Using Data & Designing For Performance with Alice Collier-Niblett

David James
David James
November 8, 2020
Using Data & Designing For Performance with Alice Collier-Niblett

In April 2020, as the world was in lockdown, David James spoke with Alice Collier-Niblett (Digital Learning Specialist at Monzo Bank) on The Learning & Development Podcast.

The conversation was a fascinating insight into L&D at Monzo and the digital, performance-first approach that Alice brought with her from ASOS.

Read on for some of the insights Alice shared in that conversation, or tune in to episode 42 of The L&D Podcast for the whole conversation.

At Monzo, L&D is Part of the People Product Squad

This means that they have access to Engineers and Data Analysts which is an incredible benefit because they’re able to think in an Engineering Mindset and it’s teaching the L&D team that every time you are approached to build something, or you identify a need, it’s about asking the right questions at the very beginning, having a very clear idea of what you’re trying to impact and how you’re going to measure that. This should be the very first thing you explore. Engineers wouldn’t work on something unless they knew what impact they were going to have and why they needed it for the users. 

For Alice and her team, it’s about making sure they’re aware of that data set before they even start.

We Should be Designing For Performance First

Alices says:

"I’m always encouraging people in my team to think in this way and put their energy into understanding when people are experiencing challenges and how we can support them. Then, when we need to get them into a room, we’re better equipped to make the most of that situation because we’ve already designed for when they need it. When we’ve got them in that room we can use it to share those great experiences and create spaces to innovate and share with each other.

The danger is it’s hard to think ‘performance-first’ because it’s very common to get a request from the ‘powers that be’, someone in the business that says, “We’re really struggling with this and we need a solution right now.” Then it’s very easy to just say, “We’ll put some training on and then we’ll get everyone to go along.” Then we ticked the box. Having that bravery and confidence to take a step back and say, “We’ll put our energy into understanding that person’s journey and the real moments of need and we’ll have much more of an impact doing it that way.

It’s about feeling equipped and competent to have those conversations because I believe that you’ll be more impactful if you think about it that way."

Monzo’s First Fully Remote Onboarding

Alice and the team pulled it together in a week and worked with a project team to do that. Alice says:

I’m definitely seizing the moment [in lockdown] and using it to embrace using digital to help solve the challenges that people are having right now. Things like, you’re coming into a company, probably anxious already, but now you’re not even walking through the front door, you’re still at home. It’s helping to ease their worries.

It’s about the journey that people are on when joining the business and being a bit more considerate of that. It’s helping people around me that are all involved with induction and saying, 'Let’s take a step back. Let’s think about what people want to know in week one' enabling us to get an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) out in one week.

I’ve been working with people all over the business to help to build this. That’s people in the Risk Team, Underwriting Team, Knowledge Management and Tech Ops and we all came together in the squad and thought about what kind of questions people have and challenges they have in their first week, that can be covered with digital resources. 

It’s Still Important to Keep That Human Connection

Monzo team

Monzo have organised some Hangouts with influential people in the business. Alice shares it’s very easy to just say, “Let’s take your two-day induction and we’ll sit online and sit in the Hangout for two days and just speak to someone and have all the same information.”

The Hangouts Monzo are running are ‘45 minutes with…’ and they've got their Diversity Lead, a Q&A with Monzo's CEO and it’s sitting in front of those people to really grab the essence of who they are so [new starters can] meet those influential people. Then everything else Alice and the team can do digitally because it’s, “How do I get paid?” “How do I connect remotely with people?” “How do I get started using my tech?” These are things that people need to know, but they can explore in their own time.

Alice says:

"I think it’s just putting yourself in the shoes of the new starter and helping to put them at ease. You’re not losing what you would have had face-to-face, you’re just thinking about it in a different way.

I asked people “what do your new staff want to know?” They said, “Okay, well we go through this in the session.” But that’s what you want to tell them. What do they need to know? It’s a mindset shift.

Previous to this, we had two hours where you’d sit with the Tech Team and go through everything. Then you’re like, “Okay, off we go.” Some people have never used a MacBook before. Some people have never used Slack, which is how we communicate internally. Then if they don’t start their work for a day or two days later then suddenly, they’re sat in front of their computer thinking, “I don’t even know how to get started.” 

We were really lucky because, before this, we’d done some research with recent new starters and asked them questions: What challenges did you have? What problems were you experiencing? "

Find out more in episode 42 of The L&D Podcast. 

Experimenting With How We Do Things in Real Life

This is one of Alice's guiding principles. She says:

"I think the other thing is ‘don’t think, just because you’re at work, you have to take yourself out of the workflow to learn’. I think people believe you need to do that because that’s how it’s always been done, but it’s not how we work in real life.

If you needed to fix something at home, you wouldn’t stop for three days to go and become an expert in it and then come back. You would do something on-demand to help you do that thing. 

But start small, earn trust in an organisation. It’s not about the big launches or having a big shiny finished product. Work on the right things and prove your value with the small wins.

I know that can be really hard especially if you walk into the business and you think ‘I know how I can improve this’ and you just want everything to change but I think it’s about taking a step back and earning trust gradually. Understand your learner, do your research. Understand the real challenges that people are experiencing, never make assumptions, listen to them and understand what their blockers are. I think the last thing is to convince people by showing them. Show people that you’re having an impact. Put data in front of them."

"We’re Just Getting Started With This at Monzo But We Did it at ASOS Too"

"It was our first big project that took new starters from the day they accepted their role, all the way up to the end of their three months’ probation. There was pre-boarding content that we developed after speaking with recent new starters to find out what questions they had, enabling people to hit the ground running. 

We took that approach into Management Training, so we did a similar thing where we spoke to managers and really tried to understand what challenges they were experiencing. There are differences between being a new manager in a business and being an existing manager. I think sometimes we can approach something like Management Training and think there’s a common approach to it but it’s actually about taking the time to understand what the differences are and designing for performance.

If you’re [a new manager] on your way to a one-to-one and you’re going to have a difficult conversation with someone, do you want to be able to jump on and get some top tips and help yourself to prepare for that? You wouldn’t want to do that training three months ago and then have that knowledge just trail off. That’s how it’s manifested in previous roles and I’m looking forward to using it over at Monzo as well."

The Reality of Learning Tech Implementations

If you put an amazing, shiny, new tool out there that you think is going to solve everything, it’s not going to work because in reality, people just don’t have the time to stop what they’re doing and go and explore lots of different resources in the hope that they might find something that interests them.

What you need to be doing is take a step back and find a platform that can help you to address the real challenges that people are having and make them contextual and recognisable because otherwise people won’t use it if it doesn’t look and feel internal to the organisation. If it looks completely alien, they’re not going to trust the information.Alice has seen this in organisations she's been in before where the team have implemented a new LMS and then been brought in to train people on how to use it.

Need Help Engaging the Remote Workforce? 

Learn how to solve real problems using digital in The L&D Disruption Playbook or speak to our L&D experts.

About Alice Collier-Niblett

Alice is a thoroughly modern L&D professional with a background of leading with digital solutions and bringing her team and organisation along with her. Previously at ASOS and now with Monzo, Alice is a member of a team that operates in a way that is leading-edge and aspirational for many: Data-driven, performance-focused and agile. 

Connect with Alice on Linkedin and Twitter

Connect with David James on LinkedIn and Twitter

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