How We Approach Professional Learning At Slack
Training to help people do their best work, not be a distraction from it
Below is an article originally written by Kristen Swanson at PowerToFly Partner Slack, and published on November 11, 2016. Go to Slack's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
What was the most important thing you learned over the last six months? Picture it in your mind.
Go ahead, I'll wait.
Chances are… your mental picture looked nothing like this:
When asked, not many people cite traditional training as their most valuable learning experiences.
In lots of companies, on-the-job training is greeted with a deep, guttural groan. It's a mandatory evil, a long series of tasks that take people away from their core work for little benefit. Given that our mission at Slack is to make people's working lives more productive, these traditional models don't cut it for us.
And so, we're thinking about professional learning differently.
Instead of asking: How do we get people to do…
We ask: How might we build a system where the most people possible can succeed?
To answer this critical question, our learning and development team takes a three step approach:
Step One: Pull, not push
At Slack, virtually every learning experience we offer is optional and open to all. This creates a democratic environment where learners are motivated by curiosity, relevancy, and a deep business need.
Instead of "pushing" lots of mandatory content, we allow people to "pull what they need" from an integration between Slack and Bridge, our learning management system. Each learning experience is brief, targeted, and modular. Given that a "search first culture" is one of the core assumptions underlying Slack (the product) — that is, proactively look to see if the answers you need exist before asking a question — it makes sense for our learning program to reflect that as well.
And, because we can't meet every demand, we offer a professional development stipend for every employee to pursue external programs as needed.
Step Two: Active learning
We offer a wide array of online and in-person learning experiences each month on topics ranging from public speaking to negotiating to handling unconscious biases in the workplace. Whenever possible, we want people to interact with what they're learning.
Repeated research has shown that adults learn best when they are thrust into problem-solving experiences, not piles of content.
At Slack, it's common to find groups of people exchanging feedback, role playing, or building prototypes. This makes it more likely that people will transfer their learning back to their day-to-day work experiences. And, of course, that's really important.
Step Three: Communities of learners
When planning what we'll tackle next, our learning team at Slack is often heard repeating the phrase "the more the merrier!" This is because we need a diverse set of stakeholders to help us determine which types of learning are most needed.
We're always looking for the intersection of learner curiosity and business needs. Because we spend a lot of time talking about our goals as a company, this happens quite naturally.
Every quarter we collaboratively choose which learning experiences will have the biggest impact on our team. Our team of collaborators spans across many departments, roles, and levels.
Once designed, many of our courses are facilitated by internal experts from deep within Slack. For example, our leadership academy is peppered with leaders from inside Slack. Who better than current leaders to understand what leadership means within our company?
Yea, but… Does it work?
Although it's early in our history, our strategies seem to be working. The aggregate net promoter score for our courses is 91, and aggregate comprehension scores are just above 80%. We're also seeing our attendees uplevel their work in their respective roles as reported by their managers. Of course, we have much more to learn, but these early results seem to show the investment we're making is a good one.
The more we learn together, the better we'll be able to tackle what's next.
Kristen Swanson is Slack's Director of Learning and thinks backpacks are better than purses.
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You've met some of them—maybe they're your family, friends, classmates, or coworkers, or perhaps you identify as neurodivergent yourself.
