In this episode of PeopleWork, we had the pleasure of visiting Ginine Capozzi from KnowledgeForce Consulting at her home office in Buffalo, New York to discuss the importance of employee training programs and developing a culture of learning in the workplace. Ginine shared a ton of insights that should be valuable to business owners, HR managers or anyone that's responsible for managing and elevating a workforce of people. Watch the video or read the entire transcript of the conversation below. And find links to get in touch with Ginine at the bottom of this page!
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Read the Conversation Transcript
CJ: First of all, it's been a little bit of time that's passed since our last episode. We've been busy with a lot of things, all good things though, but I'm also excited with my guest today, which is Ginine Capozzi from Knowledge Force Consulting.
Ginine works in employee education and employee training, and is somebody that I've been fortunate enough to get to know a little bit over the last year, and really respect you as a person, and also your professional philosophy on things, and the value that you bring to a lot of companies. And with us being a payroll company, but really, being a human resource company, it really rubs up against a lot of the similar things–not so much that we do, but that our clients and our audience really cares about because we interact with a lot of people who run businesses and manage workforces, so what Ginine does and the expertise that she can share really falls directly in line with that.
We're going casual today. We're at Ginine's home office, which is awesome. I love this setting. I like sitting on a couch and not wearing shoes. It should make for a good conversation.
But first of all, Ginine, thank you for being here.
Ginine: Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here with you.
Let's get started. Tell me about what is Knowledge Force Consulting? What do you do?
Knowledge Force is an organization and company that helps other organizations develop their talent. We will work with them to identify the best talent strategies, and the way to develop their people, and we help them close skill gaps, whether that's around leadership and communication, or very specific to operations, that's our goal.
Oh, I was going to say, we don't prescribe just a specific solution for doing that; we work collaboratively and then figure that out. Is it online training? Is it classroom training? Things like that.
Okay. So let's clarify skill gap because what I've heard, and what we've talked about recently, sometimes I've heard people talk about skill gap as maybe that there's a lack of talent in the candidate pool right now. People have a hard time. So when you're saying "skill gap," you're talking maybe less about hiring new employees, helping businesses hire employees, and more about training the ones that you have, or do you help with that too?
It's exactly it. We want to take who we've got, and work with who's within the company, and identify the skills that they currently have today, where we want to get them to be, and what's going to be good for them professionally, but also, how that's going to align very strategically with the needs of the organization. Sometimes it's difficult to find those candidates, especially in certain industries, so we can train our own people and get them onboard together to be able to elevate and bring everybody to the next level.
Most business owners and managers I know would so much rather elevate their current people, promote their current people, train them on new skills than find new people. That much I know for sure.
Exactly. It's a matter of training on new skills it could be, or it could just be refining and getting better at skills they already have. Sometimes I like calling it "moving the middle"; sometimes we've got a good group of people that we're working on, but we're just trying to get to the next level. The only way we can do that is to bring those skills that are already good or are great already to even greater, even better. It's leveling up.
What are some types? Give me some examples and give our audience some examples of different types of trainings that your clients engage you for that you think are important.
Right. There's all different kinds of things that people focus on, but primarily, operations training. How do we do something today? It might be changing in the industry. People might, your company, for example, bring in a new software platform and now operations, and processes, and procedures need to change in order to do that. How do we educate them on doing something new in that type of space?
Another thing might be that we're growing and we need to elevate our leadership skills and frontline managers. They've never had opportunity to do that before, and now we want them to be able to coach their own people, or grow the business unit, or whatever that might be. It's helping them get skills to be able to go to the next level again.
All different types of things, but I would say primarily around operations enhancements or changes that happen in organization; some leadership development, frontline, middle level leadership skills; things around team building; culture, establishing a really strong business culture within the organization. Stuff like that.
Now, am I just imagining this or at one point when we were planning this conversation, did you also talk about maybe new product roll outs? Things like that? Educating employees about new products and services being offered too.
Absolutely. A part of that links in a little bit with operations. Companies are rolling out new products, rolling out new services. They often really focus on the training that's just for salespeople: how does sales force get out there and sell that? We help develop and launch training that helps salespeople grow and be able to deliver those messages better, but we also help develop specific training for how customer service, phone, tech support, phone support, back office operations also needs to be trained on how are we going to support our customers now that we've launched these new products as well?
