Episode 3 – JuvoHub Podcast with Sherle Brown
Our Special Guest: Sherle Brown
In this episode we welcome our guest, Sherle Brown, who is an instructor at the University of Georgia and a 30+ year veteran of the multifamily industry!
Feel free to connect with her on her LinkedIn profile.
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Here are the resources and references mentioned by Sherle
Build a learning and development framework
- What is an L&D framework?
- Why is it critical to be organized with your L&D program?
- Does a “framework” indicate a rigid approach to what is available to an employee?
Optimize the expanded role of L&D in real estate organizations
- Should a training program be solely focused on the existing job title of the employee?
- What does a training program look like for someone who wants to advance their career?
- How does an L&D department keep their program fluid and dynamic?
Recognize trends and advances in various L&D delivery methods and what should be implemented
- What are some trends that you see now and can foresee for the future?
- What really is microlearning?
- What is microlearning not?
- Do you think we will have more of an adaptive system as we see in platforms such as Netflix or Spotify
What one actionable tip could you share that has served you well as an educator?
Be a lifelong learner who shares with othersSherle Brown
If you enjoyed this episode be sure to check out:
- Reverse Interview – Mike Brewer Interviews Jonathan Saar
- Education – Where Is It Going in the New Age?
- Leadership and Company Culture – Evolve and Retain
- Apartment Virtual Leasing – Creating Something Great!
- Professional Adaptability Skills in the Workplace
Jonathan Saar: Hey, everybody. Welcome to JuvoHub. We're looking forward to talking to Sherle Brown. Sherle is a friend of mine and colleague for many, many years. She's an instructor at the University of Georgia and a 30-year veteran of the multifamily industry and her resume goes on and on and on. This is going to be an exciting discussion today. We're going to get into learning and development, where it is today, and some actionable tips that you can take away for your team now. Let's get into the show.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode three of JuvoHub. JuvoHub is your helping hand in property management, a true hub for all training and HR professionals in the property management industry today. With me is Sherle Brown. Sherle, you and I go way back. We've spoke at NAA and at other events. You've been a mentor to me as an educator in the industry, so it is a true honor to have you on my show for episode number three today. First of all, welcome. Appreciate you being here.
Sherle Brown: Thank you so much for letting me do this. I'm honored to be part of it.
Jonathan Saar: Yeah. Recently, we were talking on the phone and getting to this conversation about what has changed a lot when it comes to learning and development. Today, we're going to cover some main points, like a framework when it comes to learning and development, how are things changed for multifamily, or for any housing sector, for that matter, how has that evolved and expanded, and then what trends are taking place that all of us need to pay attention to.
Let's just focus for a minute on the framework. Pretend for a minute I'm brand new to the training department and I need to put something together for my company. How do you define what a learning and development framework is?
Sherle Brown: Well, I look at it as your roadmap, your guide of what you're going to do, so building that framework is really important because it's going to give you that underlying foundation. Some of the things that you had mentioned just a second ago about how learning and development has changed and one of the big ways it's changed is its scope has broadened and it's become even more and more important to businesses. It's one of the reasons people stay with you or one of the reasons they leave. It's a big reason of why some companies become successful no matter what's going on and why others fail that look like maybe they shouldn't fail. Getting that framework built the right way is key to success, actually.
Jonathan Saar: Yeah. Yeah, that's impactful. I like that statement: It's a key to having people stay with you. What a shift that you and I have seen over the last few years in really what attracts people to coming to a company, the hooks, so to speak, of where someone when they come out of college, what they decide to do, where they decide to go, has changed drastically in the last 10 years or so. We know it will continue to change as culture changes and things change in the world.
Let's talk about for a minute, why is it so important to be organized, organized from the sense of we can visualize framework as having components? What's your take on what it takes to be organized and keep that framework moving forward?
Sherle Brown: When you look at this broadened role of learning and development, what's so exciting about this in a way and what is so challenging with it is that, if it's done correctly, then learning and development is going to touch every single thing in the organization. That's part of another thing that's changed is learning and development, it used to be it sat out there and it was something people checked off boxes and went through and there was a lot of compliance and all that, but it wasn't being used the way it should be and the way it is now and the way it has to be used now.
