This blog is excerpted from the “Beginning a 5 Moments Journey” episode where Bob Mosher and Scott Schmoldt, training manager at UMR, discuss why the pandemic catapulted his team into a performance-first mindset and the lessons he’s learning along the way.
Bob Mosher (BM): Today we have the privilege of talking with a wonderful gentleman, a young leader that Con and I admire and have watched grow in such a remarkable ways with his team, Scott Schmoldt, the training manager at UMR, which is a subsidiary division of United Health company.
We’re excited to hear your story, my friend. We get a lot of wonderfully experienced folks on this podcast, some a little further down the workflow learning journey than yourself and your organization. And that’s wonderful. They tell such a great story. But, at the same time, a vast majority of our listeners are new to the journey and to making the shift to workflow learning.
We’ve watched you do such a masterful job studying this, understanding it, and communicating it. While at the same time, nurturing and mentoring your team into it.
So excited for you to tell that story. Why don’t you start out with a little bit about yourself and what drew you into this area?
Scott Schmoldt (SS): I appreciate it, Bob. I appreciate the “young” reference. I feel like I’m getting older all the time, but I always knew that I wanted to be an educator. Growing up, playing sports, a lot of times my coaches would tell me that “You know what? You’re a better coach than you are an actual player.”
So I always knew that there was going to be some sort of educator track in my future. Being in the first class of the new millennium, I was encouraged to go into education because the theory was that if you graduated from high school in 2000, and then get your degree in 2004/2005, and Baby Boomer generations would start to retire, there would be a need for educators, especially for male educators, in the elementary grades.
And so that’s the track that I went down. As I went through school, got my degree and started to apply for positions, lo and behold, those generations really weren’t retiring. They were staying in their positions for a variety of reasons.
So, I spent a couple of years—a year and a half—doing some long-term sub positions, I was in a second grade class and a three-four multi-age class. I also did a stint in a sixth grade class. And the market was just super saturated.
My wife also graduated at the same time as I did, got a job in the city that we were living in and so we didn’t really want to move. I really wanted her to build her career so I started to look elsewhere and eventually ended up landing a position at was called at the time WASA Benefits. It’s a legacy organization of UMR.
I started out there as a trainer and was facilitating classes, a couple years after that I moved into an instructional design role, did that for several years, and then moved into a leadership role about a decade ago leading people here at UMR in the Learning and Development space.
BM: Wow! It’s amazing how similar our journeys are, friend. I was an elementary ed major myself. But similar to your background there was an influx of opportunities and I find myself, like you, here in this role. So remarkable—a lot of good educators in this business.
So, my friend, give us a little bit about your team. Give us an overview of your learning organization and those that you support.
SS: Sure. UMR is a third-party administrator section of United Health Care. United Health Care is one of the largest insurers, if not the largest insurer of health in the country. And UMR is this branch off from United Health Care that offers third-party administrative services. My team’s primary responsibility really is that of onboarding and helping to initially educate the front-line call agents and claim processors who are responsible for taking care of our members.
And I would say, in general, we have a pretty traditional L&D team. I have a mix of people who are technical writers who write policies and procedures. I have instructional designers who are creating a lot of the content. People who are in the classroom. And then we have coaches as well that are responsible for some after-class support. So pretty traditional in terms of our team and the overall support that we provide for our organization.
BM: So what brought you to this, Scott? Obviously, like you say, you’re kind of chugging along there. You’ve got a fairly traditional team. The content areas, onboarding and others, are fairly stable and traditional in a sense.
What turned the corner for you in how you got to this place? What motivated you to take the journey in the first place?
SS: It was March of 2020—I think everybody is going to remember this as the date that we pivoted. I believe what happened is that because of COVID, and all the awfulness, frankly, that it’s brought, there materialized a bright side to it. Which is, it ripped wide open and it exposed where I believe most traditional L&D teams—ours included—were deficient.
And, you know, we saw the business needed to pivot quickly, and because of the traditional approaches that we had taken, we weren’t able to meet the needs. And so that’s what really initiated this. It was primarily centered around the need to go virtual very quickly.
And another thing it did was, and I didn’t know the language at the time, I’ve learned this along the way—it exposed that we’re pretty good as an L&D enterprise at meeting the Moments of New and More of the 5 Moments of Need.
But we’re not all that great at providing what they need at the Moment of Apply. And definitely not, at Solve and Change.
So that’s really where the journey started and why we went down this path.
BM: Yes, Con often says that this is probably the most remarkable Apply, Solve, and Change moments our industry has faced, right?
For the longest time, we were able to throw New and More at Apply, Solve, and Change, and just assume that it all blurred and people were fine. But to your point, when your support structures, literally the building you go into every day, is ripped out from underneath you, you are thrust into Apply in a sometimes terrifying and very lonely way.
Scott, can you tell us a little bit—if it’s okay—about the solution you journeyed into first. What area did you tackled, and in this new approach, what were some lessons learned in guiding a team through this kind of transformation?
SS: I mean, we really are in this first phase. And that literally is getting our programs “virtual ready.” Making sure they are adapted to this new virtual space.
And so that really was where the GEAR methodology has entered in around redesigning our ILT courses. And that’s still the phase that we’re in. We’re right now adapting all of our programs to the GEAR methodology and making sure that all of the facilitator guides that we have and the activities that we have—it’s all centered around that methodology. And so that really was the first step that we have taken. And we are still there.
One of the things that I’ve had to learn is patience and persistence.
I know that when I first started this, because the sense of urgency was so great, I wanted to just do it and do it quickly and get it done. And the reality is that it does take time. We’re turning the Titanic here, not the SS Minnow, so it’s going to take time and there needs to be patience to understand that it’s an iterative approach. As you embark on this journey, it’s not something that’s a “one and done.”
This is a long-term strategy of re-shaping what L&D does. You’ve got to take a step back, re-evaluate the bigger picture of where you’re trying to get to. And once I did that, I started to see the team embrace that as well. They started tackling tasks that were achievable today, that were achievable for next week, that were achievable for next month.
We’ve gotten to a really good place where we’re on track to have all of our programs completely converted over to this new GEAR methodology by the end of November.
BM: Wow! I applaud your transition. But that had to be tough for your team! They were fairly grounded in a more traditional approach. When they began this shift in mindset did you find them encountering certain challenges or things they had to overcome to get here?
SS: Yeah. So a couple of things again. This is all language that I’m learning from you and Con, frankly, and from other leaders in this industry who are farther down this journey. But the two words that I keep saying to my team is “methodology begets….”
I know that’s a phrase you’ve used before, Bob, and it’s so true. It’s “methodology begets the facilitator guide.” “Methodology begets how you deliver it.” “Methodology begets how you create the policy and procedure.”
And I think for so long what we’ve done, which is my second point, is we focused on content over context.
Listen to the full episode for additional 'aha' moments from Scott as well as his vision for his entire team and how he plans to get there!
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