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LEARN Recap: How to Empower L&D Champions

At our half-day virtual summit, WorkRamp LEARN, we heard from industry experts in customer education, revenue enablement, learning and development (L&D), and human resources (HR).

During their panel, Unusual Ways to Empower L&D Champions, Kason Morris, Head of Learning and Experience Design, Salesforce, and Melanie Naranjo, VP of People, Ethena, shared strategies to shape L&D programs and boost employee engagement.

A recent McKinsey study showed that 41 percent of those who quit their jobs between April 2021 and April 2022 did so due to a lack of career development and advancement. Melanie points out that this creates an opportunity for organizations because it allows employers to deliver exactly what their employees are looking for by investing in L&D. 

Making learning a habit instead of a task

The primary reason to prioritize growth is related to the McKinsey study—people will leave your organization if they aren’t getting the growth opportunities they’re looking for. But, at the same time, people get bored and burnt out if they aren’t challenged and learning new things regularly.

Also, employees who are learning are more engaged. In another study, 87 percent of Millennials said professional development is vital to their engagement, and organizations with engaged employees outperform those without by 202 percent. 

Learning is truly a competitive advantage. Not only do you get better performance from your team, but you can also attract the right people for your high-skilled roles. You also encourage people to share and innovate, countering the idea that doing your job means keeping quiet and doing what you’re told. 

“Engaged employees tend to be more innovative, they tend to see opportunities, and these are all the things we need in the marketplace today,” Kason says. “In this post-pandemic world, change is the only constant. The playbooks from three years ago don’t exactly work in the same way. That’s why I feel like talent and learning is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Read More: Why Build a Learning Culture?

How do you leverage internal champions in a culture of learning?

Melanie and Kason agree that the most essential aspect of leveraging champions is to speak to the why of the different training initiatives your L&D team produces. 

Think about the program’s impact, and share that with your champions to help build buy-in within their area of influence. 

It’s also important to communicate the why and the impact to your employees. “Unfortunately, I do see this sometimes when companies aren’t clear about the why; it feels like a time waster,” Melanie says. “‘Why am I sitting here doing this training when I could be executing my role? I’m holding the business back,’ and not recognizing that, actually, it’s a long-term investment. You’re investing an hour of training a couple of times a month to maximize your impact at the company.”

From there, champions and managers need to lead by example. Not just junior-level employees or new managers need training, but seasoned leaders can benefit from ongoing training. You can’t manage a remote team that spans multiple time zones like a team that shares the same office.

The final step is to build training into your teams’ schedules. At Ethena, there’s an hour every other Tuesday dedicated to learning. The entire team does it simultaneously, and it’s not optional. It’s part of your calendar, like a team meeting. 

Don’t worry about running out of topics. Not only can you teach common business, communication, and leadership subjects, but you can also address current issues that are popping up in the team or organization. Melanie shares that one recent training was about communicating remotely without misinterpreting tone. 

When leaders are part of this training process, sharing stories and experiences, learning becomes a real part of the culture. 

Read More: How to Create a Learning Culture

How do you help everyone feel comfortable with learning?

One of the keys to empowering your champions and creating a learning culture is to understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, it’s essential to tailor your program to match your organization’s culture, size, goals, and resources.  

That’s why having close relationships with your champions is vital. You can’t scale your learning program alone. You need people in each area who can promote the idea of L&D, advocate for specific initiatives, and support your efforts.

L&D champions must also understand the individuals on their teams and departments and help make training accessible to everyone. Champions can help you understand how employees learn and how you can create learning opportunities that don’t interfere with the flow of work.

Read more: What is Multimodal Learning?

How do you make people feel comfortable and safe in a learning environment? Melanie recommends using a DEI&B approach to help consider individuals who may not feel comfortable sharing or participating openly. Also, psychological safety is essential, which can be challenging in organizations with little tolerance for mistakes. 

Kason notes that teams can promote sharing learning in different ways. For example, teams can use technology or social learning, which allows them to close knowledge gaps and improve engagement and performance. 

Champions play a significant role in helping people apply what they learn and create environments that support innovation. However, changing “no-mistake mindsets” in some organizations is a journey and can be challenging. 

The beauty of L&D is that it can create an environment that’s automatically safer for experimentation. 

“If you’re in a learning environment where you’re able to role-play or try stuff or consume videos or run through a workflow where it’s OK for you to fall a little bit and learn that lesson in the safety of the learning space, then that also helps build confidence and close those gaps in relation to learner productivity and engagement.”


-Kason Morris


Read more: 7 Types of Learning and Development to Empower Your Team

Looking for more actionable tips and insights from People, Revenue, and Customer Success leaders? Don’t miss WorkRamp LEARN Spring, March 23rd at 9 am PT. Get your free ticket!


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Anna Spooner

WorkRamp Contributor

Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action. 

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