G’day Mates! 👋
Welcome to The CoLab podcast. My name is Ryan Macpherson, CEO and Co-Founder of Coassemble, the online training platform revolutionizing how teams train. For this episode, I’m joined by the Director of Volunteers for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, Kirin Daugharty. Today we’re going to talk about how a team can adapt and overcome any obstacle with the right tools and how Kirin leveraged the power of online training. Let’s dive in, shall we?
About the CoLab Podcast
The CoLab Podcast is the best business training advice from experts in the field on sharing knowledge and growing teams successfully at scale. In each episode, host Ryan Macpherson will chat with guests about entrepreneurship, strategy, management, leadership, and the value of elevating the employee experience. Ryan will also share his insights on proven methods & strategies that helped teams grow.
What you’ll learn in today’s episode
Many teams are learning how to share knowledge and grow effectively at scale. Though the topics and guests will be different, we’ll always be looking through that lens to create a powerful employee experience. In today’s episode, we’ll dive into:
- What the "aha" moment is for realizing you need online training
- How to implement online training for the first time
- What are the challenges with implementing online training
Strap in, it’s gonna be a great episode!
Kirin and her role with her team
As the Director of Volunteers for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, Kirin leads over 600 volunteers. These volunteers work in a variety of sectors including:
- Animal care providers including feeding and habitat maintenance
- Educational designers for guests to learn about the animals
- Community outreach
What’s incredible about that many volunteers is that being open since 1965, they don’t recruit. In Kirin’s words, “everyone sees the zoo and wants to work at the zoo.”
Depending on where a volunteer works, training ranges from a week to twenty-three (more if they interact with animals.) Having a dynamic training solution that can serve the needs of each volunteer was critical.
What was the “aha” moment to look for a solution?
Kirin, like many leaders, realized her team had a training need but hadn’t seen a viable solution. We mention in episode 1 of the CoLab Podcast that the best changes for online training occurred recently. Listen to Kirin's "aha" moment in the clip below.
"I was attending one of the many panels and somebody started talking about blended learning. They had online training as well in class and on grounds. And I said that would be a really great way to engage people"
During an Association of Zoos and Aquariums conference, Kirin heard one of the speakers mention blended learning. Kirin found this highly appealing because it meant making training more accessible to her team and offering flexibility to all learning types. Kirin doesn’t think many zoos have yet established a training process that leverages an online training platform.
Prior to using Coassemble, Kirin’s volunteers went through traditional, instructor-led training in a classroom. For example, the docent program, which is an extension of the UCLA program, was a twenty-three week training program. Each student had a 2-inch notebook, practice on grounds, and tons of homework.
Kirin recognized the need to evolve her team’s training for the modern era. And online training platforms soon became the solution to her team's needs.
How Kirin implemented online training for her team
A lot of Kirin’s volunteers are students—so when creating online training, she worked with docents and trainers that understand learning design. This ensured that the end-learner experience was more effective and engaging.
Starting out, Kirin had three courses she had to make to complete training for the current group of volunteers. Thankfully, one of the docents provided Kirin with a PowerPoint on a subject they had to learn. So she was able to take that content and convert it into online training.
Kirin pressed ‘send’ to those thirty volunteers and reminded them that they were the first group to go through the training this way. With the help of support staff and articles, she was able to make the training engaging and her volunteers loved it (they were excited to learn more!).
One point of interest for why she adopted online training is the ability to leverage different media types to create learning content. By sharing videos and games and quizzes among other content, Kirin is able to reinforce knowledge shared in her program.
Having mobile compatibility wasn’t something Kirin originally looked for in a training solution. But with most of her volunteers being students, having mobile delivery became really important. By using mobile-ready content, Kirin and her team were able to increase training engagement with younger generations.
How did Kirin expand online training for her organization
Originally, Kirin intended to use online training for just the volunteer program. This consisted of about thirty volunteers every three months that needed to be trained as they entered the program. That was prior to COVID-19 dramatically shifting her team's needs.
Both during the shutdowns and the reopening plan, Kirin expanded the training program to include all of the staff and volunteers. Especially with re-entry to the LA Zoo, all of the staff required training to comply with new regulations—and suddenly online training was a part of all sectors of her organization.
After the reopening, her 600 volunteers were training alongside 300 staff members. Departments began seeing the value and wanting access to create their own training program for their teams. They also were able to try out different training content types and styles to see what worked best for the staff and volunteers.
Eventually Kirin brought on five staff members from another department to start building more training programs. She shared resources she used to build training content, and they got right into it. Most of them were younger and more familiar with training platforms, so they were able to pick it up quickly.
What were the challenges of implementing online training?
Initially, cost was the biggest issue Kirin had to overcome with implementing online training. Her non-profit had a modest budget, and many platforms fell outside of that. L&D budgets in 2020 took a significant hit because of the market shifts from COVID-19. She was eventually able to procure funding via a grant, and that made online training platforms more accessible.
Kirin explained that the second hurdle she had to cross was learning how to implement online training. Kirin adds that her need to deliver training drove her to learn how to use the platform quickly and effectively. She also leveraged customer support functions, which helped her understand what she needed to start.
Ryan mentions that a powerful support offering is one of the most important functions of an online training platform. The biggest fear a lot of business owners have when implementing online training is having the support to start out. Even if it’s just answers to basic questions, that can knowledge can save hours, and ultimately reduce the cost of creating effective training.
Kirin mentions that, like any software, figuring out the “language” of it, would help get the maximum value. But with advances in online training technology, she notes that it was much easier to understand and leverage the platform. And many platforms like Coassemble release product updates regularly to improve the training experience.
How did Kirin’s team adapt to COVID-19’s impact on their organization
Initially, the biggest shift was transitioning from analog to entirely digital formats for their training. It was a positive shift, but one that had to happen quicker than they’d have liked.
Much of her organization have now experienced the online training process and really engaged with it. All of the training for future volunteer programs will eventually shift to blended learning. But Kirin adds all learning will leverage online training. And she's is especially thankful that with staff from other departments using the platform, they’ve removed the siloes while building relationships simultaneously.
Using a platform like Coassemble created an opportunity to evolve training across the entire organization. By ensuring all departments have the same training, Kirin increased efficiency and consistency for her team. It even improved the institutional culture, offering better access, and more inclusive training content. Which lets her team get back to the best part: taking care of the animals.
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The CoLab Podcast is a twice-monthly series that will include guests as well as Ryan providing expert knowledge on sharing knowledge, employee experience, and growing teams successfully at scale. To stay up to date, click subscribe wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts to receive the latest episodes.
Thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you next time.
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