Interview with Patty Edwards from Mondelēz


DSCAPE:    Thank you very much, Patty for joining me today for this interview.  Your depth of knowledge and experience as someone responsible for employee training and development at a major multinational will be valuable for people to hear.  Let’s start with the basics:  What is your official title at Mondelēz?


PATTY:    My official title is National Training Manager.


DSCAPE:    What does that entail?


PATTY:    This role supports training for approximately 10,000 people in the North American region of Mondelēz-- the United States and Canada -- not only from a Learning Management System perspective but in training facilitation and a great deal of content development.


DSCAPE:    What types of training are most typical?


PATTY:    It's a balance. Approximately 75% of it is sales training to “upskill” our employees in different facets of their job.  The other 25% would be around safety compliance, policy compliance, things like that.


DSCAPE:    Can you define “upskilling”?


PATTY:    We expect our sales force to be professional sales people, so we cover essentials such as how you conduct yourself with customers when you’re in a store, when you’re on the phone, etc.  Any time you’re communicating with our customers and the general public in the stores it’s very important to us that our employees are great communicators and professional in their interactions.

Beyond that, there are, our KPIs (Key Performance Indicator), our productivity indicators that we want to hit or exceed every year.  So it’s really focused around efficiency, selling more, coming up with creative sales presentations, really being a partner for all of our stores and customers out there so we can do our jobs as professionally and efficiently and profitably as we can.


DSCAPE:   When did you first get involved with employee training and development?


PATTY:    I have an HR background so I've pretty much been involved in training and development since the beginning of my career which was, wow, twenty four years ago. In Human Resources, typically, we had a separate training person or training group.  I supported it to make sure everything was legal and buttoned up and relevant. I shifted into a full time training and development role in 1996 when I went to one of our locations in Boston and I was a full time training manager. That was for Kraft.


DSCAPE:    Given your depth of experience with various types of e-Learning, what would you say are the greatest obstacles to creating successful programs?


PATTY:    Technology. Today, our Learning Management System is everything we need. It’s simple. It’s easy and it’s intuitive. However, before we had that, some of the courses we've tried to run before wouldn’t work with the technology our users had available. So sometimes we have a challenge between cutting edge technology with our programs and not so cutting edge technology with the formats that they need to run in and the software programs they need to run in. So technology working well and fitting in with our goals is really very important 

DSCAPE:    What devices are people using to access the training??


PATTY:    Some of our folks are using PCs and most, our sales organization, our sales reps and our folks in the field are using android tablets. In other parts of the world they’re using iPads; and in some parts of the world, they're using phones. So we have a variety.


DSCAPE:   So is that the challenge because of the different platforms?


PATTY:   Yes, it’s a big challenge. That’s one of the bigger ones.

The other big one we have is this whole idea of a vision and engagement and commitment. I really think that the top of the house has to have a strong commitment to learning and development and they have to demonstrate that through budget, communication and holding employees accountable for learning.

We’ve all heard the stories that when the budget gets tight, training is the first thing to go. I'm happy to say that’s not happened at Mondelēz. We continue to have the budget we need to do the things we need to do and if we ever have to stop training it’s more of a time consideration.


PATTY:    The other piece of the engagement puzzle, of course, is the employees themselves. We have a very tenured workforce some of whom think that there’s nothing else to learn so they’re not really interested in taking courses, completing learning curriculums, anything like that. You know, change is difficult for everybody and I think fear of new technology is common but the attitude of “I just don’t want to do that” is also part of it. We need to do a better job with holding learners accountable and we’re constantly working on this to help everyone understand that development is part of your job. Your learning is part of your job. It’s not this extra thing that we put over on the side and you do it when you have time. It’s just as important as everything else you do. That’s a huge culture change and we’ve made progress and we continue to work on it.      


DSCAPE:   So to what extent do you think the quality or the engagement factor of the courses has an impact on that?


PATTY:   It has a huge impact on that. You know, prior to our Learning Management System, we did most of our training with PowerPoint presentations and it’s the death by PowerPoint story that after a while everything starts to look the same. You know, some of the presentations were 300 slides long. There was really no interaction at all and you had to complete your training when someone told you to complete it. So there wasn’t any kind of ‘on demand’ functionality or features to complete the training.

So what we found with our e-Learning is the more interactive the better. Whether it’s images moving on the screen, building in quizzes, knowledge checks, games, it’s something that requires the learner to actually do something to advance the course as opposed to just being very passive and letting the course run and they just look at the screen. It’s had a huge impact on our organization. We’ve had very positive feedback on our e-Learning content.


DSCAPE:    Have you seen compliance go up as a result?


PATTY:    Compliance is very good. We’re probably at 98% compliance at any given time provided that all the technology is working and everything is going as it should.  Part of that is a segment of our group that actually wants the training and the other part that’s just doing it to get it done. And I think that’s probably the case everywhere. I don’t think that’s unique to us.


