Our goal for the Sales Enablement Festival is to provide our attendees with hours of insight-packed, actionable content delivered by some of the biggest names in sales enablement.

In May 2021’s Festival, our expert panelists covered a topic which is at the heart of enablement: onboarding. The panelists were:

  • Jeff Lowndes, Senior Learning and Development Specialist, Enablement at Snap Inc.
  • Ashley Crisostomo, Sales Enablement Manager at Reddit Inc.
  • Raquel Ferrari, Revenue Enablement Manager at Spekit
  • Brittany Manopello, Director, Revenue Enablement (Sales & Customer Success) at Glassdoor
  • Spenser Miller-Fellows, Sales Enablement Leader at Invicti

They discussed human-centricity in enablement, why it’s important, and how to build programs that reflect human-centric values.

The entire panel discussion was packed with insights, and you can catch the replay OnDemand with an SEC membership, but we’ve picked out a couple of the key points for your viewing pleasure below.  

Q: What does human-centered mean to you and your organization?

Jeff Lowndes: “When I think about being human-centered, I just think that so many of us in our roles are pulled between our sales enablement priorities, but we should be aligning with our sales leadership priorities. As we're building programs, what often gets lost is the voice of people on the front lines who are benefiting from our programs.

“When I think about being human-centered, I’ve really learned that we benefit from putting the people consuming our content front and center. And this has to continue throughout the whole process. We have to deepen our empathy for them throughout the process. We have to be focused and then build better solutions.”

Spenser Miller-Fellows: “I think one of the easiest things to slip into when thinking about the onboarding program is to just let the software take over. We neglect to think about the experience that people need to have when they’re going through their training and development. We neglect to give them feedback on how they're participating with their own education.

Human-centric means giving everyone a seat at the table.

"It means serving up that education when people ask for it and making it as simple as possible for them to engage with it.”

Raquel Ferrari : “It really goes beyond just thinking about the benefits for me, or for sales reps, when we’re outlining programs. We need to establish what our people need to know from the beginning and build training around that.

“It’s also about identifying knowledge gaps, so that we know what we need to train people from onboarding. The questions you need to ask are, what does the rep need to be doing? And when are they going to be doing it?

“So, if you’re thinking about something that you rep won’t need to be doing for another four months, it’s probably better to prioritize some other things over that.”

Brittany Manopello : “The thing is, we’re still figuring this out. As the world evolves, so do we as humans. The experiences that we need to create in order to meet everyone’s needs are ever-changing. I think this  has proved to be true this year more than ever.

“My organization went through a pretty massive overhaul of our onboarding experience about two years ago. We knew we needed to meet people where they are today. How can I be more creative in cutting through the noise? How can we cut through the information overload when you’re making a new hire?

“My team were incredible advocates for what human adults need. They really had their fingers on how that experience should unfold. Some of our design-thinking workshops worked really well in allowing us to map out the whole experience from beginning to end.

We tried to curate an experience that somebody will be excited to engage with.

"We thought about the story arc of our content. Did it make sense? Was it going to read like a movie of sorts? (albeit maybe not as exciting as a blockbuster hit!)

“Do we have the people who built the machine coming in and sharing their story, making their voice heard in the organization? Can we use this as an opportunity to start facilitating relationships with peers through a buddy program?”

Q: How can we be more human-centric in the way we design our programmes?

Spenser Miller- Fellows: “One of the biggest things that we've done is to create role-playing workshops between different segments. Team members get to work with people that they wouldn't necessarily have gotten exposed to, people that may have different styles.

“This is especially true right now because we've got sales teams in lots of different areas of the world. It has a huge impact on starting to build the relationship between sales reps that maybe wouldn't have gotten exposed to each other.”

Jeff Lowndes: “We’ve created a monthly space where new hires can just connect and learn from other people in the organization. We've started inviting new hires and alumni into that space. We've actually used a really fun platform called Gather. You can google it, it looks like an old school Gameboy game.

“It creates a virtual working environment. We're just playing with different platforms and finding fun ways to educate and for allowing people to connect. It’s a really fun way of recreating that office environment.”

Raquel Ferrari: “We incorporated a buddy program into the onboarding program. You partner with someone from day one. Then, we all come together as a group on your first week. We do introductions, and icebreakers where people can really bond.

“With our SDRs, for many of them it's their first or second job out of college. So, there's this hesitancy to ask questions or to ask for help in these situations. We continuously reinforced the importance of putting time on my calendar.

It's essential to have that time to check in on new people especially.

You can utilize that screenshare function and have them show you exactly what they’re doing and you can share with them how you do things.

“We have a formalized program with a mentorship checklist as well beyond that, so we can track how a person is progressing over time and offer very specific feedback. We learn so much about each other during these processes.”

