Recently I had an opportunity to talk with my old friend, Michelle Baker, who is the VP of Organizational Development at FORUM Credit Union in Indianapolis. When I asked her about ways that HR and L&D can come together to make amazing things happen within organizations, she gave me an ah-ha moment about the information some folks in HR roles have that could benefit L&D folks greatly.
Brian Washburn: Welcome everyone to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, I am your host. I’m also the Co-founder of this really cool instructional design company called Endurance Learning. So if you ever need an extra set of hands putting together training programs, give me a call. Otherwise, I’m not here to talk about that.
I’m here today with Michelle Baker, who is the Vice President for Organizational Development at FORUM Credit Union, and we’ll get to her in just a second where we’ll be talking about the nexus of human resources and training and the people that work in both of those functions.
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All right, Michelle, Vice President of Organizational Development at FORUM Credit Union. How are you?
Michelle Baker: I am doing well. I’m so glad to be here. Thanks for having me, Brian.
Brian Washburn: I’m excited to talk with you, and I don’t know that people know this, but you and I have known each other for a long, long time. We met over social media like 10 years ago.
Michelle Baker: Yes, at least.
Brian Washburn: And we’ve been chitchatting, we’ve done blog posts together, we’ve tricked out PowerPoint slides, and now you’re in this lofty role at your credit union, the Vice President of Organizational Development.
Michelle Baker: (LAUGHS)
Brian Washburn: So before we get into any of this, I’d love to hear if you could describe you in six words. What would that autobiography sound like?
Michelle Baker: Okay, well, that’s a lofty request for someone as chatty as me, but I will give it a shot.
Brian Washburn: That’s why I gave it parameters.
Michelle Baker: Well, thinking about our theme today and the topic that we’re gonna discuss, that was in my mind. And so it is, “Recognizing business issues as people issues.”
Brian Washburn: Yes. And so let’s talk about people, and let’s talk about this world of HR, this world of training. You kind of interact with both in your perch in your organization, but a lot of organizations, you have HR, you have training. And so let’s kind of set the stage here first before we talk too much about each of these different parts of the company and how they can interact. If you had to give one overarching goal or purpose for HR, what would you say that is?
What are the Goals of Human Resources and L&D?
Michelle Baker: Okay. So thinking about that you know, I think it’s– we’re gonna find that– I really think it’s the same goal.
Brian Washburn: Okay.
Michelle Baker: Or should be the same goal. Even if we’re–
Brian Washburn: Because I have another question. It’s gonna be what’s the purpose of training?
Michelle Baker: So, alright, well then let’s put this together.
Brian Washburn: Yeah.
Michelle Baker: So if HR and L&D– if we’re thinking about ideal goals for these functions-
Brian Washburn: Mhm.
Michelle Baker: You know, sometimes you see organizations that are well-aligned and sometimes they’re very, very distinct business units. And I think you see everything in between.
Brian Washburn: Yep.
Michelle Baker: But I think we should be aligned to the same goal. And I think that goal is supporting employees to perform at their best, to find fulfillment in their work, and contribute toward achieving business results.
Now we might come at it from different angles or we might have different responsibilities, but at the end of the day, I really think we’re more alike than we are different.
Brian Washburn: Yeah, it’s fascinating because a lot of the organizations, they’re separate or maybe training’s kind of tucked into HR.
Michelle Baker: Mhm.
Brian Washburn: But like HR, it carries a lot of duties, right?
Michelle Baker: Mhm.
Brian Washburn: So it’s a broad-ranging department from benefits administration to telling someone they have body odor to recruiting and hiring and firing, right? So, and there’s two separate professional associations. You have SHRM on the HR side, you have ATD on the training and talent development side. And I loved what you were saying, right? You don’t see them as two different entities, even though maybe a lot of the world does which is why I’m talking to you about this.
Michelle Baker: Chuckles
Brian Washburn: When it comes to thinking about, you know, somebody in a learning and development role, and if they’re thinking, “All right, well, how do I align a little bit more with HR?” Who is the person in HR that they should be talking with so that they can better support performance improvement or talent development? Is it the benefits administrator? You know, is it an HR generalist? Is it an HR business partner? Who should they be looking to inside of an organization?
Who in the Organization Can Assist as HR and L&D Seek to Work Together More?
Michelle Baker: You know, that’s a great question. I think that the short answer is yes. All of those people can certainly provide great insight and they can be a wonderful resource for someone in learning and development. And I think anyone who can tell a story with data in the organization should be your very best friend because you know, at the end of the day, successful learning means we’re not only contributing toward improved employee performance, but knowing how that performance links to improved business performance.
So I think you’re gonna get different insights from a recruiting professional than you would from someone who say focuses on like compensation and benefits. So I think, you know, my official answer probably isn’t very clear, but I think it varies widely from organization to organization, you know, and even how the hierarchy, you know, is laid out in a company. I think that can impact the tone of HR.
Brian Washburn: One of the things that you mentioned in part of your answer that really made my ears perk up is this idea of data.
