Making Waves: How Verus Global is Rethinking Cross-Functional Learning
Treat your learners like clients. The saying is common enough that it’d be cliché if it weren’t so true. For Bea Raemdonck and Sundi Ford, that’s core to their job. Because their learners are clients. Bea, Manager of Design and Delivery, and Sundi, Senior Director of Design and Delivery, run learning and development for Verus Global, a company built around successful leadership and team development programs that equip people with the skills to bring humanity to the workplace. Their learners are high-achieving leaders in Fortune 500 companies and dynamic emerging organizations.
“It’s kind of a grassroots movement within an organization to try and increase engagement, teamwork, and communication,” says Bea.
With Wisetail’s LMS, Bea and Sundi found a platform with social features that enabled grassroots engagement. The LMS is built like a social media platform—with users able to upload content, comment, and ‘like’ content—and is easily navigable for all users, however tech-savvy they are.
The duo uses those tools to great effect: Verus’s LMS—named ‘Wavemaker’— is consistently one of our highest performing systems. Seventy-eight percent of profiles in Wavemaker have logged into the site in the last 30 days, more than double the average for Wisetail clients. And of those learners, 46% are active—completing content, commenting, liking, or sending messages—nearly twice the typical level.
Bea and Sundi have positioned Verus Global’s LMS as a experiential learning community.
How do they do it?
Verus’s programs are a mix of in-person and online training. Program participants have to work through preview material on Wavemaker before in-person training. After the training, participants get access to the LMS to sustain momentum over the following weeks and months. It ensures they’re not only able to recall the learned skills but develop and hone them over time.
“A lot of times an L&D program is a one-and-done. What we strive for is sustainability, keeping the momentum built in the session going for weeks after.”
Driving adoption begins during the sales process, Bea says. She provides higher ups with a one-page document describing Wavemaker to make sure decision-makers understand the value of the LMS and the role it plays in the programs.
Then, well before the in-person training, Bea sends out a welcome email to participants. Her primary goal with the email is to simply ensure Verus has the best contact information for participants. But she also gives an overview of the program, letting them know what Wavemaker is and how it’s used.
“We get them excited to experience that and really position Wavemaker as a learning community,” Bea says. “I know if I was at an organization and someone said LMS, I’d roll my eyes. We want to make sure we show that our site is different, and our messaging focuses on that.”
All the messaging must be strategic and well thought-out, because once in-person training begins Bea has hardly any direct contact with the learners. All her communication is filtered through the Verus facilitator—usually senior business leaders or former long-term employees of big companies who have an understanding of the nuances of leadership in a large company.
Bea says she focuses on the value proposition. It’s important for learners to intuitively understand why an LMS is important and how it can help them on a daily basis. If she can show the myriad benefits of continuing to learn and work on the skills learned from the facilitator, the learners are all the more likely to get on the LMS and work through content.
The Verus Global LMS features content relevant to their learners.
Adoption is high—now what?
Verus is known for its continuing education and the way it supports participants in the months that follow in-person training.
The focus of Wavemaker is to get program participants to post and interact with others on the platform. The way Bea and Sundi encourage that is primarily through a forum on the LMS. The forum is called a Now@ and each group of participants gets their own Now@, which they name.
“Teams coming up with a name creates a team identity,” Bea says. “We have a Team Tequila right now. The names are kind of getting outrageous and really fun.”
Key to driving participation in the Now@ is discussion agendas—an outline that group members follow when they meet in person to discuss how they’ve used specific techniques or approaches in the past week. Throughout the week they post to the Now@ about struggles they’re having with applying the principles and others respond with tips or tricks they’ve picked up in applying those same principles, making the weekly in-person discussion more substantive and meaningful.
The Now@ feature allows for peer-to-peer learning, which is essential to a modern learning strategy. The theory behind it is the 70-20-10 theory. About 10% of learning occurs from formal teaching and studying. The remaining 90% comes from a learner’s own on-the-job experience or talking through an issue with someone else.
The Verus Global LMS Discuss page featuring their NOW@’s.
An LMS for all
More than just clients are on Wavemaker. It’s used internally as well, and Bea and Sundi have driven high levels of adoption and engagement from their coworkers. Their techniques for pushing and marketing the LMS within Verus were a little different, though.
“I call Bea the Wavemaker honey badger because honey badger don’t care, she comes at you from all angles. It’s a nonstop barrage of ‘Get in Wavemaker and post,’ ‘Have you done a user contribution?’ Trust me, she even does that to the CEO,” Sundi says.
Bea tells her coworkers when they send out an interesting email or make a noteworthy comment around the office that they should post it on Wavemaker. Or she challenges coworkers to post to the LMS once a day or once a week—pushing them to work logging into and engaging with Wavemaker into their daily routines.
She also created a tagline for the LMS.
“Whenever I’m responding from our email I’ll say ‘Making Waves.’ People do a dance move to it. I think if you can make it fun and just ridiculous, that works,” Bea says.
Sundi and Bea at the Wisetail Apex conference last fall.
Building a learning community
Participants have access to Wavemaker for a specified length of time. They get access to the LMS in advance of the program, for about three months after in-person training, and a year after that.
Bea and Sundi’s goal is to use Wisetail’s social and communication features to create that learning community Bea pitches during the sales process and pay for continued access. So the clients can talk and share ideas and experiences and their experience with the Verus tools and skills with others across various industries—Verus works with a range of organizations, from P&G to Habitat for Humanity.
“We’re trying to create a space beyond the business side of things, where talk revolves around the people and humanities-centered side. Something like, ‘Here are the team dynamics currently in my organization and our issues in communication, what have you done in the past?’” Bea says.
“Imagine somebody from the Mental Health Center of Denver being able to share with P&G or ALCON. Think about all the cross-functional learning that could exist in that space—that’s what we’re trying to create as we evolve into a more sophisticated learning community,” Sundi says. “That really broad worldview and level of connectedness is invaluable.”
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