Yeah. It's funny you mention that. It reminds me of the new New York State sexual harassment prevention law. We're not going to get into all of the details about that because there's a lot of moving pieces, we're up against the deadline. In that instance, the state passed a law, and part of that law was mandatory training, and they did provide some model training guidelines and things like that, as well as the policy, all that stuff, right?
Right, they did.
But we're a company where a lot of our clients were looking to us to help them with that, whether it be putting together a video training, having a service where we can customize policies for them, and really just help them with the overall compliance. As a payroll and HR company, some of the services that we do are labor law compliance, whether it be sexual harassment, whether it be New York City paid family leave, some things that have rolled out in the last couple of years.
And even something that seems relatively simple, being on the inside, I was able to witness what an undertaking it was internally. Now, we're fortunate enough that we have an internal training department on staff-
You guys are lucky.
But there was a lot of work that went into training the sales team, training the operations team to understand if clients come to us for this, and they have these questions, here's what you need to know, here's how our product and service works, here's how to manage expectations. There's a lot that goes into that
Exactly. A lot of times, people don't think about training yet. They get very focused on launching the product or launching the new service, and less about what do we do once we've got it in the marketplace?
That's where a consultant like me can come in, and help develop, and supplement teams. I work with organizations like yours in the sense that you have a training department, but there's just certain skillsets or certain areas that need to be shored up or get some additional support, I love to come into environments like that and do that a lot.
Sometimes companies think that if they have their own training department, they don't really need to go outside and look for more, but there's really areas of specialty, and there's ways that bringing outside support in can really be helpful. You know?
Oh yeah, I don't doubt that. I don't doubt that for one second.
And speaking of that New York state training, that's a really good example. Sometimes there's off-the-shelf stuff. We've been helping companies in the sense that, even though they've got this off-the-shelf, New York state set the guidelines, and we're kind of figuring out what there is, companies then also want to sometimes augment that. They supplement it by having custom developed or things that are very specific to their organization then brought in. So, how does this apply in our environment?
You could go out there and read a book, or have training, or go to Udemy, or things like that where there's other training. Very large training supplies but they're offering something that is very broad and generic. We could use that as a base, but then we supplement that with how does that apply here? What are we doing with it within our business? How does that all connect together?
And that's what really makes training stick is when people can make the leap and the connection of, "Oh, I see this idea, but it really comes together with how I'm working every day, and how I'm working in my day-to-day environment." When we bring those two things together, you have a stronger chance of shifting performance, which is ultimately why we send people through training. Right?
Right, better outcomes.
Better outcomes, so better results. I like to call that the return on talent investment. We want to look at it and say, "I've invested in talent in all of these different ways. What's going to be that return?" One of the ways we measure return is what has changed in the environment, what procedures are better, what are people doing more, what efficiencies have we gained, what reduction in waste has occurred? Whatever that might be, we define them together, but those are the return on talent investment metrics.
When we were planning this, one of the things that really impressed upon me was when I was asking you about your business, and what you do, and your philosophy on employee training, employee engagement, you kept talking about learning culture, and the importance of businesses not only implementing training, and not seeing it as events, but more as a process and evolution in culture to one of a more, as you put it, learning culture.
Do you want to describe to me, and to anybody who's watching, what a learning culture is and why you think it's important for organizations to have that?
So basically CJ, you're telling me I can get on my soapbox now?
Yes, I really believe in learning cultures and developing a strategic, intentional learning culture. I think that what a lot of companies don't realize is whether or not they're intentionally and strategically building one, they have one.
I ask clients to pause, and reflect, and think, how are people learning in our environment? Are they learning peer-to-peer? Are they learning over the coffee pot? Are they learning through complaints? Are they learning the right things? Are they learning from the right people? And are they doing things, and what they're learning, and growing, and changing their behaviors around, does that fit and align with the strategic vision of the company, not only today and in three years from now, but in five, seven, ten years from now?
Learning cultures are intentionally designed and they're very tightly aligned with business objectives and the long-term strategic vision of a company.
