92: How To Enable Employees To Grow Their Organizations

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Our guest this week is Elay Cohen who joins HR Studio Podcast to discuss his work enabling employees and organizations in order to accelerate business growth. Elay argues that HR leaders can be part of the strategic business conversation by coming to the table with an enablement-first mindset for modern learning. He explains the critical role that HR can play in facilitating organizational success by focusing on "role-based" versus 'one size fits all programs' and he explains why and how to accomplish this.
Elay Cohen - Episode 92 - HR Studio Podcast
Listen in to hear Elay's perspectives on engagement versus enablement, the importance of digital transformation in accelerating change, and the importance of personalized learning aligned to business goals and metrics. 
Elay Cohen is Co-founder & CEO @SalesHood, a Sales Enablement Platform. He has been recognized as Top Innovative "Mover and Shaker" in sales leadership by Entrepreneur magazine and he is a two times author and former SVP of sales productivity at Salesforce, where he introduced training and coaching programs that accelerated the company's growth from a $500-million business to an enterprise worth more than 3 billion. Elay is on a mission to modernize how companies enable their people in a business environment that is undergoing a digital transformation with advances in video, mobile, cloud computing, and even microlearning. His latest book is Enablement Mastery: Grow Your Business Faster by Aligning Your People, Processes, and Priorities
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Denise's interview with Elay.

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Podcast Transcript

Elay Cohen on HR Studio PodcastDenise Yosafat: Welcome, everyone to HR Studio Podcast. I'm Denise Yosafat, your host for today's episode. In the next 25 minutes, we're going to explore the topic of enabling people and organizations in our digital age in order to accelerate business growth. In order to explore this topic, I want to welcome our thought leader of today, Elay Cohen. Welcome Elay.

Elay Cohen: Great to be here, Denise. Thank you, everyone. Get to meet you all.

Denise Yosafat: Good to meet you. Let me tell a little bit about Elay. Elay is a two times author and former SVP of sales productivity at Salesforce. He introduced training and coaching programs that accelerated the company's growth from a $500-million business to an enterprise worth more than 3 billion. As the co-founder and CEO of SalesHood, Elay is on a mission to modernize how companies enable their people in a business environment that is undergoing a digital transformation with advances in video, mobile, cloud computing, and even microlearning.

Denise Yosafat: In his latest book, Enablement Mastery, Elay shares the keys to building a successful culture that puts enablement at the forefront of business priorities. I'm really looking forward to this conversation. When it comes to enablement, I love it, love it, love it. Let's begin with your book. It's all about building organizational value. In order to really enable employees and partners to be the best they can be, how can HR best lead or facilitate that?

Elay Cohen: Yeah. Listen. It's a great question. Getting an organization to have a mindset of developing their people and enablement first mindset starts by getting alignment at the highest level. We want our HR leaders to have a seat at the table. By coming to the table with an enablement-first mindset modern learning, their HR leaders are able to be part of the conversation. My advice to HR leaders who are embracing enablement ... Most HR leaders, they've been doing it already. They've been doing learning programs, performance development programs.

Elay Cohen: What we're saying is let's take it a step further and let's call it enablement. My suggestion HR leaders when you're embracing it is, get real close. Really understand all the business leaders, and become a true business partner to the CEO, CMO, head of sales, head of development. Think of all your partner functions. Start building consensus that enablement is a priority number one in the company. It's core to the values of the organization.

Elay Cohen: Then, don't try and build a one-size-fits-all approach to enablement. Really build up plans by role. I talk about this a lot in the book that it's important to get aligned with the leaders and then start building our role-based enablement plans. That way, it's meaningful to the folks, to the managers, and the individuals who are ultimately going to be enabled and do the developmental coaching as well. Does that make sense?

Denise Yosafat: Yeah. It totally makes sense. Tell us a little bit more about the role-based enablement program. How does that differentiate itself from maybe how companies have been doing it in the past?

Elay Cohen: Right. We're living in a world now where companies that do enablement the right way, what they're doing is they're building ... They're aligning with their teams. They're defining kind of key metrics, KPIs. Then, they're building learning modules. These learning modules to become modular. The best HR leaders, the best enablement leaders, will build a library of content, of learning, of coaching, and then begin to prioritize the various different learning campaigns and the learning programs, excuse me, by role.

