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Flexing with The 5 Moments

This interview was conducted with Jeremy Smith, Senior Global Learning Solutions Manager, at Herman Miller in Zeeland, MI and is around his organization’s 5 Moments Journey and the impact it is having on the performance of the workforce.

An Interview with Jeremy Smith

“What I find effective about the Five Moments is people—either learning professionals or clients—can find themselves on the spectrum, so to speak. They can find something familiar almost immediately whether it’s in their current role, or in a previous learning experience.”

–Jeremy Smith, 5 Moments of Need Designer

Bob Mosher (BM): Where did you start, or how did you stumble onto the The Five Moments of Need?

Jeremy Smith (JS): Well, it started actually before, I think, there was a Five Moments of Need official model. Working with yourself, and Con, we were exploring performance support and that initial journey into needing something other than formal learning, and other than eLearning. That, ultimately, led me into The Five Moments of Need as a language, a consulting approach to get people not only to performance support solutions, but to blended solutions.

BM: What business stuff was driving you this way? Why not just do training or blend differently, or buy eLearning? What was the tipping point that pushed you into feeling this methodology was something you felt you had to seek out for Herman Miller?

JS: A lot of it was the speed of change. I’ve been with Herman Miller twenty-five years and one constant in that has been the accelerating change, not only inside our business and how we work, but also with the technology tools we use. And the more formal training, or learning programs, simply could not keep up with those things that changed frequently. Some things, like our values, aren’t changing every five days; but, some things like the way our email works could be changing every five days. So that was a big one.

I was also watching a decline—as our employee base changed, I watched it decline in the uptake or the use of more formal learning, while also identifying a decline in engagement learning. We were also seeing, at the same time, an increase in issues—productivity gaps and things that would have been addressed by that training. So, it was a real interesting thing to watch. People were consuming less formal training, you know, but the gaps showed me they still needed the learning. It just wasn’t in the right format for them, or it was not in the right time or place.

BM: Brilliant. Tell me more about your team. Who or what makes up your group?

JS: It’s a real interesting mix. For about ten years we had a pretty centralized model here. Then, we went through a transition and dismantled our corporate university and went to a federated model.

So, on my team, everyone is a consultant because our clients are all the other learning teams around the business, primarily. Or business leaders who have performance-related initiatives or change-related initiatives.

So, we’re all consultants but we also all have areas of expertise. Then, I have another group located in Bangalore, India.

The team grows and contracts a lot through contracting. I also have a rolodex of—gosh—30 to 40 companies and individuals that we contract with based on what the business is asking for and what the results of our consulting process points to as the need and the solution, or the intervention.

BM: So, with this diverse group, how has bringing them along in The Five Moments journey been?

JS: It’s been interesting. On my team they’ve all been brought into it very early in their onboarding process. In fact, for the last four or five people who joined the team, I spent one whole session of our onboarding talking about The Five Moments of Need.

What’s been much more interesting, or challenging, is actually helping the other learning leaders around the business start to look at things differently.

BM: Yeah, sure!

JS: That has become easier with The Five Moments of Need framework. When I try to talk about performance support as a starting point, it was much harder for them to grasp. When I use The Five Moments of Need as a starting point, I find that with some time and practice, that is a great way to open up new conversations with clients and other learning professionals around the business. Much more effective than when it was just a performance support conversation.

Part of what I find effective about the Five Moments is people—either learning professionals or clients—can kind of find themselves on the spectrum, so to speak. They can find something familiar almost immediately whether it’s in their current role, or in a previous learning experience. Everyone seems to get grounded in it pretty quickly so they can find something familiar in it.

What it also doesn’t do is it doesn’t kind of throw out what they believe about learning. So, I think it’s a little less threatening and a little more accessible in that sense. It’s like what you’re doing actually fits in here. And what we are recommending is, “Let’s rearchitect it. You might have all the right stuff, but maybe in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Therefore, I find the methodology to be approachable because not only can they see themselves in it, but it also honors what they are bringing to the table already, which is often, “I need a workshop.”

BM: So where are you on this journey and what excites you most about what you are working on?

JS: Part of the uniqueness of our business is we’re made up of about eight companies. We’re actually on a journey right now to bring all those companies together much more formally—everything from finances, and marketing to product development and HR, so that actually makes me optimistic that we’ll be able to get further faster. In our current federated model, most of the work I’ve done has been through invitation or referral. It’s largely been through moral authority—not formal authority. And again, The Five Moments has been a very effective tool in that context. However, in some businesses we are having this conversation right now for the very first time—which is exciting.

BM: Last question Jeremy, what advice would you give to yourself looking back?

JS: The one thing that jumps out to me most and maybe it’s two pieces of advice—is to have the ability to meet the client where they are. I mean that in two ways and it’s one of the hard lessons, and frankly, I’m still learning it all these years later. As a consultant, it is understanding my client’s business as much as I can before I meet with them. Then, being able to quickly adapt to where they are, the speed they are moving, and modify my process as I go. For years I tried to take every client, no matter how simple or complex their problem was, no matter how slow or fast they wanted to move, I tried to take them through this same consulting process.

Actually, that’s something where The Five Moments of Need has also been beneficial—I find if you start here, it’s easier to flex. So that’s one.

Another is technology. I think there is a fixation on technology—as there is so much in our lives tied to technology—that it’s so easy to assume the solution is technology-based which often it is—but not always.

One of the things I’m really pushing my business and my team on is to think about what is the best thing for our business right now.

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy having conversations around does it need to be mobile? Does it need to be shiny, flashy? It’s an interesting challenge right now in our society, I think in some ways largely driven by all of the fantastic marketing teams around the globe, and everything competing for our attention. I get that. But technology is not always the answer and when it is, sometimes it can be really simple technology.

I do have one final point of advice, the third thing I’ve found to be very effective and I’ve been focusing on a lot for several years is, teach your business and your learners about The Five Moments of Need.

One of the reasons one of our EPSS solutions failed was because it couldn’t keep up and what we had to resort to ultimately was to teach the learners how to keep up. And what sources they could use and how to recognize their moments and make smarter learning choices in their moments of need. So teaching The 5 Moments has been one of our tenets for several years. Even the learners themselves can benefit from this framework, just so they can become smarter consumers in this world of abundance and distraction.

BM: Very well said, thank you Jeremy!

Connect with Jeremy to learn more about Herman Miller’s performance improving 5 Moments of Need solutions.