So then what we do once we have an understanding of where we want to go, then we can look back and say, "Okay, this is what it's going to take to get there," and intentionally design a program, curriculum, long-term continuum of development, rather than just one-off, short things to try to plug holes in a dam.
That's why I really believe that learning cultures are the way we need to go and they are truly the differentiating factor in business. There are so many studies and so many statistics around the fact that training and development does make a difference, and strategic training and development makes an even greater difference.
That influences that return on talent investment number, right? I can have a return on talent investment number, and it could be, okay, it could be good, but why wouldn't we want to make it exponentially better? We do that by being strategic about what we're doing.
Yeah. The difference between coaching, and education, and training, and strategic coaching, education, and training is one is just providing training and things like that, and that's good, but one is seeing the connectivity of it all, and designing them so that they all align toward a broader goal-
A broader goal.
Of culture, and talent investment, and things like that.
Exactly. It's just having a long-term vision for what we want to do, and building it so that people are constantly learning, so it doesn't feel like this one-time event, "Oh, I went to training today," and that there's no connection to anything else around you.
When you have an actual culture, it becomes an everyday thing. It just becomes a habit of learning. It becomes a habit of doing something new. It becomes a habit of going out there and reading a business article and thinking, "How does this apply to my team? How does this apply to what we do?" It's weaved in so that all these conversations that you're having are around how are we continuously learning?
Marketing and branding kind of works the same way, right?
If you define who you are, what you stand for, and you don't just talk about it externally on your website, or your social media pages, your ads, but you build that philosophy into internal communications, client communications, customer service, rituals, you'd be intentional about it. It just happens. That's good, yeah.
For sure. It's funny you say that because one of the Knowledge Force values is that we're talent development role models, this idea of continually developing ourselves, making sure that every day has time allotted for it for learning something new, reading something new, trying something new. The only way to help build cultures with other people to do that is to have that culture here.
How much is on your clients, like the business themselves? Because you could design them a really great curriculum, and you can be very thoughtful about building and helping them execute a strategy for creating a learning culture. How much of it is it really the responsibility of the people within the organization to carry that out? Where's the line between how much you can influence? Do you know what I mean? Does that make sense?
Excellent question. Yeah, really great question.
It's important, once you get the plan, somebody's got to work the plan, right? That's where accountability pieces, and buy-in from leadership, and continually reinforcing it has to happen. There's ways, and strategies, and things we can do in the design to help promote that and foster it, but yeah, businesses have to believe it. They have to believe that investing in people makes a difference, and then continually account for it, plan for it, budget for it, and allow the time in the workplace for it to happen, and to be out ahead proactively handling it versus reactively handling it.
I would say it's a balance. It's a balance of getting the design right, it's a balance of making it good and engaging, it's the balance of staying cutting edge: what are the new trends? What are we seeing? You and I talked a little earlier about microlearning, other components, versus classroom versus online, what do we want to do and how do we make those decisions?
Once you have a good mix, it's that idea that it has to be championed in-house. You can keep strategic partnerships, like some of my clients do, where we have longer term strategic partnerships to keep them accountable on-track, but management and senior leadership has to buy in. The frontline has to feel like it's not the flavor of the week.
Anything new at a company, there are people who often times, when a new thing is introduced, feel cynical, like that it's a flavor of the week. Maybe sometimes they're justified, maybe that's just general cynicism, but it definitely exists.
That goes back in to why it needs to be a culture, not an event.
When you have training as an event, then of course it's just going to feel cynical. "Oh, they're sending us through training. Oh, that's going to be fun. Oh, today's a day out of work. Oh, the food was good." Right?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Right? But when it becomes something that's ongoing and happening continuously, then it just feels a part of what we do instead of, "Oh, today was one fun day. Today was three hours out of my daily work." And some people love to take half that day and go to training: "Then great, that's four hours of my day. I get to do something unique and different." Other people walk in and dread it because they think about what they left behind, what they're going to be going back to, and have a hard time focusing in that moment.
What we really try to do is say, "These are just continuing opportunities for you to learn." It doesn't feel so event-based that way.
Yeah. That's really interesting. I would love for, one day, to introduce you to our internal trainer, Kelly Carson. Kelly, if you're watching, maybe one day we could do a little panel where it's the three of us talking about this because I feel like you guys could really expound on this because it's something that you guys are experienced in, you're very passionate about, and we've been able to see a lot of the benefits of what you're talking about right now.
