As a senior manager of learning and development (L&D) at Lending Club, Joe Deegan is responsible for developing and executing new learning strategies for Lending Club’s fast-growing workforce.
Figure 1: Joe Deegan, senior manager of L&D at Lending Club
We connected with Joe to learn about Lending Club’s use of technology and video in its learning and development strategies, and upcoming trends around data that could change the L&D space. The interview has been edited for clarity.
Doreen Lorenzo: Give us a little background for those people who don’t know what Lending Club is.
Joe Deegan: Lending Club is an online credit marketplace connecting borrowers and investors. Because we are online and place a heavy emphasis on technology, we operate at a lower cost than traditional bank lending programs and pass the savings on to borrowers in the form of lower rates and to investors in the form of solid returns.
DL: That’s a new way of doing things. How does your instruction keep pace with that?
JD: Yes, pace is a great term to use, because that is something that is definitely a challenge for us. As a company we are growing quickly, which requires that we place a heavy emphasis on onboarding new hires. Week after week we’re bringing on a new group of employees who need to learn processes, procedures, and systems as quickly and effectively as possible. We’re also helping the company navigate a high rate of change as we implement new internal procedures, technology, and programs that help us to be more effective as a company. On top of onboarding and change management, we are also working hard to build scalable L&D programs and implement new technology that helps us to be more effective as an L&D team. When we are working so hard to keep up with the pace of the company, it can be difficult but necessary to prioritize building the long-term L&D strategy.
DL: How do you introduce the new technology? Are your employees all in one location, or are they dispersed?
JD: For the most part, we’re all in one location in San Francisco. We do have a smaller office near Boston, but most of the company is here in San Francisco. That being said, we still have the challenges of getting people together to do training, so we do lean on technology. Any situation where we can use technology to provide self-paced learning opportunities that doesn’t require pulling large groups of people into the classroom helps the company be a lot more efficient and helps keep our service levels high. On the operations side of the business, we have to walk the line of providing as many training opportunities as possible while maintaining high service levels for our customers, which is always a challenge.
DL: Are you using video technology?
JD: We have a very young workforce that prefers to learn through video over reading about the topic. They don’t get excited about reading long pages or flipping through PowerPoints. They’d much rather watch a video. Video is great for the quick hits and change-management-related training needs. Every week we are communicating changes to procedures or following up formal training through department-specific newsletters. We are working toward heavily leaning on short videos to make these newsletters easier to retain and more appealing to our Millennial audience. If we’re trying to get people excited about something—like teaching them a new procedure—then, when possible, we’re going to do that through video. If there’s going to be written-out procedures, we would like to accompany that with a video, because we’ve seen that video can be more effective and it’s what the audience is asking for. The biggest challenge for us is prioritizing the additional development time required [for] a video when we need to get word out quickly.
DL: Do you generate the videos yourself, do you make them, or do you buy content?
JD: If we can buy content that meets our needs, then we’ll do that, but most of our needs are for internal procedures that you can’t go out and buy a video for, so we are forced to create in-house. I’ve got a great instructional design team who spend the majority of their time working on technology-related projects, so if it’s not an eLearning class built with Storyline, then we’ll lean on Camtasia for a quick video. That’s something we want to do a lot more of, and we get a lot of requests for that. When we send out surveys or get feedback, people ask for more video. I think our biggest challenge is the amount of time it takes to create a video versus writing out instructions. When you’re juggling projects and trying to determine what the highest priority is, a video project may not always make the cut although it can be the most effective method.
DL: Do you ever use user-generated content?
JD: Not often enough, but when we have it’s been highly successful. We recently had a great example of this from our member support team. They have weekly meetings, and they decided to add a little variety to the meetings by replacing their supervisor giving a presentation with videos of team members covering a topic from the agenda. I saw one where they actually turned a boring meeting agenda into a hilarious song. They got the point across, and everybody was really engaged in the meeting because it’s funny, but they’re also learning at the same time. Something that goes a little unseen is how much more of the content is retained when learners create the content themselves. You’re going to learn a lot more if you are the one teaching or creating the content, and we will take advantage of that whenever possible.
DL: What do you see in the market that gets you excited about learning and development?
JD: Something that I’ve been happy to see more and more of has been the focus on analytics. I like to see that the learning and development world is focusing a lot more of their time, doing things like making data-driven decisions, rather than being order takers and getting requests to create some kind of training and going and doing it without doing the up-front analysis to determine if they are going to achieve an ROI. I love reading all of the ATD, CLO Magazine, and Learning Solutions Magazine articles about how we need to be using data to make those decisions, and I think the industry is getting much better about taking a step back and diving into the data to determine what the highest-value project is.
DL: Do you think that L&D fuels that innovation process?JD: Yes, I think we could be doing an even better job of it. It’s in how you position yourself in the L&D world. If you position yourself as an order taker, like I just mentioned, stakeholders will come to you and say, “Susie did this wrong, so we must need to train them on how to do this right.” I think that’s where somebody in the L&D world needs to put on their performance consultant hat and really do an in-depth analysis to determine if training is going to be the best solution or if there is something else that’s more innovative. I believe that taking this kind of strategic approach will help to drive innovation in the organization.