The Mix Tape | The Secret’s in the Mix: Part 4 – Talent Development Tools

We’re wrapping up our Mix Tape mini-series by breaking down how to build Career Development tools that engage your team and boost retention. In this episode, Valerie is joined by Mix Talent's Head of HR, Daryl Neville, and our Director of Leadership & Culture, Sara Shondrick, PhD to discuss different types of training, how to assess training needs, and how to prioritize and work together to figure out strategies that bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Transcription

All:

Welcome to The Mix Tape.

Valerie McCandlish:

I’m Valerie and welcome back to our final episode of our mini-series. We’ve covered several really exciting topics, and in today’s episode we will be talking about building career development tools for your team to drive engagement and retain top talent. Today I’m joined by Daryl Neville, head of HR at Mix Talent, and Sara Shondrick, who is a talent consulting lead and our director of leadership and culture. And they’re going to be sharing some insight on how Mix has approached career development and some strategies that might be helpful for other small but mighty organizations. So let’s dive in. Daryl, Sara, why don’t you talk a little bit about your experiences.

Sara, I know that you come from a larger organization, you’ve spent a lot of time in life sciences, so you bring a ton of knowledge in that sense. Plus you just recently got your certificate in executive coaching, so kudos to you for that. Daryl, you’ve come from a few different industries. You’ve been in large organizations, small organizations, and just have a ton of HR knowledge yourself, so I would love to hear a little bit more about that, and kind of your approach to career development now that you’re here at Mix.

Daryl Neville:

Yeah. Thanks, Val. So I’m Daryl Neville, head of HR at Mix Talent. Yes, I bring over 25 years of experience as an HR generalist, also known as a jack of all HR trades. I spent most of my own energy in HR on organizational development, employee relations, and HR administration. My goal when I head out each day is to ensure that everyone in the company has what they need to be comfortable, knowledgeable, engaged, and just built for success in any way they can possibly be, whether they’re a team member, a manager, an executive.

Our group is made of incredible talent, and they serve as my yang within HR. So they keep a focus on some of the other areas within HR, specifically talent acquisition, training and development, employee engagement, payroll and benefits, and then our HRAS systems. At Mix Talent, we’re a small but mighty team of people. We service clients in the areas of talent acquisition, HR consulting, assessment development, coaching a leadership, the ladder of which we have the benefit of a team of industrial organizational psychologists that have played a heavy part in developing our own great learning and development program content, as well as some of the best in class tools for performance management, career development. And Sara Shondrick is one of those IO experts, but I will allow her to introduce herself. Sara?

Sara Shondrick:

Thanks, Daryl. So my name’s Sara Shondrick. I recently moved into a new role at Mix that is the head of our coaching practice. And as mentioned, my background is in IO psychology. I have a PhD from the University of Akron and just completed Georgetown University’s Exec Certificate in Leadership Coaching. So I bring 15 years of consulting and coaching experience, working with leaders using analytics, assessments, a lot of research backed best practices to help inform talent management practices, approaches, and just helping people to build better leaders. And really enjoyed my time at Novo Nordisk, and Johnson and Johnson, and some of those other bigger players to learn what are the big best practices that people are using. But I really wanted the challenge of being able to truly build from scratch and help our clients transform into who they want to become, hence why I joined Mix Talent.

So let’s talk about career development. At Mix, we’re really lucky to be able to support both our Mixers own growth as well as that of our clients. And in fact, as Daryl knows, we oftentimes get to experiment internally with offerings before we extend them externally to our clients. And that allows us a chance to really refine, learn from our own experiences before we figure out what can work for other clients of similar sizes. And so Daryl, I know, thanks to your team’s efforts, we just won the Best Place to Work award for the fourth straight year. So congrats, I know that’s a lot of work. And I know no small part of that was based on HRs learning and development initiatives. So can you share how you’ve approached learning and development as a small but mighty HR function?