With that said, I think the starting point with the organization of the framework is the alignment with business goals. It needs to be strategic. That goes all the way back to every position in the company from the beginning through the end is touched by learning and development. It's a key component, actually. Learning and development should be involved in recruiting, hiring, onboarding, competencies, employee growth, leadership development, on and on it goes.
That means that that framework that's built needs to be organized in a way that can keep that from becoming chaotic, that connects all these different components. It needs to measure, that means it needs to have KPIs that are aligned with the business goals, and it needs to look at what the framework is doing. That needs to be monitored. It can't just be left alone. All that needs to be built into the framework itself. If employees are not satisfied with the way the learning and development's done and believe that it's working and that it has value, it's never going to get where it needs to be, so you've also got to keep an eye on how does the employee feel about this, what is their perception, what are they getting out of it, where are those gaps, and how are they filled.
My favorite, I'd say, models of a good framework was put out by McKinsey. I'm not going into all that, but just a few of the things, they have nine components. Just touching on some of the very key ones, I've already mentioned it needs to be tied into the business. In property management, that means operations, marketing, management, maintenance, all of that, the executive leadership. That's another place that sometimes it's missed. It needs to be when those gaps are there, how big are the gaps and how much is that costing us? Things have to be prioritized. That's a real big one, because you want to do everything, and of course, that's impossible. All the different learning paths need to be there. It needs to be, especially with HR, not just loose connections, but totally tied in to each other.
Then one of the big things that's different is with some of the capabilities now maybe to get more into informal learning being recognized to a point, there are ways you can strategically build that into your warning and development program, and of course, of course, it's technology. When you think about all that, it's massive, it's complex, it's interlinked, so you better be organized. If you get it right, which is a big if, it's a lot of work, it takes ongoing attention, but if you do it, you keep it organized the way it should be, then I really think that you would end up contributing to employee engagement, retention, like we said, as well as, though, your company brand.
Jonathan Saar: Right. Wow. Let's just pause for a moment. That's a lot to chew on because I mean, a ton that I just pulled away from that part of the conversation, Sherle. Here's what a training program is not, you and I both seen this, all right, you ask somebody, "Yeah, do you have a training program?" That answer may be yes. Then you ask them, "What are the components of that training program?" "Well, we make sure they take fair housing every year," or "We make sure that they take sexual harassment prevention," and they'll list some courses. That's what's on their mind, that they developed a training program. What you just shared with us is a whole, whole other level of what are some components that need to be thought about.
I love what you said there, too, how there has to be some alignment. Often, as leaders, we can't present that to someone just simply, "Please, get us a training program." There just has to be that overall vision, as you commented on, in order for it to be successful. Beautiful. Love it, love it.
Let's pivot for a minute and, and now we're talking about like, how do we, how do we identify that role? We know often the organizational structure of the company is, "Okay, what is that job position?" We need to have community managers, we need to have our leasing professionals, we need to have regionals. We can go through that whole list of job titles, but do you think that a training program should just be solely focused on what that job title is and associating learning with that job title? What are your thoughts on that?
Sherle Brown: I think are very interesting, like Zappos and Mass Mutual have eliminated job titles completely, so when you read further into it, you find out they do have structure, it's not as loose as it may sound, but they go by function. My part of that is not only just going by function, but by going toward the interest of the employees aligned again with the business, but growing people in different ways.
One of the reasons I would say that is from personal experience, even. When my educational background was, I had my undergraduate education was in IT and finance. Of course, I went in that direction, but I was never interested in it. It was not what I wanted to be doing. Fortunately, I worked for a company that allowed me to get my hands in anything. I mean, they just turned me loose: "Here, go get into everything you want to."
Jonathan Saar: Nice.
Sherle Brown: I learned so much and it kept me to things that, I mean, I worked long hours that defied a lot of people's logic. They thought I was crazy, but I was enjoying the whole thing. I think a lot of that had to do with I got to learn different areas, I got to grow in areas. I wasn't stagnated into "Here's your title of CFO," or whatever it was at the time, it's all kinds of different areas, and I think that benefited the company, too.