Michelle Baker: Yeah.
Brian Washburn: And I think for learning and development professionals, kind of the holy grail of learning and development is to be able to measure the impact your initiative, right?
Michelle Baker: Mhm.
Brian Washburn: And a lot of times data’s difficult to come by.
Michelle Baker: Yeah.
Brian Washburn: What kind of data do folks in HR have access to typically that could be really helpful for learning and development folks?
What Data Is Available That Can Be Helpful for HR and L&D Work?
Michelle Baker: Yeah, I think, you know, it’s what are you trying– what story are you trying to tell? And you can kind of back into where you find that data within HR.
Brian Washburn: Mhm.
Michelle Baker: So are you looking for retention data? Because turnover can be a huge– that can be a huge metric that learning can impact in a variety of ways. Even at the leadership level, at the individual level, everything in between. So looking to maybe an HR director, manager, somebody in analytics. If you’ve got like a people analytics team or even talent acquisition and recruiting somebody who handles your exit interview data. That can give some tremendous insights onto why people leave and how that rolls up into turnover. And then you can look at what are we doing from a learning perspective to mitigate that. That can be incredibly powerful.
But also you look– things like employee relations issues or safety issues. What are we doing maybe through new employee training or onboarding that can help reduce those accidents or safety issues that put the company at risk or put people in harm’s way unnecessarily? We can prevent that before it happens and ultimately, you know, either it’s going to help make the company money or it’s gonna help save the company money or reputation or just the trouble in staffing. You know, just if we lose people, we don’t have to, you know, go and invest the time and energy in replacing them. So I think there’s a lot of different places, but those are a couple of good examples on where you can find really good HR data to support what we’re doing in the learning function.
Brian Washburn: That’s a fantastic example. Now, beyond data, what is it that HR folks are doing well that L&D should be learning from? And I’ll ask the opposite of that question as well. What is L&D doing that HR folks should be learning from? But let’s start with HR. What are the folks in HR doing well that anybody who’s involved with training or talent development should be picking up on and maybe borrowing, stealing, whatever it might be in terms of what they’re doing well?
What Are HR Departments Doing Well that L&D Departments Should Borrow?
Michelle Baker: Yeah. You know, I think HR can be our friends when it comes to the why in a lot of situations. So they understand the things that we don’t always think about, and it’s not always like the glamorous things, but they’re really, really important. So the employment law and the policies and factors in retention and just those details that just help not only shape the foundation of our business to know that we can kind of operate on a firm foundation, but it can also help shape the direction of some of the things that we do in learning and development. So I would say they’re good at the why.
Brian Washburn: And how about training folks? What do training folks do well that maybe folks in HR, maybe folks in kind of the SHRM crowd could be learning from?
What Are L&D Departments Doing Well that HR Departments Should Borrow?
Michelle Baker: Yeah. You know, I think this is like the flip side of that. I think where HR is really good at the why, I think sometimes learning and development is really good at the how. You know, we are well-versed in conducting like a needs assessment to really identify the right solution for whatever the issue, you know, I use that in air quotes “might be.”
Brian Washburn: Mhm.
Michelle Baker: Sometimes it’s training, sometimes it’s not. And then from there, it’s: what’s the right format to use for a particular situation? You know, how are we going to not just check a box, but how are we really gonna change behavior? And so, you know, I know it’s always the case. You know, there’s definitely stories that are gonna be contrary to what I’m saying here, but sometimes HR can be very matter-of-fact. Sometimes it’s a little one-size-fits-all because it’s based on the policy. And so where they get that why, sometimes I think L&D can be a little more creative in the how and to make sure it’s the right fit, the right communication approach, you know, the right style for the situation.
Brian Washburn: And I think that there’s a lot more to be unlocked here. I know that we’re going to try to keep this conversation short. I do at some point want to come back and maybe have a part two of this conversation that dives a little bit more into the data or into the how and the why. Because anytime I start one of these conversations, I never know where it’s gonna end up.
And several of the things that I’m taking away from this is that HR can be a gold mine when it comes to data that L&D always wants, maybe rarely has or thinks about where to actually get that information. The other is the idea of figuring out a little bit better the why when it comes to some of the training needs that are there. And I think there might even be a presentation for both an ATD crowd and a SHRM crowd or a local chapter in terms of combining the how and the why, in order to really supercharge HR and training initiatives.
Michelle Baker, who is the Organizational Development VP at FORUM Credit Union, thank you so much for giving me some time to talk today. Thank you everybody else for listening to another episode of Train Like You listen. If you know somebody who might find today’s episode on where HR and training can combine to create beautiful things, go ahead and pass this along. If you want, go ahead and subscribe. We can be found on Apple or Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcast. Even better if you’re gonna give us a review or a five-star rating. If you’re interested in learning more about a broad range of learning and development strategies, you can always pick up a copy of my wonderful book, What’s Your Formula? Combine Learning Elements For Impactful Training at www.amazon.com. And until next time, happy training everyone.