DSCAPE:    So is there a particular style of e-Learning that you have found to be most effective – even within the definition of “interactive”?


PATTY:     One thing that’s very effective with sales people is the whole idea of gaming. So if you can build a game or a contest something into a training module, you’ll have a lot more engagement. You know, sales folks are competitive by nature and the whole gaming idea appeals to them a great deal whether it’s putting things in the right bucket, whatever it is, that’s very appealing to them and they will actually spend more time and talk up those modules more than others.

 When I communicate how we’re doing against our training objectives, we do actually rank regions and areas because that drives that competitive spirit among the employees. We share positive comments we’ve gotten on training that are totally unsolicited. People will send us feedback all the time about the positive and the not so positive. By and large, the feedback is very positive so we share that positive feedback to everyone in the organization every chance we get.  

One thing that we have done this year that is helping tremendously is we have built a KPI or key performance indicator around completing training. So this year if you did not complete your assigned training on time, you are not eligible for the highest increase you can get or bonus. So that has really incentivized many of our employees to complete their training on time. 


DSCAPE:    I would imagine.


PATTY:    We’re coming up to the end of the year and we’ve done some preliminary reporting and there are going to be some disappointed people. There are also going to be some very happy people who did complete their training on time and this is one of those years where I'm happy to say that we really mean it.  If it wasn’t completed on time, then they get some points off on their total scores at the end of the year.  

DSCAPE:     So everybody gets their own KPI ranking?


PATTY:    Yes. We’ve never done this before. If they don’t complete it, it’s the same consequence as if they don’t meet one of the business KPIs.


DSCAPE:    Very interesting. How do you know if a program was successful or not?


PATTY:    That’s still sort of a work in progress to be honest. We can very easily check compliance with reports. But primarily we really rely on our managers. It’s part of their responsibility to understand not only their employees’ training needs but their own training needs as well.

So at the beginning of the year, they start in one place and then mid-year is the opportunity for the manager to say you’ve made progress against this particular behavior or skill or whatever it is and to provide coaching where necessary.

The other thing that they’re required to do this year is comment on the person’s development throughout the span of the year. So what we expect to see when we review some of these performance reviews is an improvement in an individual’s skills or behavior that can tie back to one of the training programs that we did. And I believe we’ll see that.    


DSCAPE:     That's great. Then you can start to draw some conclusions about which programs are more successful than others and hopefully identify the reasons.


PATTY:    Yes. A shift we've made in the past few years is that we now give people exactly what they needed to know to meet expectations of their job and to exceed them if it was possible.

I have conversations with managers from time to time that would talk to me about employees who aren't performing a particular part of their job very effectively, and it always comes back to the training and eight times out of 10, the problem was that they didn't complete the training. Often they didn't even start it.

Having that insight enables the managers massage that individual development plan if the person has indeed completed the training and is still not showing progress, then it shifts to performance management.


DSCAPE: That gives you a whole lot of control and empowers the managers.


PATTY: It empowers the managers more than ever before. They can pull their own report of how their teams are doing. They are probably more empowered than ever from a learning and development perspective in terms of coaching their teams.


DSCAPE: So your compliance is based on incentivizing people with the KPIs, which is related directly to their raises and bonuses.


PATTY: Yes..


DSCAPE: And empowering the managers to get a snap shot at any time of what the reality is and to see where somebody is lacking and to draw a direct line between that and whether or not they've taken the training seriously.


PATTY: Right.

The other thing that we've been doing is pushing compliance of our managers. Development is part of their job; coaching is part of their job. They own that. That's how they’re evaluated.


DSCAPE: What percentage of your training is developed internally versus externally?


PATTY: I would say 10% is developed internally and 90% is external.


DSCAPE: Okay. So what are the key aspects, features, characteristics that are most important to you in an eLearning development partner?


PATTY: Creativity is obviously a big one.  Helping us come up with a completely different way of doing something. It's very impactful, very creative, very engaging for our folks. I've worked with vendors in the past that expected us to bring the creativity and it was a challenge. So certainly creativity is something we'll look for.

The other thing we look for is the ability of the employees that work for the vendor to learn quickly, to be very learning-agile. It’s always best if your vendor partner understands your business and has business knowledge maybe not on the products you sell on the specific things that you do, but just understand business and can learn about what we do pretty quickly. I think that helps with the creativity piece and improves the final product.


DSCAPE: So you're talking about understanding enough so that they can provide ideas that are going to be real world and meaningful for your environment.


PATTY: Yes. The best vendors that we've worked with have had a good understanding of most of the major industries that work in business, so it's not just food. It's banking, it's retail, it's other kinds of experiences and knowledge that they can bring to the table, because we tend to be pretty insular and most of our knowledge is around a food company or the Consumer Packaged Goods industry.