Jonathan Saar: Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. I love it. The culture just allowed you room to grow. What a critical element that is, if it is just this box where everybody's in. Statistically, we're seeing that, too. It doesn't matter what generation, I just think it's becoming more vocal now, where as new ones are coming into the job market, they don't want to be put into that box, but just to have an opportunity to expand and explore and just see what's available to them and the way education is being delivered. We're going to touch on that in a minute. We're going to get into some tech items I know that you have on your mind and how that really can facilitate that. That's amazing. Excellent.
Taking it to, let's say, someone that we have, people listening to this today, and maybe they're new to the industry, or maybe, again, maybe it's someone who's just, they're trying to really tweak their learning and development program, their training program. What would be your message to those who are like, "Okay, I know, here's the prerequisites"?
We know, we understand that you can't get away from it. There are things that need to be taken. It keeps the employee safe. It helps them perform their job better, but at the same time, what do you think a pro a program would look like to help someone expand their career and to make their program a little bit more dynamic and fluid? Any thoughts on that?
Sherle Brown: Yeah. I have this vision in my mind and I've had this vision for many years and I've seen parts of it done. I think there probably are companies now doing it. I've not seen it in absolute practice, but here's this vision: It starts off with the way each job is designed. You define each job and how it contributes to the company's purpose and the company's strategy back to the culture again. If somebody, say, is going to go into a community manager's job, for example, in property management, and is going to work for a company, we know of lots of different cultures within property management. You think about the culture of that company as well as the function of the community manager.
This job is defined that way so when they come in, here's this career path, and it includes things, like there are some basic things you need to know as a community manager. There are courses that you need to take for compliance. There are things that you can't do your job and do it well and not hurt other people if you don't know those things, so you start, but everybody has a different starting point. One person in the old days, somebody would walk in with 20 years experience, and they're like, "Okay, check all these boxes," and they would have to take hours of courses instead of, "They're at this level," and that's part of the identifying the competencies coming in.
Then the starting point becomes different with that person and then, in my vision, the person's direct supervisor, the learning and development professional and the employee start off at the very beginning with this defined position and what the company needs. They then work with that employee on where their knowledge and skills and abilities are as well as their interest in and where do they want to go in their career.
Some people, they're looking at the next level before they've done what they're supposed to do at this one, so we work with them with all that. You collaboratively work with, you set goals, and this is key, accountability with those. You build in these interim goals and rewards and celebrations along the way for meeting these different steps.
That requires some frequent interaction and frequent communication because what you start off with may not be anywhere close to where you end up because you've got a business with needs and you have people in those places that may change from where they were and companies that may change, so you have to be aware that you adjust along the way, but you don't let that, like, "We're just going to leave it alone," and then all this stuff changes. That doesn't work. It takes that commitment to that frequent interaction.
Jonathan Saar: That's awesome. Now, we get into technology. That's always one of the bigger questions overall. It's like, okay, we have a vision, we have all these ideas, we know how to be that mentor, be that coach, be that facilitator, organize the program. Where are we at today, Sherle? What technologies out there, what are some trends, and how does that make a learning and development program successful?
Sherle Brown: Well, the technology continues to improve, and that means that learning and development needs to be proactive in looking at where it's going and they need to put in things that work for that particular organization. Some of the trends that, and I'll talk about these jointly together, is I think we're seeing a lot of job redesign, upskilling, and reskilling.
I don't think I mentioned this before, and it's true in the L&D role, they need to be more strategic, more data-literate, more financial literacy involved with that. There are a lot of ways to do that with the technology that's coming up. Some of the basics that I would talk about are, I think, more of a cloud-based plugin, unplugged-type system instead of investing in expensive on-the-premises systems that require ongoing maintenance, constant attention. You need a whole department to even begin to do that, right?
Jonathan Saar: Right.
Sherle Brown: A lot of companies aren't able to do that well and if they make attempts at it, it's not the right way to go. Then we are seeing LMSs. When you and I first got to know each other, that was the big thing. It's still there's that need for that structure that we've talked about and keeping track of who's doing what and delivering content and all that.