It's hard to articulate. I's not my area of expertise. I've been the recipient of what I would categorize as a learning culture, and I've seen the impact, and I think it's great. I hope as many people as possible can really realize that.
Oh, I think you guys have a learning culture, for sure, because it's continually reinforced, you're encouraged, all of those components. It's intentional.
A lot of times it's peer-to-peer too.
Peer-to-peer is great. People always think of training as having to be this very formal thing, and sometimes we build structures around that peer-to-peer stuff so that we know that we're getting what we want, and that time is well-spent and purposeful, but it's still peer-to-peer, and some of the best ideas and the best movement forward comes from just conversations like this.
You talked about microlearning, but before I jump into that, what actually that reminded me of is in this age of technology, where you don't have to be in the same room to effectively communicate and connect, not to mention the fact that a lot of businesses now employ remote workers, people who work from home, people who work in different cities, different countries. What's your experience with live in-person versus remote training? Do they have different impacts? Can it mostly be carried out the same way, have the same impact? Is there anything that people should know in terms of discerning between-
What to do?
Yeah, live or remote trainings?
Yeah. Like everything, there's pros and cons to both. I do a lot of live training. That's great for interactivity, and larger group discussions, and things of that nature. Depending on the types of skills you want to build, that might be the right environment to do that.
There's incredible online tools now, very affordable, and inexpensive ways for people to be able to get some additional online training and develop that. There's different kinds. There's what we called remote in-person or virtual webinars, virtual training. There's things where we could bring a group of people together. I've got a client who's doing this right now. They've got multiple offices. Some of the people are live in one classroom, but were videoing people in. That is where a design needs to be intentional. This is where some help in thinking this through of how that works.
We've been developing activities that makes sure we bring our remote people in so that they can experience it as well as having a group of people in the classroom. That's one way.
You could do true e-learning where it's self-paced, go through it in chunks of time. Most of the time, we want to keep those as 45-minute or less modules just for attention spans and cognitive load reasons, the way your brain works and processes information. There's all different ways to do that now, but that's considered self-training. I'm doing it self-paced.
One of the great things about self-paced training is opportunities to practice and make mistakes. People can do things over and over or try it again, go back and listen, pick up concepts more quickly or more slowly. They have the opportunity to do that.
There's gamification, which is bringing in ... People think, "Oh, that means Sony games and PlayStation models." No, I'm not talking about all that high-tech stuff; it's bringing in gaming mechanisms of leaderboards, and competitions, and creating a story and a journey through that learning.
And then microlearning, which is really targeted. People who have been around for a while in this industry or in HR in general for a while, may think of that as just-in-time learning, which is what we've called it in the past, or performance support, moment of need learning. Microlearning fills those gaps or it augments and supplements them, I would say. But basically, it's just short. No more than a few minutes. It's very targeted, very specific.
Like how do a very specific thing?
How to do a very specific thing or how to approach something. For example, in your instance or whatever, it might be short little video clips on how to specifically do a task within a software. You're targeting in really tightly. For a sales force, it could be a two-minute reminder of how to ask questions, and how to go in and prepare your pre-call plan, and go in and actually do that in a very short way. Or it could just be tips and tricks.
Those are things that just reinforce and especially are really good for sustained learning.
Cool. What would you say are signs within an organization that may suggest they should need some type of formal training? You know what I mean? If you're a business owner or an HR manager or something, maybe this thing isn't on your radar, but maybe there's a symptom of a problem that exists somewhere that could be solved with training. Phrased another way, what are some of the situations that lead people to hire you, really?
Right, right. Seeing quality problems; rework; low employee morale; upticks in absenteeism; a lot of jumping ship, a lot of people leaving the company; comments during exit interviews that say, "I just didn't feel supported by my manager," or "Everything was changing around here and I couldn't keep up," or things like that.
I think a lot of times, we get symptoms of people who are feeling disengaged. We could really see when training needs to happen when people who were very engaged, I always say they were your volunteers, they were willing to step up before, be a little more proactive, and now all of a sudden, they seem a bit more disengaged; they're not volunteering in the same way; they'll take on the work and they'll do it, but they kind of are just there showing up.