Sharing inclusivity, not stereotypes, at Raytheon Technologies<p><br></p><p>"Raytheon Technologies and our Raytheon Alliance for Diverse Abilities (RADA) Employee Resource Group (ERG) is committed to trying to bring focus on invisible disabilities, as they are among the most misunderstood. Autism/neurodiversity isn't a mental illness and we recognize how important it is to bring awareness, be inclusive of everyone and avoid stereotypes. During Autism Awareness Month RADA is featuring a multi-regional presentation about Autism Awareness & Acceptance, as well as neurodiversity overall. The presentation is focused on educational information, including what Autistic people want in terms of inclusion and meaningful work, as well as dispelling common misconceptions."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/raytheon-technologies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Raytheon Technologies</em></a>.</p>
Hiring a world-class workforce at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency<p>"The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency recently launched the Neurodiverse Federal Workforce (NFW) pilot program, a collaborative effort between NGA, MITRE, and Melwood. The NFW pilot aims to help government agencies hire neurodiverse talent for U.S. Federal Government agencies. 'NGA mission success is contingent on a world-class workforce with a wide diversity of opinions and expertise,' said NGA Deputy Director Dr. Stacey Dixon. 'Neurodiverse talent can bring new perspectives to the NGA workforce and make important contributions to the mission.' The pilot is a great learning opportunity for NGA to continue to grow and improve our first-class workforce."</p><p>Learn more from the podcast "<a href="https://www.podcastone.com/episode/The-National-Geospatial-Intelligence-Agency-takes-workforce-diversity-in-a-new-direction" target="_blank">The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Takes Workforce Diversity In A New Direction</a>"</p><p><em>Learn more about the </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/national-geospatial-intelligence-agency" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Supporting each individual's preferred environment at Elastic<p>"We distribute anonymous surveys that allow anyone, including neurodiverse folks, to address potential barriers that we should address.</p><p>Our accessibility working group acts as an employee resource as well as an equity-seeking team that works to create and develop a disability inclusive workplace at Elastic.</p><p>The majority of our Elasticians work from home. Our hope is that this empowers neurodiverse employees, including those who may be on the spectrum, to have more control over their environment so that they can manage noise and light sensitivity, control their personal space, and manage their own schedule to reduce anxiety."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/elastic" target="_blank"><em>Elastic</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Pioneering neurodiversity at Freddie Mac<p>"Freddie Mac values the insights and different perspectives that result from employees bringing their authentic selves to work. Our Office of Inclusive Engagement works with several organizations to identify qualified candidates, consider them for suitable roles and pair them with mentors who can help them adapt to an evolving new normal. In 2020, we evolved our neurodiversity internship initiative into a more robust training, education and hiring process called 'Neurodiversity at Work' to directly place candidates with Autism Spectrum Disorders into full-time roles."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/freddie-mac" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Freddie Mac</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Decoding inclusion at MongoDB<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTk0NzE2OC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDY3MTY2MH0.Q-ko6g65MC-epHBrx_vr6k9v-lSawHH5jfhPWOVTozI/img.png?width=980" id="a4487" width="1112" height="626" data-rm-shortcode-id="a686a88d639ff3a91a5a4f6b455ce0cc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>"MongoDB supports the neurodivergent community through interview accommodations, providing new hires the opportunity to select equipment and denote special requests, and onboarding checklists broken down into useful sections. To raise awareness about neurodiversity in the workplace, we have a learning and development (L&D) platform which has content on collaborating with different working styles. Our L&D Program focuses on building skills in managing teams inclusively. We also host Decoding Inclusion, a series of events aimed at building community and sharing foundational knowledge about D&I topics, including neurodiversity, to further our understanding of differences."</p><p><a href="https://www.mongodb.com/blog/post/why-now-cool-time-different-steph-johnson" target="_blank">Read more about how MongoDB celebrates difference in this interview with their VP of Corporate Comms</a></p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/mongodb" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>MongoDB</em></a><em>.</em></p>
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Sharing stories to support awareness at Lockheed Martin<p>"Lockheed Martin shares employee stories internally to help others understand Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and hosts internal events to support ASD awareness and education. The Able & Allies business resource group, whose mission is to build an environment that empowers employees with disabilities, has recently partnered with ASD advocacy organizations to offer resources to assist with managing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with persons who have ASD and their families. Missiles and Fire Control (MFC) is a member of the Florida Ability Inclusion Network and strives to educate employees and leaders on disabilities and recommend best practices to promote a disability-friendly workplace."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/lockheed-martin" target="_blank"><em>Lockheed Martin</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Kate Jhaveri does one thing every day that she suggests you try: belly laughs.
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