Daryl Neville:

Absolutely, I’d love to. And what any company does if it wants to do learning and development well is really leverage in-house curated content, and at Mix we do that. I guess one analogy I would use is to build a home, you need experts in the area of home building, so you need an architect, you need a structural engineer, you need a contractor, inspector. And in between all those things, you need people who are specialists that can do the drywall, the plumbing, the electrical, and so forth.

So when you’re building or learning and development program for the work that your people do, find your internal subject-matter experts. We do a really good job of that, and I would say it’s the most underrated part of learning and development. And so people that do what your employees do, they can teach your employees about best practices, they can teach good habits, tips and tricks, and just simply demonstrating what good looks like. And what we have found is that at Mix, our internal experts love to jump in and teach other people and to have a stake in building other Mixers, and that can generate growth and opportunities for everyone. So that’s just another contributor to our culture here at Mix.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. And I would be a remiss not to note that win-win is one of our core values. And so having the opportunity for our internal Mixers to be able to offer their expertise and advice is a great way to give back to our own community of people. And I’ve really noticed how engaged our people are when the content is being delivered by someone they know and respect and who really truly gets the challenges that they’re facing on a day-to-day basis. And so just like win-win, another one of our core values is solve, within a small and fast growing company, it’s so easy to feel like everything is a priority. Daryl, how do you prioritize all of our learning and development needs?

Daryl Neville:

Yeah. This is a good question and a very important step in your L&D process. So Brittany Campbell and Val here who’s moderating our session for today, she wears many hats like most of our Mixers, but Brittany and Val are L&D team, and they conduct a training needs assessment to identify our priorities, and they do that on an annual basis. So you want to be sure to carve out time every year, typically closer to year end, and certainly prior to when you’re doing your annual planning and budgeting with your accounting people is to start to gather training needs assessments from key stakeholders.

These needs assessments inform where the most value added opportunities lie. So your company can grow, and your business can grow, whether that be things like leadership development, if you’re a fast growing company that needs to really focus on leadership development. It could be subject matter expertise, could also be for new programs and new business services that you’re offering to your clients. Any of those kinds of areas, those training needs assessments will really help steer where the priorities are for value added training and development for your team.

We also want to consider individual development plans as part of our training needs assessment. And that’s an area that we’ll touch on in a few minutes, I’m sure when we talk about career development. But after you do your training needs assessment, your L&D team can then to begin to identify those in-house experts. They can start gathering ideas and content to share, talking about if you have external training needs, what are the opportunities there, what kind of budget would you need for that? And then also leveraging leadership development, mentoring opportunities, and those can occur within your company with the people that you already have to help you address those gaps in leadership ahead of the business need. If you’re particularly a fast growing company.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. And as a fast growing company, it can be really important to make sure we’re delivering, which is yet another one of the core values that underlies everything that we do with our career development offerings. Can you talk a little more around how you manage the logistics to deliver all of these programs?

Daryl Neville:

Yeah. And it’s actually a lot easier though, it can be intimidating if you’re starting up a training program. But as far as the tools, you want to find a way to keep training easily accessible to everyone. So think of it in terms of a training library which holds recorded trainings that you’ve done in the past. Also, any training documentation that would support either those training videos or just training documentation that people can refer to in your company as they go forward in time. Also, any external training opportunities you want to keep and share with future employees during their onboarding, or for team members that you want to do refresher trainings for, and they can do that at a kind of their own pace with self-paced learning opportunities.

But Microsoft Teams, Zoom trainings, they’re great because they can be recorded, and we keep our recorded trainings of all of our in-house content on our Paylocity system, which is our HR payroll platform. And it’s also has a really good LMS module, but if that technology’s not available to your company, you can simply keep video files on a OneDrive or a shared drive directory, and that would also do the trick.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. Thanks for that. I know in previous organizations and roles, I’ve been in charge of delivering the same tradings for different cohorts of people throughout the year, and I fully appreciate how much of a part-time job just delivering those trainings can be. And while it’s great if you have the luxury of those resources to be able to have people dedicated to you facilitating training content, in a small but mighty organization like ours it’s just not feasible to do that. So I really appreciate the efficiency of having those recordings be accessible throughout the year for new hires and people that want to revisit content they heard earlier. Can you talk about how you go about determining how frequently those trainings should be offered live or refreshed if they’re recorded?