Brittany Manopello : “The responsibility that we have to facilitate connection and relationships is not a new thing. It's dawning on me how important it is for us to kind of be the glue there. People aren't walking into an office, seeing people, and introducing themselves.

“We’re really making sure that we're being thoughtful about who we have coming into our now virtual classroom. We have a really nice spread of leaders and cross functional partners that introduce themselves to new people.

“That hopefully makes it a little less awkward for them to go and ping people virtually, or ask them a question at another point in time. Another thing is, we have to try and align content with on-the-job activities.

"A person doesn’t just consume content passively. They can go talk to their managers afterwards and ask questions.”

Q: How can you convince stakeholders to get on board with your program? How do you convince people to give you the budget to design programs?

Spenser Miller-Fellows: “When thinking about getting new budgets and getting buy-in from our executives, I'm incredibly fortunate that I report up to the CRO and he has a very real stake in company culture and what our company values are.

“Being able to talk about the stories of how our new hires are coming in and having a positive experience makes a big difference on whether we can get buy-in. It then has a trickle down effect throughout the organization.

“All of the managers can see it themselves because they're getting the additional support that they need. They are getting more engagement and getting actionable information about what new hires experience.

"Getting new hires through the onboarding process effectively has a tangible effect on your organization and that encourages buy-in for these programs."

Brittany Manopello: “When you're speaking to stakeholders, especially those who want results immediately, it can be difficult to convince them that this program is worth investing in.

Especially when it’s something that's going to produce long term, rather than short term results.  

“It’s really important to emphasize to them that it’s going to be really hard for new hires to consume all of this information if we just throw it at them. We’re appealing to the common sense of senior leaders. We’re asking: “Does this make sense? Would you want to consume training content in this way?”

“We have to remind senior leaders that we're all humans too, and if we don’t respect them we're not going to see hard benefits for our organization. It's really easy for cross functional partners or key stakeholders to lose sight of that. Our new hires are humans that can only consume so much content.

“I think also creating a program that everyone can enjoy really helps too, including stakeholders. As Spenser mentioned, it’s difficult for leaders to appreciate the value of these programs if they can’t feel the benefit themselves. Creating a program that everyone can enjoy can really help to encourage confidence.  

Raquel Ferrari: “We really have to protect our new hires from cross functional teams throwing too much at them. Cross-functional teams might come and say they need a 30 minute session with the new hires.

“But the new hire might not be at that point in their journey yet.

It’s about encouraging these teams to recognize that these are human beings going through a very new process and all of the information is going to seem pretty overwhelming.

“Instead, let’s focus on what reps need to know from you right now. Is it necessary that they need to know who this specific person is or where this documentation lives right now? Of course, we want everyone to be able to make connections and know who people are, but it’s maybe something we can build up to over time.

“Protecting your reps in that way makes a better experience for them. Outline what we want the reps to know during our onboarding program clearly.

Q: What are some pro-tips for creating human-centered experiences during onboarding

Raquel Ferrari: “Don’t just think about the onboarding process. What does post-onboarding look like? What does reinforcement look like? If you're building programs from scratch, think about those things in advance.

“Also, have feedback mechanisms in place. What are you doing with your feedback? How is that  providing continuous reinforcement for your organization? Are managers able to look at it  and train the trainer in how they lead going forward?

“Another thing icebreakers are really just a great thing to incorporate into onboarding. It seems so silly, but everyone enjoys it, and it just does so much for the work culture.

"In my experience, they just make everyone feel so much more comfortable with each other and that really encourages people to ask those questions that allow them to get a job done."

Jeff Lowndes: “Start small. Pick one thing and go for it. As I said, Stanford has a really great design- thinking, bootleg workbook that goes through the five phases of design- thinking. The first two of those phases are all focused on empathy.

That’s really the most important question: "How can you build empathy?"

"Also keep testing your program as it’s going. Collect feedback. Is it something worth continuing with, or do you need to change course?"

Spenser Miller-Fellows: “Be very regimented about getting feedback from your learners. This needs to occur on a regular cadence. Have follow up and mentor meetings scheduled and, above all else, be consistent and predictable with it.

“A manager coming up to a new hire and asking them how they thought something went can be pretty scary. If you schedule the time, you give them time to think about their learning and progress and give you a good answer."

Brittany Manopello : “Start small, Rome wasn't built in a day. When you’re taking on a big project like this, brainstorm and pick out your top needs and demands. Then you need to prioritize them

“The couple at the top of your list are your starting point. If it’s a good starting point, the process is only going to grow over time.”

Enjoyed the talking points? Get OnDemand access to the entire panel discussion, the rest of the talks from the Festival in May, and every single event SEC has ever hosted with an SEC membership.

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