This blog is excerpted from episode 35 of the Performance Matters Podcast where Bob Mosher and Mark Wagner, vice president of claims learning at The Hartford, sit down to discuss how his organization has integrated workflow learning into their organization and how his teams have used performance support to respond to the current landscape.
Bob Mosher (BM): This is one of our Experience Matters episodes which are by far our most popular, for obvious reasons. It’s when we get folks out there doing great work to step in and share their journey. It is my honor to introduce a dear friend of mine, Mark Wagner from The Hartford. Welcome Mark! Great to have you here!
Mark Wagner (MW): Thanks Bob! I’m glad to be here.
BM: Give us a bit of your background—how did you arrive at your current position in The Hartford, and please also share a bit about how performance support and workflow learning came about in your journey.
MW: Before I came to The Hartford I had a very long learning career at Progressive Insurance. And the cool thing about Progressive was that they had grown so fast for so long it was constantly adding new talent to their organization all the time. And they decided that, “We’re going to grow our own talent organically internally.” And really, the people who are now running the company are all entry-level employees who grew up through their environment and succeeded. So, it was quite the journey for me to see some of those people grow up from young people to all the way to having families and being senior executives. After helping thousands of people learn their job, The Hartford called me one day and said, “You know, we understand that Progressive does a great job of growing its own talent. And we’d like to do that at The Hartford.”
So, I decided to take on a new challenge and take a lot of the things I had learned at Progressive over to The Hartford. And what I’ll say about that—when you have a fast-growing organization, one of the things that’s very important is that you organize your content. You need to make sure people can get to it. So, it was very natural for us to take a performance support strategy at Progressive and I brought that with me to The Hartford.
BM: Excellent! So, let’s move up to the here and now. Tell us about your team and how you have orchestrated yourselves there from your learning at Progressive and in particular, which we’re going to talk quite a bit about, tell us about this wonderful platform that has evolved there called the KMT.
MW: So probably about a year after I was at The Hartford I got the message that the content that people were using internally was in very bad shape. It was kind of scattered all over the place, no format to it, no way to organize it. Compliance teams were involved, process teams were involved, learning teams were involved, and I always referred to it as kind of the “Tower of Babel” internally. So, they were very interested in myself making a recommendation and I already, in my mind, had workflow learning as the key to it. Organize it in a workflow, get the content into one platform, start to gate-keep how the content was organized, and make sure that there was a strategy behind it.
I had actually looked at maybe four or five platforms that were available internally. And then was told, “Wait a minute. We’re going to upgrade all of our Microsoft products.”
And I said, “Oh. I think that if we’re going to get a new version of SharePoint, we could make use of that as the actual platform.”
And because it was already being supported at an enterprise level, I knew I had the backbone. So basically what I had to do was find some of the people that did work with me at Progressive, bring them over to The Hartford, and start to decide how we could manipulate SharePoint in somewhat the way we had manipulated it at Progressive.
But I will tell you this. We did not have that newest platform at Progressive. So, we knew we were going to do some very different things with this new SharePoint platform and the way to harness that is you start to break off a group of your learning professionals and make them a content design group that only worries about creating this new environment.
We did that and built the team very quickly. Initially we started with about five people. Now we are up to ten. They are the ones who are pretty much in charge of the KMT, Knowledge Management Tool. When we started this work we decided to take this acronym to a patent level. So that was kind of cool.
BM: How did you socialize this thing and how has it changed the way that The Hartford views your department and maybe the things you build in general?
MW: I think the first step is letting people know that once you put this into place you are going to integrate it heavily into your new-to-role experiences. So instead of the learning event being, “Let’s throw a bunch of knowledge and a bunch of WordPro documents at you”—or whatever—it’s, “We’re going to help you learn how to navigate your performance support as part of your learning experience.”
And if you think about it, it’s a very natural process because your learning facilitator becomes a person that’s just guiding them through the use of the performance support and then applying scenarios to it. And then, integrating it into live work fairly quickly. So if you take the learning experience first—that “Get good at navigation, get good at figuring out how to search for things,” maybe even throwing in a dose of learning in the moment that’s embedded right in the performance support, you then say, “Okay, now we’re turning our sights to real live work. Let’s get you in a learning lab together and get to some real work.”