DSCAPE: What are some of the biggest problems you've run into using vendors, outside resources? When you've had issues, what are those major issues then?


PATTY: Most of the major issues I've dealt with are vendor partners who sort of have that lack of knowledge, that outsider knowledge. They have not challenged us at all. It's just "Tell us what to do and we'll go do it." And they just sort of regurgitate what we tell them.


DSCAPE: Can you articulate some of the greatest successes you've had, some of the programs you've been most excited about, what types of programs those have been?


PATTY: Well, implementing our Learning Management System was a huge success for our organization. It's the primary way we train our employees. It's one of the few systems we have that works as promised. That's another thing I should have mentioned with the vendor issues. Sometimes, you don't get what was promised and we've had a spotty history with that at Mondelēz but I'm happy to say the Learning Management System was not one of them.

We have been able to expand the use of it around the world and to different functions such as marketing, consumer insights, shopper insights, groups like that. So now, what you hear all the time is, "We need to be training. Let’s put it on Learning Link." So it's widely known throughout the company. It's been a huge success and I'm very proud of it.  We all worked pretty hard on it and I had my fears before we launched it that this was going to take off, but it did.  Now, it’s integrated it with our other device so that was a big win for us.

The other exciting thing this year is having training as a KPI. We've been trying for years  and it's finally come to fruition, so I'm anxious to see how it comes out at the end of the year and anxious to see whether or not what we've been doing with our training programs, and modules, and activities is really making a difference out in the organization. And we should be able to tell that when we do a random sample of performance reviews.


DSCAPE: I'd like to talk about mobile. What do you see in terms of how important mobile is? You're saying right now that a lot of people are accessing on tablets, so I guess it's pretty important and do you see people wanting to be able to access on phones as well at some point?


PATTY: Yeah. I think mobile's a mixed bag honestly. It's obviously very important. That's the way of the world and it's great to have the flexibility to do that. I do wonder though about the ability of that training to stick when folks are looking at training on mobile devices.


DSCAPE: Why do you say that?


PATTY: I think that if you're standing in line at the bank for example, and you are watching a training program on your phone or an iPad, let's face it you're not really paying 100% attention to what's going on. There're other things happening around you. So I think that it's a great platform for most of the things we do, but there are a couple of things that I would not want people to be doing in another kind of environment, whether out and about somewhere viewing the training. They need to either be at a desk or where ever they normally are just so they listen, and they can pay attention and they are not distracted. I honestly don’t know how to balance the need for flexibility with the need to focus and really take in the content.  Most of our employees don’t have a traditional office, so this one is a challenge.

For example, the compliance training as well as some of the skill training.  For example, one of our modules has a certification component. When you're watching those modules, you need to make sure that you understand what's in them and what the expectation is because, that person is going to be audited. And if you don't pass, you have a certain number of times to pass, and if you still can't pass then you lose your job, which is very serious. There's serious consequence to that one.


DSCAPE: What kind of content is that?


PATTY: It's our merchandising training. So it's two e-Learning modules and then we have a mobile app (also developed by our vendor) for our managers to use in the store, observing their employees and basically auditing what they are doing. It’s a pass-fail audit with serious consequences for failing, so understanding expectations is really important


DSCAPE: If you were to say, "Well, here's where I see the future of training going in terms of technology or the style of courses," what would come to mind?


PATTY: I think the mobile component is always going to be there. I think the biggest consideration as we move into this on demand mobile environment world that we'll be training in, is how do we adjust our content? How do we adjust our strategy? What do we do to make sure that what we're doing is still delivering on what we promised? Is it relevant?  Timely? Is it exactly what people need? Is there another way that we need to be creating content? Things like that. And I think we're always going to have this struggle of that commitment from the top. How important is it? Is it critical to your organization and how far are you willing to go to embrace it? It’s budget, its commitment, its accountability, it's all of those things.

People have so many distractions right now.  I think the workplace is going to be more competitive with more tech-savvy employees and the new generation coming in. I think it's going to be a lot more competitive to not only keep our good people, but in finding new employees with the right mindset of this constant need to learn, a desire to just keep learning, and learning, and learning and we have to be able to keep up with that. There are so many websites now where you can learn how to do almost anything that are very engaging to people.  For me, if I need to figure out how to do something, I go to YouTube-I’ve learned a lot from strangers in 5 to 10 minute snippets.  How do we compete with that?  What do we need to do to our content so it’s becomes our “YouTube” when people need help or have questions? We need to understand our audience and what's going on in the bigger world not just with training, or sales or food or anything like that. What's going on from a big picture perspective and how do we address that with our learning activities?  We need to cut through the noise and keep people interested with truly relevant content.


DSCAPE: That's a great answer.

I want to thank you very much for taking the time and sharing your insights.