Daryl Neville:

Yeah. I mean, trainings are all shapes and sizes. I mean, it really depends on the content of your training. Best practices to update trainings annually, particularly if they’re compliance related topics. Regulatory changes occur pretty frequently in life sciences, but also in HR talent acquisition as it relates to some employment regulatory updates that occur quite frequently. So in those kinds of industries, training delivery is important to be timely, and it’s important to be relevant to current state of business. And so you also have on the flip side of that, while it’s not uncommon to refine a training module after its first iteration, some content that you train on can quickly become sort of everlasting and be cataloged for future use. So those could be good opportunities of learnings that you can provide your new hires at onboarding training, or for people who want to just get refreshed on that training content. You can do that in a sort of self-paced self-learning environment.

And then there are that another bucket of trainings that lend themselves to more Q&A opportunities. So they might be training content that’s a little more complex and allows people to ask questions during the training. So those kinds of trainings, there’s nothing better than having live interactions. So there are going to be some training programs that you would do live each time to allow for those Q&A opportunities, but you can divide and conquer and use your technology and use your ability for people to go back and get a lot of training content that’s already been produced and do it in a self-paced way. But as Mix has grown in 2022, one of our team’s key initiatives was to broaden our career development support for employees. And as you know, Sara, HR collaborated with your in-house consulting team of psychologists to support that work. So I recall that the consulting team did staff the project and they did it creatively. Do you want to talk about how your team supported that work while juggling all the other demands you have with client facing work?

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. So as part of my work this year to complete my certificate and leadership coaching, I was spread pretty thin. And at the same time, I knew that I had several members of my team that had a strong interest in developing their project and people management capabilities, but typically I would be the one that would lead that kind of initiative with their support. However, after talking to my team members, Nick Kovacs and Ryan Fahey in particular, they really had a strong interest in stepping up to lead this project. And so they each led different components of the project as a bit of a stretch assignment for themselves.

So while I was in the background closely mentoring and offering advice and coaching to them behind the scenes, they really stepped up and it provided a really great way for them to be able to have a challenging on the job stretch experience to strengthen their skill sets. And that would be another key tip I would offer to our listeners is think creatively about what kind of stretch opportunities you can create for your employees that don’t cost any money and give them really rich experiences to learn and grow. Daryl, can you talk some more around our Mix career development or Mix CD offering and what the business needs were it was designed to meet?

Daryl Neville:

Yeah. So Mix CD, at Mix, we like to put Mix in a lot of our things, our Informed Mix newsletter, our Mix performance management plan program, and then Mix CD. CD stands for Career Development. So it provides a set of tools that our Mix team can utilize, identifying a career journey to which they can aspire to, and we build informal mechanisms to document that journey, to discuss their interests and ideas, and also to keep just that active dialogue with their managers and select peers and influencers. So our HR team will spot common training and development program ideas and then work with those tools and cater to the needs of the individual Mixers and the feedback that we get out of their individual development plans.

For 2022, our entire leadership team set out beginning the year to focus on our total reward strategy. It was one of our business priorities for this year of 2022. And we know that people have so many choices in career opportunities that they have available to them today. And career development is just such an important piece of that Total Rewards Pie. It also helps our business strategy by growing talent and experiences within Mix. It makes us more nimble, makes us more knowledgeable across the business, and we’re able to spot opportunities with people being more aware of the entire menu of client services.