BM: Wow. And what learner wouldn’t like that? I don’t understand why this has been rocket science to folks for so long. I’m assuming it was received well by your group?
MW: It was. And as we rolled it out, we did it business unit by business unit. And I would kick it off to the team by saying, “Okay, we now have the KMT for this line of business. Let’s burn the PowerPoints.”
And it truly was kind of, “You don’t need that anymore. Those bullet points that you had in that PowerPoint mean nothing because now you have the steps. Now you have the deeper dives in the knowledge pieces. Now you have some embedded learning right where you need it. This is how you’re going to run your learning experience, not through a PowerPoint.”
It is a little bit of different thinking for the facilitators. They see those PowerPoints as their crutch. You almost have to really take them away. You have to say, “You are going to help people learn how to use this. And this is what our expectations are of you as a facilitator.”
BM: It’s also bringing along the other stakeholders in Learning. Were they okay with it and did you do it?
MW: I’ll be honest with you. It’s not easy and there were times when I’d be in a huddle with a group of facilitators and they would bring up a topic or say something, and then all of a sudden I’d see a PowerPoint being flashed up on the screen. And I’m like, “What is that?” And I’d get responses like, “Oh, I know. I got to dump that…” So, it isn’t like it happens overnight and everybody just drinks the Kool-Aid and says, “Oh yeah, I get it. I’m going to get good at facilitating this way.”
When the learner starts to expect it—that’s very helpful. So, when one group has a KMT and they move into a different line of business and there is a need for some form of learning experience, one of their first questions is, “Where’s my KMT?”
And to be honest, that’s how people sometimes profile their next job. By going to their performance support and saying, “I’m going to nose around in here and see if I can get a feel for what this job is like,” before they even apply for a job. So, it’s kind of worked its way into the culture in, “How I even go about moving my career in a different direction.”
BM: Wow. What a powerful statement to how much a part of the DNA this thing has become. So, this is a perfect segue to my next question.
COVID. Here you are chugging along at The Hartford, stunning the organization, and then our world flips upside down. And now insurance, clearly, is on everyone’s mind.
Tell me what happened there and how you helped handle this shift.
MW: I can give you two different points that were really important. Initially, COVID hits. Our organization which was already a very remote worker type of environment went completely remote. So definitely the KMT took on a real role. It ensured that everybody had what they needed through the performance support to be able to do their job at home. So that was Point 1.
Point 2, which started to become very relevant very quickly, we’re a multi-line insurer and obviously, you have auto and property insurance. You’re not having a lot of losses. People aren’t moving around as much—we’re home. All that volume is going down. But guess what? We have disability benefits. That starts to skyrocket. So, we were being asked very quickly by the organization, “Can we get some help to the areas that are starting to really boil up with a lot of volume?”
We set up classes and moved hundreds of people into those roles to help support the work that needed to be done. And we had the backbone of the KMT to do that fairly quickly. I was so proud of my learning organization because I’d sneak into virtual classrooms and I’d see them quickly getting people up to speed using that performance support. Because they were knowledgeable professionals and had used the KMTs in their own areas, it wasn’t that big of a move for them to be able to do it in another area.
To be honest, we’re hearing things in some of the surveys like, “Boy, I really like this part of the company. I may have found myself a home!” That was kind of cool, to see people say, “I kind of like this part of the business. Maybe I’ll stay here.”
BM: If you are sitting down with a leader who is just starting to guide their team through this, what advice would you give them both strategically and tactically?
MW: I think the first thing is to say, “I want to change the way people learn. And I think I can make it more efficient. We can shorten your time to competency and I can give them a tool that they use both in the learning experience and on the job—all in one. And I want you support me in that journey.” That’s kind of Step 1.
Step 2 is, in my mind, worry more about how you’re going to organize the content than the technology that’s going to help you. If you say at the start, “I need to spend millions of dollars to bring you this vision,” you’re never going to get started. I think the better way to do it is to figure out how can I do this and what technology can support me.
Don’t let the technology stop you from getting it in a format that makes sense and always tie it into, “This is how it’s going to evolve our learning in the company.”
BM: Methodology over Technology.
Listen to the full episode to hear more on how Mark’s team is using workflow learning and performance support to meet their influx of new claims and to hear what advice he has for learning leaders looking to implement similar solutions.
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