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Ryan Giordano on L&D Best Practices, People-Friendly Companies and “Decks that Don’t Suck.”

On What He Looked for in His Own Job 

After getting a degree in organizational communications from Chico State, I started thinking about where I wanted to work. Most of my peers were looking for a good salary or a reputable company, but the number one thing for me was a culture that would welcome me as I saw myself at that time. Ever since then, I have been focused on what a company can do to make people feel most at home because ultimately that is what is best for the company. That is how people are most effective.

When I got my first job at Pandora, I focused on the kind of culture they had: Were people allowed to come and go on their own time? Did they get to speak up when there were problems? If there was something kind of geeky about you, could you bring that to work and not feel awkward about it?

On Building Pandora’s Training Programs

My first job at Pandora was actually in the advertising department. But after three months, I learned that the company was starting a training team. That interested me because when I did my onboarding, I kept thinking about how they could improve the process for the next person. Even though I was new to the company, I took a leap and applied for a training job and was one of earliest hires on the team.

One of our first tasks was to build a scalable onboarding program for the 300 or 400 people in client services. So we built a blended training program called The Academy, which involved onsite training in Oakland and a whole suite of e-learning tools. 

Then we created a program called Mobilize because people told us that they also wanted to grow in their careers and learn new skills.  We responded by building a program that allowed people to advance their skills while they were performing well on their jobs. That was a really fun project because I traveled to all four of our main offices and held focus groups. Rather than just spinning a solution, I actually talked to people and said, “Hey, what does it mean to grow in your job?” Then we offered trainings that included things like a slide design class called “Decks that Don’t Suck” because everyone said, “I suck at PowerPoint.” 

On Taking That Knowledge to Blend

I switched to Blend after three-and-a-half years at Pandora because I knew that if I wanted to keep growing, I needed to try it in a new place. Blend offered a rare opportunity. They had around 100 or 110 employees when I started but they were still interested in L&D, which most start-ups think of as something they only need after they grow.

One of the first things we did was establish an orientation program called Blend University, to help people learn their way around the company. After we built that, I engaged the folks at WorkRamp because I knew that, in order to be successful, I couldn’t become a bottleneck as a trainer. My idea was to find something that would allow each department to determine when and how they wanted to share knowledge, and to be able to do it on their own time. The legal, compliance and information security departments were the first to adopt the programs, and it was great because they could share refresher content or new information with their teams without engaging me to create any type of training. 

But this is not a “set it and forget it” type of solution. This type of decentralized model only works if you continue to coordinate with people. You still very much need enablement teams.

On Whether L&D Should Move Towards a More Proprietary Model

There are certain L&D recipes that people rely on that may become more proprietary in the future.  Right now, if I were to share how we are approaching feedback or performance management, no one is going to say to me, “What are you doing? You are leaking company secrets,” the way they would with sales or financial numbers. But someday, companies may say, “Hey don’t tell them how we are handling feedback here because it is such a success.” 

I think we need to continue sharing what works—and if we encourage people to share now, maybe these processes will not actually go proprietary.

The L&D Advice He’d Give Himself if He Could Go Back in Time

First, people in this function should align themselves pretty closely to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion because what I am finding more and more is that we are ultimately after the same thing, which is making work a more welcoming and functional place for people. Second, never stop talking to people, even if it just means having lunch with a different group than you normally would. People in this function need to keep a finger on the pulse of the company. 


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