“Have you ever sat through a training or webinar, and at the end the presenter says, ‘If you walk away knowing three things, it’s gotta be these?’”
Bluecore’s senior director of learning and development, Jason Arrigo, took a pause after saying those words. He glanced at the other members of his team that sat around the table, then threw out his arms in a theatrical shrug.
“Well, then why’d you go over all this other stuff, if that’s all I needed to know?”
That question is exactly what Bluecore’s new learning and development team is trying to avoid as it builds its internal and external enablement practices — a philosophy that Arrigo described with articulate, humorous enthusiasm.
“We’re not just throwing ‘knowledge spaghetti’ at the wall to see what sticks,” Arrigo said. “We want to understand what someone in front of a customer needs to know and what customers need to know about different aspects of the product — we’re building an agreed-upon foundation of knowledge.”
And that foundation needs to be developed thoughtfully. The L&D team’s enablement practices need to strike a critical balance, providing enough information to instill a sense of purpose and help the team communicate without overwhelming them.
“We’re not just throwing knowledge spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks — we’re building an agreed-upon foundation of knowledge.”
“If you firehose data at learners, they emerge from that experience looking like a dripping-wet cat,” Arrigo said. “But if you give them the right information at the right time, they recognize the value and they’re stoked about having gotten that amount of information.”
The discussion with and around the team was filled with laughter, authenticity and pride in each other. Arrigo described himself facetiously as “greedy” when detailing how badly he wanted Sales Enablement Manager Christopher Carmena and Learning and Enablement Manager Emily Nassir on the team he’d been hired to lead, but it was clear from their stories and the passion in their voices that they jumped at the opportunity. They’d already been working on enablement in their separate departments — sales and customer success, respectively — but their new roles allow them to put their heads together and build something better for everyone.
Chris Carmena’s Enablement Journey
Before the learning and development team came into being at Bluecore, Carmena was transforming the sales team’s internal onboarding from an ad-hoc, manager-by-manager system into an organized foundation.
“We really focused on establishing what our salespeople need to know to understand what we do and how we drive success for customers and ultimately be able to articulate that,” he said.
As the only person focused on sales enablement within the sales operations team, Carmena was prevented from giving the task the focus it needed to succeed. He wound up feeling like he was playing Whac-A-Mole with his job obligations, addressing needs in the moment rather than being able to plan and build.
“My passion is to be able to not just meet the learner when it comes to early onboarding, but to continue to develop these folks and build an environment where people continue to grow and get better,” he said.
With his move to the learning and development team, he’s able to do just that — and not just for one department. He’s able to bring his knowledge of sales to the greater L&D table, to address that team’s needs and contribute their wisdom.
Emily Nassir’s Enablement Journey
Nassir was also involved in ad-hoc training — of customers rather than employees. She quickly saw the need for more structured enablement, and took it upon herself to make it happen.
“That’s my passion: Having an opinion and running with it,” Nassir said, unable to contain her laughter. “I was close to one of the people in CS leadership at the time, and he encouraged me to just do it, and that people would immediately see that it was going to be successful. And it all worked out!”
Nassir immediately began creating a foundational structure to onboard customers, including pre-recorded trainings and resources for the customer success team.
“I’ve been invested in enablement since I got here,” she said. “So when they were building up this team, it made sense that they’d ask if I was interested in joining.”
“It’s nice when I see someone ask a question in a channel, and someone who wouldn’t usually be able to answer can respond based on the training I did the week before.”
Her client-facing experience means that she brought an acute knowledge of client needs to the L&D table. As a result, she was able to anticipate which internal and external questions needed immediate attention at the start of their enablement project.
“Everyone knew that I was one of the people that knew the product in and out. When they would have questions, they’d Slack me independently instead of going into channels, because it was easier,” she said. “I knew what people were asking all the time — and what they didn’t know to ask — which drives the knowledge of what to teach them.”
The greatest metric of Nassir’s success is that the barrage of repetitive Slack questions has been reduced to a trickle due to the usefulness and availability of her trainings.
“It’s also nice when I see someone ask a question in a channel, and someone who wouldn’t usually be able to answer can respond based on the training I did the week before,” she added. “I’ve seen that a few times.”
Lessons in Success and Failure
“Here’s the best part about my role,” Arrigo said, leaning forward in his chair. “When Chris was in sales ops and Emily was in customer success, requests would come in and they’d have to figure out how high they had to jump while they were in the air. Now those requests come to me, and I get to ask: How high does that person need to jump? What are they getting off that shelf?”
As the leader of the learning and development team, Arrigo defines his position as one where he enables the rest of his team to do the work that they do best. The composition of the L&D team gives it a comprehensive knowledge base and a passion for learning that fuels and supports every action.
“It was a huge success to pull someone from a sales area and someone from CS,” added Nassir. “It gives us a full-circle view of everything that’s needed.”
“People trusted what we thought and let us run with it — and it ended up being very successful.”
That’s not to say that the process of developing an enablement foundation has been easy. The team faced major challenges early on, and had to pivot quickly to find the right direction.
One of Bluecore’s core values is “lessons in success and failure,” and the L&D team knows a thing or two about lessons. When it became clear that the initial roadmap was not going to serve the company effectively, everyone — including leadership — pitched in to revamp it.
“I think it was a little rattling for people to see us come in hot and say, “Let’s redo this a bit before we get started,’” said Nassir. “But I think because of our tenure and the trust built across the organization, people trusted what we thought and let us run with it — and it ended up being very successful.”
Now that the foundation is starting to take shape, the next challenge for the L&D team is to expand its offerings to more specialized teams and make every enablement resource available in one place by developing a learning management system.
“As we’re driving wins for customers and internal teams that we support, I think there’s going to be a lot of folks that want in, and we’re still a very light team,” said Carmena. “So that’s one of the challenges we’re facing in the next few months.”
But Bluecore’s learning and development team is approaching that challenge armed with product and customer knowledge, a passion for learning and a strong foundation.
“They set the team up with success with who they chose,” said Arrigo. “And when we added a new person to our team recently, there was a lot of subtle internal interest from other employees. I have a feeling we’ll see more people interested in enablement in the future.”