They're evolving into what they call "LXPs," learning experience platforms. That becomes more of the user interaction with it: employees learning from each other, sharing information, making recommendations, more personalized delivery that wasn't even possible before. Oh, expand content, but it's not like you are sitting there delivering. I mean, that is like a rat race that won't end, constantly trying to keep all kinds of content updated. Instead, it's drawn from multiple sources with different libraries and in different forms.
Then we're starting to see some things with geo-fencing where I remember one of the things that I did in a lot of my positions was I would write policies and procedures for the entire organization. As a national company, you had to keep up with these constant changes of laws everywhere, which would be overwhelming. Then a lot of times, the easy way out was to make everybody in the company take courses that didn't necessarily apply to them or get into complicated, all this grouping on the LMS.
We're starting to be able to not have to do all that and make it more tailor-fit. That comes through geo-fencing, where you could go, if a law applies to a different area, then you would be able to get people up to speed on that, virtual reality and augmented reality interspersed with actually learning what you're really doing on the job.
Then I think one of the ones that I see a lot of potential with is that there's big data out there. We hear about that all the time until we get tired of hearing it, but at the same time, if you don't know how to use all that, if the information just sits around, it doesn't do you a whole lot of good. I think we're seeing that learning and development professionals need to know where do we use the technology and where can technology not do what humans can do.
I think there's more and more demand for being able to understand that, which means you need to understand the technology to a point and the picture of learning in general. In some of the ways I can see, practical ways of doing that, is the machine learning and artificial intelligence can go out with that big data that human brains cannot process all that and then take it in meaningful ways, measure things we can't measure, I think that's one of the ways of it, and then go in and maybe do more personalized experiences.
There was one thing, and I wish I could remember this a little bit better, but I just found it fascinating at the time. It's been a while since I read it, but the Navy, for example, did virtual mentoring or tutoring. I don't remember which one it was, but they actually worked in a controlled environment where one group were taught by really good mentors or tutors and the other group was taught by these machines and the ones taught by the machines, believe it or not, outperformed the human part. I would not have thought that would happen, but it did. That's a real story.
Jonathan Saar: Yeah. Wow, that's amazing.
Sherle Brown: I think on this is the microlearning, I think is learning a little bit at a time instead of sitting in a classroom for hours and hours and hours and then going back and being so stressed out about all the things you've got to do that you can't even focus on what you learned and you block it out of your mind after a while. It doesn't lead to longterm learning. I think the microlearning, which is learning in small little chunks at a time where it's more relevant and it's integrated into the work.
Some people are like, "Well, what is microlearning?" That's already explained what it is, but what it's not is it's not just a theory. It's not just a principle and it's not something that replaces the formal learning because as things get more complex, more complex skills, I need more than just little chunks here and there. I see it not as something that replaces, but something that supplements more formal or involved learning. It takes it to the next level because we forget most of what we've learned unless we apply it.
I know from experience and from teaching experience that repetition really, really enforces it. The more you're exposed to it, especially in practical ways and things that provide meaning and memory to it, makes a huge difference. All kinds of science supports that.
Jonathan Saar: Yeah, yeah. We can have another whole show just on that alone, right, Sherle? I mean there's so much thereon, even with technology. Still, we're talking about the delivery method, we're talking about, well, what does the content look like? Is the content interactive? Does it allow for visuals and games and things along that line? Those are all items that are just, yeah, another whole topic.
Something that you mentioned earlier, too, that caught my attention was just not getting overwhelmed with the data. What an amazing thought point that is. Here's why, here's my perspective on that: It just takes away from that, I believe you touched on this, it takes away from that opportunity to really get to know that learner, our employee as a person. You get so bogged down by numbers and by statistics and you really lose that personal touch. That's something that we definitely want to avoid.
Ironically enough, as systems progress, I think this is really, you and I were talking before the show, here's what we want our audience to understand: Be ahead. Don't be behind. 10, 15 years ago, that was a common discussion that we had was that property management is a little bit behind. Learning management systems have been around for many years now and we're just starting to opt into them. How crucial it is for our training department to really, let's forecast what is coming, what can we start implementing now, and how can we use technology to help cut costs, at the same time, not take away from that, that learning experience where it's just virtually taking everything over?
