Team working – that is top of mind for Brent Kedzierski, Head of Learning Strategy and Innovation at Shell in Texas. “The majority of work in our company is done within teams. I want to find learning methods that position people to thrive in collaborative, co-operative settings,” says Brent.
One step along that path, he says, is understanding the impact of psychological safety. At its heart, psychologically safety allows team members to feel comfortable in the group. Whether that’s owning up to a mistake or pointing out an error made by someone else, there’s no fear of negative consequences. It’s also the ability to speak freely about work-related matters without needing to censor what you say, and being open to new ideas and trying new things.
In a learning situation, it means people don’t need to worry about looking foolish when asking questions or getting things wrong, as everyone involved appreciates that’s a crucial part of learning.
“I’m asking: do our folks feel psychologically safe?”
“When people are fearful, it affects their level of engagement in learning,” says Brent. “They lose focus, and the learning and growth take a back seat. So I’m asking: do our folks feel psychologically safe? Can we maximise that feeling of safety so it increases their proficiency and effectiveness overall?”
Brent aims to nurture that feeling of psychological safety by ensuring managers provide time for reflection – something he hopes will allow people to explore new ideas.
“When people are curious thinkers, they’re more open to other ideas and secure enough to change their minds. That’s one of the things I’d like to encourage at Shell. I’d like to build a resilience so that people can be curious thinkers and change their minds in much faster cycles than they have done in the past.”
“What we’re driving for is exposure to transformational experiences”
And Brent’s not stopping there. He’s also keen to shake up Shell’s learning methods. “We’re trying to move from a traditional classroom setting where we throw a lot of content at people on an individual basis, to a learning environment where our employees can more easily learn behaviours together. What we’re driving for is exposure to transformational experiences.”
It’s how Brent sees the future of learning. “Rather than presenting people with information, we’ll shift to exposing people to experiences that have the ability to transform them,” he says.
Brent’s also keen to encourage a ‘whole person’ approach at Shell that appreciates every facet of an employee’s life – not just the work element. “It’s the whole being,” he says. “Family, children and all those things.”
This whole person approach is at the centre of Brent’s L&D ethos. He wants people to have a “human experience” by offering learning that respects their work-life balance. He feels this will drive employee engagement and, because they’re more engaged, will improve workforce performance and drive productivity.
“Collaboration, co-operation and transformation are going to be the major players”
Key to all this is Brent’s number one priority – team working. “Collaboration, co-operation and transformation are going to be the major players. We’ll teach people to work that way and learn that way. That’s going to strengthen Shell’s capabilities overall for the long term.”
Brent has hit upon the important factors for learning transfer: an open, motivated mindset, immersive learning experiences that encourage engagement, and good reflection. I’d also add feedback, testing and ‘safe’ practise back in the workplace. It’s what we’re creating and building with our training programmes at Stellar Labs.
For many organisations, poor collaboration and ineffective team working is a problem that’s affecting morale, productivity and the business bottom line. Our training programmes harness neuroscience to support people to learn and work in teams. We’re part of the solution, and we’re happy to share our knowledge.
“We’re moving into this new era where we place greater emphasis on how we engage the whole brain,” agrees Brent. “That’s what’s going to drive the effectiveness of all our learning investments for the business.”
He continues, “Our case for change is that we’re not keeping up with industry 4.0; we still deliver training and treat humans like we’re industry 3.0.”
With Brent’s drive to combine technical expertise with the ability to connect, collaborate and work with other people, the teams at Shell will soon be firing on all cylinders.