Elay Cohen: Then, what we're doing is we're rolling out. We're rolling out these programs by role. But it's not just about pushing communications and saying, It's about developing a culture where folks are ... Their learning is personalized. Their coaching is personalized to them. Mentorship is personalized to them, to their role. There's a sense of community. If I'm in a certain role, I'm part of a cohort so I could see how other people are doing. When new people join, they have this fear of missing out is a good fear. We want to get people really embracing learning and then assessments or learning and then we're going to kind of wrap it all in with celebrating accomplishments and results.

Elay Cohen: There's a life-cycle to enablement and where a lot of HR leaders are really focused on a kind of macro-level learning. I'm saying let's make it a little more granular. Let's develop these personalized learning paths by role, by group, by geography, so that way people really connect with what we're asking them to do and they can really grow and develop their skills, and what they need to do to contribute to the organization.

Denise Yosafat: Yeah. You started outlining their kind of enablement process, a map for doing so. Tell us. Expand on that map a little bit more because I'm also curious about what are some pitfalls of not doing it that way or what are some the practicalities of using that map.

Elay Cohen: Right. The enablement process map, I thought a lot about it. After spending eight years at Salesforce leading enablement and driving that change and accelerating it and really, it was amazing what we did, but we had 120 people on my team. I just want you to think about that. We had 120 coaches, huge team. But it was hugely effective, but hugely inefficient.

Elay Cohen: When I left, and the reason why we founded SalesHood was we wanted to build a platform that could deliver that same level of personalization but at scale, using video, mobile, social learning. But what I've learned in the industry after working with amazing companies, like we've got over 50,000 people, hundreds of companies using kind of the sales enablement plus enablement platform. But what we've learned and what we've seen is the challenge then becomes how do you get everybody in the organization aligned on the same language and the same processes and how do we get everybody to contribute to the enablement process?

Elay Cohen: That's why I thought, "You know what? We got to have a process map that can bring marketing together with sales, together with HR, together with ops, together with finance, so when we roll out programs, when we roll out campaigns, when we roll out initiatives, everybody knows what their role is. That's how you scale because most companies don't have 120 people doing enablement. You've got a distributed power when it comes to where content's being created. Who's doing the coaching? Who is facilitating the collaboration? The enablement process map as a guide for companies to embrace enablement and to start assigning responsibility. Who's doing what? How do we measure success? Holding people accountable so we have less people pointing fingers, and more people holding hands collaborating.

Denise Yosafat: Hold hands.

Elay Cohen: But that's what we want. Listen. When we get into a conference room and you've got a bunch of people that don't work together normally, how do they ultimately get aligned quickly so we can get the people, the process, and their priorities aligned so we can deliver on the vision of the company and the go-to market priorities. That's why the enablement process map was created. Literally, when I sit down with companies, I'll bring the printout of it, and it's in the book. You can get a PDF. It's really easy. It's let's start here, and let's have a conversation inside of an organization for a team, for a project team during different op sites that are happening at team levels and start talking about who's doing what.

Elay Cohen: Then, you can really get collaboration because if you don't do that, your second question was, "What are some pitfalls?" If we don't do that, then what ends up happening is you get a lot of people at a company doing a lot of work. It's a lot of busywork. You're not aligned around the core metrics, the core KPIs. You're not measuring success. You get a lot of frustrated people because, listen, everybody wants to do good work. Everybody is going to go that extra mile. That's my belief.

Elay Cohen: My belief is everyone's always doing the best work that they can do, but the problem is there's so much work being done that is overlapping each other we end up bumping heads because people are wondering, "Well, wasn't I supposed to do that when you're supposed to do that?" You become usually inefficient in the way that content, coaching, learning is being created.

Elay Cohen: The process map helps you gain efficiency. But more importantly, enablement process map, I think at the end, consumers. When I say consumer, I mean the employees, our partners like the folks that are there receiving the communications and the coaching and the content. There's a big difference between programs that are rolled out that are aligned. There are clear statements of why. There are clear statements of purpose, measuring outcomes. You're celebrating results versus kind of a one-size-fits-all.

Elay Cohen: You just kind of throw stuff out. Really, I think employee engagement is the ultimate, obviously growing revenue. But if we can get folks aligned on key metrics and KPIs, if we can get content rolled out the right way, get people consuming content the right way, you know what? Employees are going to be happier. They're going to feel more motivated. We're going to lose less employees. Everyone's going to be like, "Wow. It's a great place to work. I love the culture." Those are some of the downstream effects of having an enablement process map as a guide to build programs inside of a company.