Those are often symptoms that people are getting disengaged with their work, and there's ways to reenergize that and rebuild that up, and it typically happens when there's other types of operational problems or leadership challenges that are happening with the organization that people just aren't talking about, and then training can dial in on those and try to help solve some of those problems. I think that's one symptom I see a lot.
Others are just demand and need. You're in a meeting, and someone says, "We're changing this process," or, "We're rolling out this new software," and then people think, "Oh goodness, how are we going to tell people to do that? Is that going to be communication? Is somebody going to pull in training? Who's going to do this?" And then they start thinking about that.
Another thing that happens is people start to announce retirements, or successions, or leaving and moving on, and they have all this institutional knowledge and realize that, "Uh-oh"-
Can we unbundle that and share it with everybody, set it free?
Yeah. How do we undo that? Sometimes that is a way that starts to trigger training, like, "Wow, we don't have people to fill this up. What are we going to do? We're going to lose CJ. What do we do when we lose CJ?" They have those moments of fear that end of happening, and as a result of that, realize, "We need to do something differently here."
Right. What would you say to somebody who's considering investing in training right now?
Hm. Good question. That was really broad. I would say, "Do it. Don't wait." It really is, if you're thinking that you need to be doing it, then you need to be doing it; you're already too late. Right? So thinking about that idea, you've got to get it done.
Sometimes people want to just jump right in, and they will come, and they'll give me a call or they'll give other training companies like mine a call, and they'll say, "You know, we're having this conflict between people and we just have this communication problem," whatever that might be. They think they have this problem. They identified the problem, and what they've identified are symptoms of the problem, and they will start to solve for that.
Client right now who called up and said, "Do you training on professionalism?" And I was like, "Professionalism? Tell me a little bit more about professionalism. What do you mean by that?" Right? So then the conversation led more into, well, are we talking about disrespectful workplaces? Are we talking about lack of accountability? What is it?
Could be email etiquette.
It could be, yeah, all of this-
Right? All of this stuff. Is this internal to each other? Is this external to a client? Where is that?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I often get asked about training, people who are thinking they need training, as you've said, are thinking about it because they're thinking about a really specific issue that they're facing. So then companies like Knowledge Force get questioned around, "Well, do you do X? Do you do this kind of training?"
Some companies will just respond and say, "Yeah, we do," or, "No, we don't," and I say, "Why are we asking?" Because I really think that we need to dig down and confirm that really is the problem versus the symptom of the problem, and then figure out whether or not training is even the right solution. Is it a part of the solution? Whatever that might be.
We just covered a ton of stuff here, probably even more than I expected. I think it's all really, really great. But before we part ways, is there anything else that you want to share that maybe came to your mind today that you think anybody watching might be interested in hearing?
Interested in thinking? I guess as we were talking, I was just thinking about we've covered so many topics and things, that it can feel overwhelming. I just want to say that the vast majority of businesses are doing a really great job already. They're successful. They're already implementing and already using a lot of training components.
The big thing about that is you already have a lot to leverage from. Working with a training partner and training solutions person is going to just help you elevate that game, and get it to the next level, and do it in a very strategic way. I just want to encourage people to take that first step forward, and bring somebody in, talk to them, have consultation, figure out what you can do to develop that strategy. I think that would really get people started.
I don't want people to be overwhelmed by the fact that they may or may not have budget to do it, or feeling like it's this huge thing, this huge initiative that they've got to get going. Take the very first step. Have a conversation. Figure out where they want to go.
Okay. If you're watching on YouTube, Ginine's contact information will be in the video details. If you're on the webpage, they should be at the bottom of this page. If you're on social media, click the link to go to the webpage where you can find Ginine's contact information.
For anybody that may be interested in following up with you, starting a conversation, knowing that they have access to your contact information, what might you say to them to help start a conversation?
I'd just say please reach out. I love to have these conversations. I love to help people get the ball rolling and I'm happy to have you contact me. You can reach me on my LinkedIn, through LinkedIn is a great way. Also, I have a blog, some video stuff, and my Twitter. I love Twitter. @KnowledgeForce1.