program, another one of my programs and I was observing it. And one of the participants shared the experience she had in this program. And she said, I just was inspired to show up as my authentic self. I realize that I have been holding back. And she said, now I, I have the confidence. And I, I know that that's, that was actually impacting my performance. And this is because one of the topics is emotional intelligence. And she was just like, I just, from that self-awareness I realized that I was doing a disservice, not just to myself, but to others around me, because I didn't feel comfortable, really being a vocal. And she said, but in my personal life, I was, but in my professional life, I held back. And so that's just some of the impact that, um, you don't even realize when you are creating a program like this, that it can have longterm. Speaker 1 00:24:08 I think that's, I think that's fantastic, but you know, it didn't that begets the question, Sheree, what's next? How are you going to continue to refine this program? And, and, you know, I know that there's more that you're doing with trains other, um, learning programs, but, but what's next for you and for this, you know, amazing program you've developed. Speaker 2 00:24:29 Yeah. So I'm a person where you're like, I'm never satisfied. What's next question is not a hard question for me, because I'm always like, if anything, I have to be coached to like, celebrate Sheree, enjoy the success, because I'm always looking at it from a perspective, like how can we make it better? How can we improve the quality of the program? How can we make it more learner friendly? And one of the ways that, uh, you know, I'm continuing to do that is, you know, evaluating the program annually. Um, so, you know, looking at the feedback from the learners, they evaluations, which I always encourage throughout, like, give me your honest feedback, what's working, what's not working. What would you recommend? And I think by approaching it in that way, you'll always find opportunities to make some small changes that can really have a big impact on the learner experience. Speaker 2 00:25:37 And so that's, that's, um, that's some of the stuff that I'm looking at, you know, doing this, like I said, we just launched for this year, but at the end of the year, I'll look at what were some of the successes and what were some of the opportunities and, you know, and I'll adjust the quarterly. I tell participants in my program, I think I'm addicted to the comments section, like gives me specific feedback. Let me know. Um, because we've, we've made changes based on that. And so that's, what's been really great to see, like I said, well, I've had like someone to come back to the program and they're like, oh, well, this is a little different. I see that the format looks different. And just even how they access the content is a little different, you know, we shifted platforms, you know, go on a different platform. And so there are always some, you know, changes, um, that I think can be made to make the program better year after year. Speaker 1 00:26:36 I, yeah, I love that. And I'm going to ask now, cause, cause I think, I, I think I have you in a really good frame of mind. Can I have you back so that we can get an update in a year? Speaker 2 00:26:46 I am happy to come back. I'm happy to come back. Like I said, I could talk about this work all day because with women, what I absolutely love is like, we share what we think, how we're feeling. It's never really a mystery of, you know, I mean, you just feel the energy, um, literally even virtually. And so, um, I just love seeing people open up and be vulnerable and, you know, ask the tough questions. And so, yeah, I'm, I'm happy to come back cause I, I always have a story because you know, I'm living it. Like I said, what just happened earlier today? I couldn't believe it. I was, was just like really that's some powerful feedback. So I'm looking forward to hearing specifically, you know, and she said it was four people, so yeah. Yeah. Cause I want to know what's working like I'm like, can I bottle back whatever was said and done and then, you know, duplicate that, you know, distributed. Speaker 1 00:27:54 Absolutely. Yeah. I know. Um, oh Sherry, this has been so much fun. I, and you know, we could go on, but obviously podcasts have to come to an end and I'm so sorry that, um, we didn't get a chance to, to, to do more, but again, we'll have you back. Um, and I want to thank you so much for sharing train story. This has been great, but you know, I have the one final question. Cause we talked about this before we even started podcasting. And it is the one final question that I've asked all of my guests since we started the edge and it's a three-part or so you may need to write this one down. Okay. As we, as we reflect on the past year, I think we've all had a very different experience when it comes to the impact of 20, 21, the impact of the pandemic and the ways in which our lives have changed and things that have shifted and things that we will not go back to. So in this three or what I'd love to learn about you is what you've learned about yourself. So first, what have you learned about yourself in 2021? Second thing is how are you going to apply what you've learned? And then the third is what advice would you share with others? So learned applied advice. Speaker 2 00:29:12 Okay, great. I'd love that you have an application piece that speaks to my educator background. I would say what I have learned about myself is that I'm more optimistic than I thought I was. I always actually prided myself on being pragmatic, being a realist. And I think throughout this, you know, world we've been living in the past of years when I, you know, look at things that I've done, like I've always tried to turn it around into something positive. Um, and I didn't, I wasn't really aware of that about myself. Like I said, I, I tried to always just, you know, I'm about the facts of about, you know, speaking the truth, but I'm like, I'm a little more optimistic. I like that. And, and so, because I have become more aware of that, I tried to make sure that I'm intentional about showing up in that way. Speaker 2 00:30:17 Cause I feel like it's contagious. I think even virtually that people can feel energy and I hope I can pass that on. And then others pass that on like just some of the passion and enthusiasm I have around pretty much anything that I do. Cause that's the type of person I am. Um, and I, I just try to make sure that I'm showing up in that way consistently and pass that on. And so I would say, um, the last one about advice for others, I would say my advice would be, um, sometimes I've always said like be comfortable being uncomfortable. Like, like they say, like the, you know, life begins at the end of your comfort zone. I think if all of us reflect on the opportunities where we've grown the most and develop the most, it was when we were in a space where we were uncomfortable. So just embracing that, um, because again, these past couple of years have shown us. We are not in control. We have to get comfortable in that space and still continue to make the most out of life. Um, in every aspect of our lives. Speaker 1 00:31:43 This has been absolutely amazing. I look forward to having you as a guest on the edge again soon, and I wish you and your women in action programs so much success. I am, I am already excited about what I am, what I've learned today and what I'm going to take back to my organization. So thank you so much. Speaker 2 00:32:04 Thank you, Michelle. I've enjoyed it. Thank you, Speaker 1 00:32:08 Sherry. Thank you. Once again for joining us, I also want to give a big shout out to Christie Hummel for joining us in part one and two, our listeners, thank you for tuning into this. And every episode as we unleash our edge together and close out season two. Now I said this before, but if you haven't bet our full 2021 lean into learning report, or if you're hungry for more insights after listening to today's episodes, how could you not be head over to skillsoft.com where you can download the full report and on behalf of the entire Skillsoft team, I encourage you to keep learning, keep growing and in light of our conversation today, I'll leave you with an encouraging message from Skillsoft CEO and the welcome message that opens the lean into learning report. Jeff writes, despite what we've heard about the great resignation, there's another movement growing in response, which promises to be the skilling revolution organizations that thrive are creating a culture of learning, where every employee can develop new skills and competencies and is given the tools to succeed in the next normal competency is the new currency. You know, I love that idea. And here at Skillsoft, we'll continue to partner with organizations that are ready and willing to transform through learning. I'm Michelle BB. This is the edge and we'll be back soon to bring you even more episodes as we return with season three coming soon. But until then be well.

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