Denise Yosafat: They're not mutually exclusive either. The enabling people helps you get business success. It's not a mutually exclusive, we can do this or that.

Elay Cohen: Right. It's so interesting how the notion of enablement. I've seen this a lot. I'll just kind of make another comment. Enablement, for me, started in sales. We really decided because my statement has happened to me and my life just went off to because [crosstalk 00:11:03]. I love it. I love it.

Elay Cohen: Enablement started for me at Salesforce in the sales world. When I left, SalesHood [inaudible 00:11:16] my company, it's all about enabling sales teams and partner teams. But what's happening in the industry is HR professionals, chief people officers are looking in and saying, "Wow, there's something happening with sales people." They're learning in a different way. They're consuming content in a different way. They're mobile. They love collaborating. There's a lot of peer-to-peer, social learning. They need content just in time.

Elay Cohen: For many of our customers, the ones that have been with us for a while, they've expanded enablement beyond sales to now be company-wide. That's why the book I wrote, Enablement Mastery, isn't called sales enablement mastery. It's deliberate and purposeful.

Denise Yosafat: Yeah. I think about, there's old, I don't know how old, but accountability matrix, the RACI matrix. Who's responsible? Who's accountable? Who's consulted? Who's informed? Getting really crystal clear about accountability. But it sounds like your Enablement Mastery takes it a step further. Not only who's accountable, but how do you engage those people to do their best work once they have that clarity. Can you speak more to kind of taking this a step further? [crosstalk 00:12:27]

Elay Cohen: Listen. The enablement process map will define that before you roll out programs, before you create content, before you start defining these learning paths, before you start know training and coaching and enabling your people that you need to get alignment - back to your very first question. You need to get alignment with the senior leaders around what are the specific metrics and KPIs we got to build.

Elay Cohen: With those metrics and KPIs, then, you've got instant alignment because there's no ambiguity around what we're doing and why we're doing it. Then, the accountability takes over. Then, you can divide and conquer the responsibilities of what you're going to create. Then, part of the enablement process map is a pillar around celebrating achievements. Let's then reconnect with those metrics and KPIs. Let's highlight what are some wins, what are some successes, what did we learn, what are some improvements that we can make?

Elay Cohen: But let's anchor all of our dialogue, all of our communications around those metrics. I call it the WIIFM, the what's in it for me. You've heard that before. Many of you, HR leaders, [crosstalk 00:13:29]. All too often when companies ... Again, I'm generalizing, no disrespect. When companies are rolling out training programs, there tends to be a mindset, sometimes too much of compliance versus kind of developmental or really what's in it for you.

Elay Cohen: The stick versus the carrot, enablement mastery and the enablement process map is intended to teach an organization. When you create programs for learning, for enablement, for coaching, that it's a carrot versus a stick. It's all about the WIIFM, the what's in it for me, and that is front and center. You celebrate it. You look for the early wins. The enablement process map takes you through step by step all the steps. You're ultimately creating a language for all contributors, all publishers, all learners to understand. And managers, right? The role of frontline managers is so critical.

Elay Cohen: What's the part they play in developing their people? It's not just about HR role in our training. It's enabling the managers to also be active participants, coaching, developing their people. There are a lot of players and stakeholders there. I'm a big believer in starting with the why and just getting ... What's the specific metric we want to solve? Great. We want to reduce this. You want to increase that. Let's write it down. But guess what, back to your other question. The plans by role, and the role-based. Those metrics and KPIs, they're going to vary by role, by time of year and geographies because there's so many different variances of what companies are trying to do. That's the first step. Step number one, let's understand the problem that we're solving and why we're solving it.

Denise Yosafat: Yeah. The problem you're solving while you're solving it and what your role is in solving it and why you're so important to that role? I mean, making people feel that they're really important in solving that problem is part of the enablement. If people feel that kind of personal ownership or personal responsibility. I shouldn't say ownership because that's [crosstalk 00:15:35].

Elay Cohen: No, no, no. But let's go a little deeper, Denise. You're right because, listen, if you look across an organizational chart and you go, "Okay, you've got a general manager of a group, you've got managers, you've got leaders, you've got content contributors," if everybody is aligned around the why, then you're going to get better content. Then, folks are going to create better training, better communications. The people that are going through the programs are going to, "Yeah, I'm going to do this. It's going to help me do a better job. I understand why we're doing this. It's going to help move the needle at the company level."