So it gets us out of our own roles and silos, spot business opportunities, and to be able to connect the right leaders in our company to the right client leaders to gain additional business opportunities. But yeah, the program’s still in its infancy. We’re still gathering our first iteration of team member feedback about their career goals and aspirations, but we can indefinitely envision that program offering as a lot of value as it relates to total rewards, but also business strategy. But maybe, Sara, you can talk about how our psychologists built the Mix CD program.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah, sure. So our team first partnered with You All HR to understand where to start. As a small company, we knew we couldn’t build everything for all roles and everybody within Mix at a super granular level right away. So we collaborated to figure out which roles should we prioritize based on where we could get the biggest bang for our book, and started there with the intention to continue to phase out and develop content for other roles as we had the bandwidth to do so. And so our team of IO psychologists led conversations then was subject-matter experts of those roles to understand first what does good look like and also what were the most common career paths to and from each of those roles that a Mixer could anticipate having as an opportunity. And so based on all of that, we were able to paint a clear picture of what was needed to develop the skills needed for a new position and also what was needed to excel within your current role.

And then lastly, we created a series of career planning and discussion guides, so employees could reflect on their career goals beforehand. So lots of open-ended questions that helped you figure out what is your ideal type of career opportunity, what kind of values and skill sets can you bring to the table? How do you want to be and work differently in the future? And then they met with their managers, and managers had a parallel discussion guide that helped them understand what kind of questions might they want to ask their employee to better understand their career aspirations, to maybe challenge their thinking a little bit if their aspirations were a bit unrealistic for what was truly possible in the near term future.

And just to work together to figure out what kinds of developmental actions and strategies would be most effective to help that employee close the gap between their current state and where they wanted to go in the future. And that can be things like on the job experiences such as those I already mentioned, it can be external resources like trainings, articles, books, podcasts, other best practices. It could be shadowing other people in roles that they aspire to join into, or it could be mentoring or being mentored depending on their aspirations. And, Daryl, I know as we were developing that content, we talked a lot about what we wanted career development to mean at Mix. Can you talk a bit about that?

Daryl Neville:

Yeah, absolutely. And this program is such a great just being in an HR role and having your team available to us at our disposal to build this kind of program and everything that went into it. And I would hope that there are other clients and companies that might be able to benefit from your team’s expertise in this area because it’s a really underrated and underappreciated service that you offered me, and I wish I had you at my disposal in other companies. But really, career development is unique to each of us. It’s not a linear process. Some people want to develop deep expertise within their roles. Some want to explore other roles, which can involve movement going up, sideways, diagonally. It’s just ultimately up to each person.

But we wanted to ensure that this was an employee driven process and it wasn’t something that just happened to somebody. We really encourage our team members to create their individual development plan, initiating the conversations with their manager. Ultimately, we want this to be a team member led program so that they’re getting the value out of it that they want to put into that. But regardless, growth does require choosing courage over comfort, being okay, learning from mistakes versus always striving for perfection.

And here at Mix, we’re supporting our team members regardless of their desired developmental goals, wherever they are, and we encourage people to use the competencies that we’ve developed with your team’s help to understand how to excel in the role that they’re currently in, as well as explore some of the other common moves and uncommon moves within the company that might present themselves for consideration as they move forward with our company. So with all that, I know you recently transitioned into a new role yourself to build Mix’s leadership coaching practice. How does that coaching fit into the broader career development picture?

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. So first of all, it’s been amazing to partner with your team. And I think that the work we did with career development is so cool because it works in all small companies, and so it can easily help us to inform what we can do for our clients. And career development comes in many forms. So coaching is a great way to compliment other forms of career developments such as training, which is all around disseminating knowledge and building skill sets based on what an expert knows or mentoring, which is all around offering advice based on what somebody did in a similar situation in the past. In contrast, coaching is all about having an expert coach ask open-ended questions and challenge the client’s thinking. So the client can evoke their own inner awareness and insight to transform into who they want to become.

And so as a coach, I assume my clients are wise and whole. They don’t need rescuing. This isn’t a case where it’s like somebody’s getting ready to be fired and we’re coming in the last second to try to save them. Coaching is all around taking people that are amazing at what they do and helping them reach to the next level of whatever their potential may be. And what I’ve found working with leaders is what leaders really need is time to pause, to reflect, to really broaden their thinking and be strategic so that they can choose their next steps with intention. And that’s really what coaching is all around.

