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Talking with L&D Leaders: Strengthening Leadership & Avoiding Stale Thinking

An interview with Elena Ryabykh,

Learning and Development Specialist at High Liner Foods

Our interview with Elena Ryabykh underlines how training can bring out the best in employees and help companies thrive. As a part of her role, Ryabykh routinely leads the design, development, and implementation of leadership development programs, collaborates cross-functionally to make a broad impact across High Liner Foods and makes sure that workshops and learning sessions deliver. In her interview, you'll learn about what she thinks many companies get hung up on when it comes to the ideation process and the importance of making sure your process for coming up with fresh ideas isn't, well, stale.

1. Introduce yourself and tell me a little bit more about your role.

I love Learning and Development because it’s all about bringing value – to people and to the business. In my current role, I’m in charge of designing, developing, and implementing leadership development programs for our people leaders as well as various other L&D initiatives that support our drive for a continuous learning culture.

2. Describe how you feel learning and development within organizations has changed over the past year.

There is a big shift towards personalized and customized training and development – employees want learning opportunities that are tailored to their context and needs. This is also reflected in the fact that more personal and informal ways to learn, such as mentoring or communities of practice, are gaining traction too. Another tendency is the focus on leadership development. Organizations are recognizing that strong leadership is key to strong engagement and retention. It is also becoming clear that heavily relying on external talent is not the best strategy in the long run. The best leaders are those fostered within the company by supporting their career trajectories with relevant learning and development opportunities that bring value both to the employee and the organization.

3. In what ways do you feel teams have changed over the past year? How do you ensure collaboration and connection with your team and amongst your organization?

Hybrid has become the new normal for many organizations. While a hybrid model of working can offer the best of both worlds by combining the flexibility of remote working with opportunities for connections with the office model, it can be challenging to manage both for people leaders and employees. It’s important not only to have clear policies and procedures for a hybrid model, but also to support your people as they learn how to collaborate effectively in this environment. This support can be offered in the form of training, discussion groups, and tools and technology. But most importantly, collaboration should be at the core of the organization’s culture, and this can take time to nourish.

4. From your POV, what are some of the biggest challenges senior marketers face today?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge is actually the number and the range of challenges marketers have to face in the current environment. The world is becoming increasingly complex and the market follows. Companies need to be agile, think innovatively and be ready to take calculated risks. This of course means that they need a workforce that is ready to do all of that with passion and perseverance. People are key to success, and it’s important to nourish them.

5. What are 3 tips you have to get fresh ideas out of brainstorms and avoid stale thinking?

1) Make sure that your idea of the brainstorming process is not stale itself – brainstorming is not about stickers and flip charts.

2) Don’t expect your team to produce output without input. Our brain can generate amazing ideas if you feed it properly. To do that, explore different techniques that involve using stimulus and associations.

3) Leverage diversity. The more diverse your team is, the more likely you will have genuinely unique ideas.

6. How important do you feel creativity is as a soft skill?

Creativity has been one of the top soft skills for a few years now and rightfully so. However, it’s important to remember that creativity is coming up with ideas, but this is just the beginning. We need to implement these new ideas and this is called innovation. It’s important to have both creativity and innovation in your skills toolbox.

7. What do you feel is most difficult for organizations and why:

a. Identifying and prioritizing problems to solve

b. Generating and selecting top ideas/initiatives to pursue

c. Actioning on ideas

I would say that selecting top ideas/ initiatives to pursue can be a challenge. There’s rarely a lack of ideas, especially if the organization is listening to its employees. However, selecting ideas can be difficult, especially if there is no well-defined process and criteria for selection, which often is the case, unfortunately.

8. What are you excited most about for 2023?

Personally I am excited to see how the most recent technological innovations in the field of AI are going to change the market and us.

If you or your team are struggling with coming up with fresh ideas and avoiding stale thinking, take a look to see if The Garden's new professional development training is a fit.


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