Elay Cohen: That's alignment, explaining the why and explaining the why for each person and then showing the why and showing the impact of the why and it is so critical. You're so right. All too often, when we ... We're a technology system, we're a sales enablement platform, part of what we do is we help change management. We help companies with change management.

Elay Cohen: Part of the change management is working with HR leaders and working with enablement leaders to retrain and re-coach all of the subject matter experts in a company to rethink content assumptions, to rethink coaching assumptions because, without any guidance, they'll just, "Oh, well, we rolled out a new product, great. Here's a 30-slide deck with a quiz or a throw me on a webinar." That's not enablement.

Elay Cohen: But we're saying, "Why don't we think about what you're trying to accomplish?" Let's take all your great content and let's create a drip, progressive learning program over three months where we can guide people through the journey of learning and then follow up with them in their roles, in what they're doing in their job. They're going to appreciate it so much more. But that's big change management. I think this is industry-wide. Is that the role of HR to start with that? I think absolutely.

Elay Cohen: Organizations that have enablement as a value, and if the chief people officer or HR leaders are embracing enablement, I believe that making sure that ... Because you can't do it alone, Denise. There's no way we're all there ... You can't. It's impossible. Anyway, I'll stop there. I can go on and on, right? I love this stuff.

Denise Yosafat: [crosstalk 00:17:48] You're right. It crosses functions. It crosses industries. There's no stop to it. I mean, this is the thing that you need to do to make sure that you're enabling your people to be successful. So the business is successful. Tell me a little bit about digital transformation and the role that plays in enablement, how it's related, how we can take advantage of it and how we can again avoid pitfalls.

Elay Cohen: Let's go back to my personal evolution from Salesforce with 120 people on my team to starting sales and building a scalable platform for enablement. The reason why the timing was right and the reason why digital transformation is kind of a big driver for this is video is now a lot more widespread. Mobile is a lot more widespread. The notion of peer-to-peer and folks being comfortable getting feedback from their peers and having that be open and creating a culture where recording videos and watching videos on the go and giving folks feedback on programs that they're rolling out and getting ... Those are specific motions that are all driven by a digital culture because now companies are embracing video because they're embracing mobile, because peer to peer is helping to accelerate.

Elay Cohen: What ends up happening in companies is you don't have to wait until a company kickoff to begin driving change, to drive awareness, to start educating, to start driving behavioral changes in your organization. If you've got a thoughtful strategy that involves digital, that starts taking people through a journey on their own time. Let's pretend, Denise, that there is a company kickoff coming up in January. In that company kickoff, we've got three days of intensive learning and the old way of doing things will be to jam the agenda with as much content as you can. Why not take all of those content contributors, have them record 5 to 10 minute some high-level points,

Denise Yosafat: Digestible.

Elay Cohen: Digestible. Ask a question, get all the people that are going to join that conference, that kickoff event to watch those 8 to 10 short videos. Answer a couple questions. Guess what? The folks that are now going to contribute and share content and get onstage, they now know everybody in the room has watched the content. They know they've answered the questions. They also now have insight into what's going through their minds, and they can now accelerate what they were going to teach and what they were going to show. They can personalize it.

Elay Cohen: Now, what we've done is we've taken what would normally take a year with digital transformation. We can shorten it. What we were going to do in a year, we can do in two weeks, and then we start. That's an example of how we can rethink our communications, our coaching, our content, our learning, using technology.

Elay Cohen: The tech is there, right? The tech is there. Any system you use, you can figure out ways to do it depending on how you want to scale or how you want to measure it, there's pros and cons. The pitfalls of not embracing that is, A, you're going to move a lot slower. You're not going to achieve your goals. But more importantly, I think, you're going to be disconnected from the real sentiment analysis on what's really going on in the hearts and minds of your people. If you're not engaging in an ongoing conversation where you're asking them giving them some content, getting feedback, giving them some content, getting feedback, assessing their knowledge, getting their feedback.

Elay Cohen: Whether it's doing a quiz record a short story, whatever it is, there's so many ways that you can get feedback in today's digital world, but those are some of the things I've seen to be really effective. Our customers that we're working with today are ... We're talking to companies that are still growing like top companies like DocuSign and RingCentral. These are fast-paced hyper-growth companies, and they're all the next SalesForces. They're embracing the same focus and energy on digital transformation, excuse me, and embracing and enablement as a core go-to-market driver for their businesses.