Daryl Neville:

Yeah. Well, how would you advise clients to consider who to invest coaching resources into? Who would you advise your clients to consider for that coaching?

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. Great question. I mean, if I were in my ideal world everyone would have a coach just as everyone would have mentors, and trainers, and all kinds of support. But let’s be real, resources are limited. And so with all talent initiatives, it’s best to really prioritize and invest in the areas that best support business strategy. So questions I like to offer to clients that are considering coaching investments is what are the biggest transitions your leaders are navigating in the next year? And who specifically needs to pivot in their approach to be most effective? What parts of the business need to transform and evolve the most in the next year? How is the market causing your employees to need to work differently? And where can your organization realistically support those needs internally, and where may they want to scaffold with external support to ensure those leaders’ success?

One of the amazing things about having an external coach is that it’s confidential. So oftentimes these leaders can bring up situations or internal thoughts and feelings that they wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable bringing to their boss who is very limited in terms of their bandwidth and time to be able to meet with these leaders. And so leadership coaching can be a really fantastic way to invest in your high potentials, either people that are getting ready to become a leader or those leaders who are facing some kind of transition or experiencing the limitations of how they’ve always done things in the past. And for lower levels of the organization where one-to-one coaching simply isn’t feasible based on the cost, group coaching can be a really fantastic way to open up coaching to those individuals who wouldn’t normally receive it. And so, Daryl, as we close today, can you share some top key takeaways you would offer to our listeners?

Daryl Neville:

Yeah. Time for key takeaways. So number one, build tools your teams will actually use. So when you’re building your training and career development program, make it easy, make it enjoyable for the team, everything from the trainers and the passion they have for teaching others. The Mix CD program that we use, we shared our own activities, the things that we did as part of this discussion, but those are the kinds of opportunities to identify in-house trainers and develop tools that are meaningful and relevant to your own people will make things easy and fun. So build tools that your team will actually use by making them engaging and fun. Secondly, prioritize career development as a business strategy and not just an HR strategy. It’s really imperative to get buy-in from executive leadership in order to build a successful development engagement strategy. You want to make the training be meaningful, be relevant, try and minimize the off the shelf kind of training as much as you can in favor of that in-house content.

Thirdly, is you want to use your culture and values as your compass. At Mix career development is driven by the individual. We want our team to be engaged and accountable in their own development, and that’s that fits in with our values and our culture here at Mix. And then fourthly, we want to provide meaningful, relevant, and efficient training. So we’ve built our own training program at Mix on a house full of experts. So we use our internal team to train and teach one another, be efficient, record your trainings, document the information, and then use it again in the future for onboarding and for refresh your training. So again, build your tools according to what your team will actually use. Secondly, prioritize crew development as a business strategy, not an HR strategy. Third, use your culture and values as a compass, and then the fourth, and once again, make it meaningful, make it relevant and make it efficient. So, Val, any questions for Sara before we round this out?

Valerie McCandlish:

Well, I was just going to say I have a lot of takeaways here because… Well, these are really important ones for people who are probably sitting in a position, maybe they’re in HR, maybe they’re in leadership, and they’re thinking, “Okay, I’ve got this small company, maybe a big one. They’ve had some changes that they need to make, maybe they need to create their strategy.” I think that these are all really stellar suggestions and takeaways for them to think, “Okay, here are some really good ideas. I’m going to run with it.” In our last episode, we really talked about how when you’re making that strategy, you’re building it, you want to make it your own. So taking these points that you’ve suggested, both of you can really build your framework, but I think it’s important to really make it your own and that’s what’s going to make it special for your organization.