Last little thought, Sherle, before we wrap up the show: I think there were some elements in there about artificial intelligence. I'm going to go nerd for a minute here and dive into the learner experience. We know manually, from a manual perspective, how difficult it is. It's difficult as it is just to make a learning plan for a job title and then you're managing multiple employees who are coming in at different times; from a hiring, promoted. We got all that dynamic items that are taking place. That's difficult as it is.
Now, we're looking at the potential of bringing in multiple sources for an employee. Do you think that as AI, when it comes to learning and development, as it continues to progress, that we're going to start seeing more learning platforms, like how we experience things on something like Netflix, where Netflix just tells us what we probably would like to watch and they're usually pretty close? What are your thoughts on that?
Sherle Brown: I definitely think we're going to see more of that. I think it's got tremendous potential. I mean, if you think about it, that adaptive system that looks at as employees do things, those experiences that they do, and the system captures that, then it provides insights into their preferences and all this stuff in real-time, it is just so powerful.
One of the things I think is tremendous there is if you think not only can it go with where that employee is for this individual attention, it's got real meaning and real relevance and all that, but it can go to their learning styles. One of the first questions I ask every class that I teach at the beginning, my first day tries to get to know them better and one of my questions is their learning styles: What are obstacles for you for learning, what helps you learn, and all that, just trying to get that information with these classes I teach, which are going to be less than a hundred students can seem like a lot. You can imagine with organizations and all the stuff that goes on there, it's a whole different world.
It also even does things with people with disabilities. We think about it adapts to them. It adapts to people, like some of the stuff I've done in my life, I've been either older or younger than people, a different background than some of the people that I worked with, so having more of an individualized experience would have been great, or just your style, it makes a huge, huge difference, so the potential is there.
Now, with that said, and I do think it's going that way, there are a couple of things that need to happen to make it get where it needs to be. I think that will come fairly quickly, but we do need to give it some thought. One of them is employees are used to this, just like you've talked about what they're used to, it's this one-size-fits-all spoon-fed content-delivered approach. As crazy as it sounds, even if the learning and development people are all into proactiveness and looking at all this, they've still got the job that they've got to get the employees to understand it and to be bought into it then.
Jonathan Saar: Yeah, spot-on. Yeah, it won't be relevant whatsoever if we don't have some of the technology in place. It's there. There's some other things that we know are on the horizon that you and I've talked about. LinkedIn's already has had a platform for some time that is somewhat along those lines. We'll see that in our industry and I think it's going to really, really change the landscape of a person's education, how they are educating themselves, and how that experience, no matter what property management company they work for, it can be transferable. A lot to look forward to and a lot to really focus on right now so that we're prepped for what is coming in the near future.
Sherle, you mentioned a couple of things. I just want to tell our audience, we will have those items in the show notes. Sherle, if you can provide, you talked about McKinsey and you mentioned the story about the learning experience the Navy had performed. We'll make sure we have some context for everyone. You can take a look at that when you look at the show notes.
Sherle, it's been awesome to have you on the show today. What a wealth of insight. I know you and I, we can go on for the entire day deep-diving into some of these, the finer points of what we've discussed, but we've got to wrap the show up. Before we go, though, what one actionable tip could you share with our audience that has served you well as an educator?
Sherle Brown: Well, I hope this doesn't sound too cliche, but I do have a twist with it, and that is, I would say, be a lifelong learner who shares with others.
Jonathan Saar: I love it. Love it. Always give. Yeah, beautiful. Yeah, that resonates. Thank you for sharing that. Ladies and gentlemen, Sherle Brown, UGA professor, instructor, years in the industry. We appreciate having you on our show today for episode number three of JuvoHub. Sherle, we know you're an industry speaker. For those listening, if you're interested in having her speak to your group, your leadership conference, or any training that you have in mind for your team, what's the best way, Sherle, for people to connect with you? Is it okay to reach out on LinkedIn? Is that your preferred method?
Sherle Brown: Yes, that would be great.
Jonathan Saar: Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you again, Sherle. This has been an intriguing show. A lot to chew on and we look forward to having you again on future episodes. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you again. Thank you, Sherle, for being here with us and thank you for tuning into JuvoHub, our podcast. We look forward to seeing you on our next show.
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