Denise Yosafat: I hear you talk a lot about enablement and engagement. It's almost interchangeable because you're enabling the business through engagement. Before that big meeting, you're finding out what the sentiment is. You're dealing with it. You're turning it around. Through that process, change management goes quicker. Because you're finding out what's going to happen here, how could we do our adjustments? These two words, enablement, and engagement, close in your mind?

Elay Cohen: They are. I think that they're not the same because an engagement is I'm checking to see the engagement of my people and engagement can be any kind of form. It's a region measure. The whole bunch of things we can measure to test engagement. Enablement is, I believe, it's one level above. It's where we want to, yes, we want to be able to create content in the right way.

Elay Cohen: We want to be able to then reinforce that content with the right coaching. Then, we want to correlate, we want to correlate activity and completion. Engagement is one type of activity. But I want to correlate completion, which engagement's a piece of that, with outcomes. Enablement is about connecting all those dots, content, coaching, completion with outcomes. To me, engagement is one of the pillars. It's so critical.

Denise Yosafat: Right. Let's go back to our HR leaders, our rising HR leaders. What are one or two things that they could get started with when they're working with an organization who is kind of old school, what would your advice be to them?

Elay Cohen: Good question. I'm working with an old school organization. They want to do things the old way. I would start small. I would crawl. I would have a conversation with leaders in the organization and sit down. Just don't talk digital. Don't talk enablement. Just talk their language. Ask them what's the most important thing you need to solve for this month, this quarter, this year. Get them to identify the most important thing. Brainstorm a solution with them. Don't talk digital. Don't talk. Just brainstorm what it would look like.

Elay Cohen: Then, propose some ideas where they can start to visualize achieving their goals, achieving their outcomes. You can insert some ideas around modern enablement with it. If you're going to bring someone with you, you've got to kind of go slow, personalize it to their problems and their language and their metrics and KPIs, and then co-create a solution that's going to help them achieve their goals.

Elay Cohen: Then, you can suggest things like, "We can probably do this." What if we did some pre-work in video? What if we had everybody record a welcome video highlighting what's important to them. There are ways that you can help that person visualize, but it's got to be personal to that leader. But notice what I've said. HR folks, go to the top. You're not going to be able to drive a transformation and a digital transformation at first from the bottom. It's got to be the spark comes from the top.

Denise Yosafat: Or even mid-level.

Elay Cohen: Yeah. It starts with the top. Come up with an idea and then you take their idea and then you bring it. Then, the spark will go viral because everyone that is in the rank and file front line managers, individual contributors, if they know why this is important and they understand that it's important for one of the senior leaders, then, they'll embrace it. They'll do it because they're going to align. Then, you build a win. That was one program, one win, one initiative. It's one step at a time. That's how I would embrace digital transformation for HR leaders that are in a culture that might not be so open to it immediately.

Denise Yosafat: Excellent. Excellent. Baby steps but big baby steps.

Elay Cohen: Baby steps.

Denise Yosafat: Create the wins, and then build on, did I hear you say.

Elay Cohen: Absolutely grab my book, Enablement Mastery. I think it'll provide you with some good guidance. I wrote it to help you bring enablement as a front line, excuse me, front and center in the culture, in the minds, and in all your business strategies. a little plug for the book, obviously. You got to do it.

Denise Yosafat: We're going to plug the book a little bit more because, well, first of all, I want to thank you for being with us today.

Elay Cohen: Absolutely.

Denise Yosafat: Really, I can talk about this. We can use the whole day to just talk about this, but I want to thank you for being here. I want to speak out to our HR Studio Podcast listeners for a second. If you are not a subscriber to HR Studio Podcast, you can become one by going to hrstudiopodcast.com. You'll get notified of new episodes. Also, there, you'll find all our speaker's social handles and contact information, show notes, and more about Elay's book.

Denise Yosafat: Speaking of Elay's book, he has generously offered to send a copy of the Enablement Mastery. Yay, there it is. One of our lucky HR subscribers, new subscribers to subscribe today and you will be entered into a raffle for a copy of his great book. Thank you, Elay. Fascinating stuff. Lots of work to be done by companies, but a great roadmap for helping them.

Elay Cohen: And one last thing, if I may, I welcome anyone that's listening. If they do want to learn more, you can connect with me on LinkedIn. Mention that you heard the podcast with Denise and I. I'm happy to connect, and we can continue the conversation. Denise, hope I get to come back another time. It's super fun being with you here. Thank you.

Denise Yosafat: Super fun. Great talking to you, Elay. 

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - 8:00am
Denise Yosafat
Elay Cohen
HR Studio Podcast