But I just have a couple of things that I wanted to share because since coming to Mix, I think it’s really cool, one, that there’s even any type of focus on career development at all, because I think a lot of us have worked places where that’s just not a focus, there’s no effort put into it. It seems like maybe you enter in your role and that’s where you’ll be forever. Maybe one day you might get to be a senior in that position, which doesn’t really give you much hope or excitement for having longevity there. And I think that is what really makes this special because we’ve thought of that. We want people to think that this is a career opportunity for them to join working at Mix.

So if you’re sitting in your organization, you want people to have tenure, you want people to grow and build their professional lives there, provide that opportunity. Just a side note, I really like that both of you have mentioned how much you’ve leaned on your teammates and those that are on like we’re close with you or that you’ve worked with cross-functionally because it does fall on a lot of us to make this work. So once you’ve got that framework, you need to enlist your team to make it happen, and it also gives people pride and excitement and it builds a lot of trust to know that you have people you can lean on to make it happen.

Daryl Neville:

Yeah. Career development is just such an important piece, again, of the total rewards. I mean, today’s workforce is leaning more and more into how important career development is for them personally and professionally. And maybe when I was a little younger in my career, I saw a lot of the workforce at that point in time would’ve valued who their manager is or they would’ve valued pay and benefits and things a little more heavily. But I think as time goes on, those things are still important. They’re still part of the total rewards, but career development is one of the fastest growing areas within total rewards that’s becoming more and more important to the workforce, especially with so many other job opportunities that they have at their disposal. It’s just a very distinguishing piece of what’s important to people today to have a place, a journey to follow.

Valerie McCandlish:

Yeah. And, Sara, earlier you mentioned, of course, our fourth year in a row winning the Best Places to Work award here in Columbus, which for me is just near and dear to my heart because it’s such a great honor to be able to be included among the best of the best here. But as the person who had been really engaging with our team to get folks to share that feedback and then be able to receive it all afterward, I can say that the emphasis that we’ve put on training, that we’ve put on career development, that we’ve put on engagement, and even just the open communication from our leadership, it’s being noticed by our team. And people really appreciate that and can have given honest feedback that’s helped them grow this year. So obviously a huge thanks to both of you for that effort.

Daryl Neville:

Well, hopefully one of the followers of this episode or multiple followers of this episode will grasp on the value added that this can be, and take an example from us and reach out to Sara and her team to be able to engage them on this kind of service because again, I’ve been in HR for a long time and it’s hard per team of one or two HR people, which many of our clients are a team of sometimes no HR people. And so in those instances, they’re prime opportunities to tap into this service and do it a much more efficient and lean on the knowledge of Sara and her team to be able to build a great foundation before you start to grow. It’s really important to start these things when you’re small and really make that part of your culture.

Valerie McCandlish:

I know. How lucky are we to have Sara?

Daryl Neville:

Yep. Never take for granted.

Valerie McCandlish:

One last thing, I just wanted to have a little thought about is I loved earlier that you said, choosing courage over comfort, which made me think back to one of our episodes in season three with our teammate Drew and his now fiancée, a little update there. She was his girlfriend, now a fiancée. She was talking about how in her career development path, at times, she picked something that maybe wasn’t the easy option, picked something that she maybe didn’t think was exactly what she wanted to do, and it opened up doors for her because it allows you to see what you really enjoy, what maybe you don’t enjoy so much and helps to lead you ultimately where you’re going to be. So I think that is a really nice way to call it who’s encourage over comfort. So I love that.

Daryl Neville:

Yep.

Valerie McCandlish:

As I said before, this is our last episode on our little mini-series here. So as we hope that you’ve enjoyed listening to this, we hope that you have had some great takeaways if you’re sitting in a position of leadership HR, and if maybe your team has a consulting team, I don’t know. I feel like we’re so special to have such a great team of Sara and others, but these are great ways for you to sit back and think, “How can we maybe better or add some value to our organization?” So we will be wrapping up this little series, and soon we will be kicking off season four of The Mix Tape. Natalie and I will be back as a dynamic duo. And with that, thanks for being in the Mix. We’ll see you next season.



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