We talk with our colleagues about their background in learning and development, the Xprtise projects that make them proud and their vision on the biggest challenges in learning & development in the coming years. This time it’s our Global Project Manager Paul Martens’ turn. Paul emigrated to America in the summer of 2019, for love. He joined Xprtise USA in March and as Global Project Manager is responsible for many large accounts in the USA including Colgate-Palmolive.
Who? Paul Martens (41).
What? Global Project Manager at Xprtise since March 2020.
Where? Xprtise USA, Texas.
In the summer of 2019, I moved from Breda, NL to the United States, all for love. I decided to leave my job as a Continuous Improvement Advisor at Netherlands Social Insurance Bank (SVB), sell my belongings, and emigrate to California to be closer to my girlfriend. Now, a year down the line, we are married, we’ve moved to Texas and I’ve started working with Xprtise. We moved to Texas last month because life in Santa Monica is very, very expensive and the prices for an apartment were skyrocketing. We now have a house with a lot of space, and the bonus of reducing the time difference to the Netherlands from nine hours, to ‘only’ seven hours. This helps me to keep in touch with my colleagues in ‘s Hertogenbosch.
In the Netherlands, I was employed by the Ministry of Defense for almost 21 years. For four of those, I was a Senior Trainer of decision-making processes and military tactics. Regular drills, practices and training are indispensable tools in any defense strategy. Developing your people is key. I found that very interesting so started to focus more and more on the Continuous Learning & Improvement side. How to tighten and improve processes, how to increase the quality and employability of operational units. When I joined the Social Insurance Bank, I also carried on with Lean Management. That’s where I first met Xprtise who was engaged in delivering a workplace learning project. Quite a big jump, to later be working with Xprtise in America you might say, but it turned out to be a very good match. I now work daily with colleagues Greg Groce and Dave Groce and have almost daily contact with my colleagues in the Netherlands. Due to the corona situation, we’ve not yet been in the office together, but hopefully, that will change soon.
What gives you the most energy? What’s your passion?
I’m a people-oriented person. I get most energy being with and being in contact with, people. A working environment that fosters the spirit of cooperation and helping others, is crucial for me. Leadership is a passion of mine and I like to work with people on their personal development. Because of the corona situation and the obligation to work from home, I notice this has become harder: less interaction, no small talk at the coffee machine, or a walk at lunch. We are less connected to each other. Whereas some people like to work from home, I prefer to physically go to colleagues. As I started at Xprtise exactly at the beginning of the lockdown I’ve not yet met all my colleagues in person. I’m really looking forward to that.
“In the end, it’s not about you as a leader, but about performing better as a team, so that overall performance gets far better.”
What makes the field of Learning & Development so interesting for you?
When I think of Learning & Development, it’s all about the people doing the work. Although I find the topic of leadership very interesting, I want to focus more on the employee. No matter what solutions we provide, the person has to benefit from it. He or she is the one who applies knowledge to the (often primary) work processes. You can introduce a heavy layer of management, but if the employee doesn’t benefit from it, you completely miss the mark. Unfortunately, I notice that not every executive thinks like this. More often they are concerned with reaching their own KPIs, what is good for the business, and what is good for their own promotion. That’s why we need to take a closer look at this with workplace learning. In the end, it’s not about you as a leader, but about performing better as a team, so that overall performance gets far better.
What makes Xprtise unique to you?
The distinction of Xprtise is in their method and mindset. By method, I mean the 5 Moments of Need™ methodology which is fully embraced, and you see it in every project. I myself have been following the 5 Moments of Need™ Designer Certificate Program over the past few months. I have been learning the ins and outs of the methodology and been working with customer participants on building their own performance support solutions. I fully believe in this methodology! It ensures that learning and development within organizations is really effective.
By mindset, I mean the flexible mindset of the Xprtise team. The project at Erasmus MC is a good example of this. In one working week, an online portal was set up where Erasmus MC and non- Erasmus MC healthcare professionals can refresh their skills and receive new information about COVID-19. Working as one team they managed to set up a complete performance support solution in a very short amount of time. This can-do, flexible mindset really distinguishes Xprtise from other companies.
We all recognize the problem. An organization may have a lot of information available. But where do we find the right information? I also have experienced SharePoint bulging with manuals, technical documents, call reports, and other documentation. It was a maze sometimes. That’s when you get people out of their flow. You spend a lot of time trying to find the right information you need at that moment. We have helped many companies with our intuitive methodology that makes the information as lean as possible and quickly available to people while they work. This demands a new way of looking at Learning & Development. Less training in a classroom, less e-learning, and more in the workplace, while people are working. Where you learn most of it! And if you can also be supported with a nice performance support platform, then I get very excited about that and would want to share that with every organization.
“You learn most of it, by doing it! And if you can also be supported with a nice performance support platform, then I get very excited about that and would want to share that with every organization.”
You work with many Xprtise customers. Can you tell us which project you are most proud of?
At the moment, three-quarters of my customer-work is with Colgate-Palmolive. By implementing workflow learning Colgate has been gradually introducing its employees to the benefits of task-based information. The way they’re training their operators is shifting. Now operators have access to an AskDelphi Performance Support solution on the line and get information on what they need, in just a couple of clicks. Colgate has seen marked improvements in their plant productivity KPIs. The scale and impact of the work at Colgate-Palmolive make me very proud.
Another of my customers is WorldBook, where I have recently taken up the reins as Project Manager. This is a great digital agency for elementary schools in America. On this project, we work with the Drillster Adaptive Learning technology. By the end of the summer, we will have worked all content into drills. This is an exciting project, with a novel, engaging but effective method of learning that also makes me proud.
What do you think are the biggest challenges in L&D in the coming years?
The amount of information within companies is growing tremendously. The corona situation, compulsory working from home and all the measures around it, ensures that this continues to increase. It is important to keep internal information-provision clear, a big challenge for many companies! It’s also a challenge to keep the human factor in it. Especially now that the mobility of employees is decreasing, and we are working more and more remotely. Employees miss the chats at the coffee machine, or a supervisor’s pat on the back when they’ve done something right. Learning is also about sharing experiences and learning from each other. I think we should all make sure that the human aspect does not disappear everywhere, but particularly so within Learning & Development.