To support learning in our rapidly changing, complex world, organizational leaders need to be innovative and work together to develop new ideas. The Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) recognizes this need and has acted as an incubator for new ideas in a range of areas, including professional education.
As Chief Learning Director at ICPAS, Ralph Gaillard has supported the organization’s efforts by creating a learner-centered approach for members while simultaneously taking a team-centered, servant approach as a leader – a topic he will be speaking about at our upcoming Leading Learning Symposium.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa talks with Ralph about a range of topics including ICPAS’ “learner first” strategy, his role as chief learning director, and what they are doing to measure the impact of their educational offerings.
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Read the Show Notes
[00:20] – A reminder to check out the Leading Learning Symposium, an event designed specifically for senior leaders at organizations in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development. The symposium takes place this year on October 24-25 in Baltimore, Maryland.
[01:25] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Celisa interviews Ralph Gaillard, Chief Learning Director at the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) and a member of the faculty for the Leading Learning Symposium.
[02:54] – Introduction to Ralph and some background information about ICPAS and his role there.
[04:10] – Todd Shapiro, CEO of the ICPAS, was recently named to AccountingToday Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Most Influential People, and in awarding the honor, they cited Shapiro’s use of the ICPAS as an incubator for new ideas in a range of areas, including professional education. Where do learning and education fit in with ICPAS’s overall strategy? Ralph shares how under Todd’s leadership, they have been able to offer a template for other state CPA societies to serve as incubators for new ideas. He explains how as a result of this opportunity to be innovative, his team was able to create the “learner first” strategy, designed for two purposes: to serve as the member’s lifelong learning partner and to make sure the classroom environment is designed in such a way that it is engages learners.
[06:49] – “Chief Learning Director” isn’t a particularly common title. What does having that title mean to you within the organization, and what do you think that title signals to others outside the organization? Ralph thinks it sends a message to their members that they are taking learning and education seriously. It demonstrates that his primary focus isn’t just around making sure they get CPE hours, but rather, his job is to make sure members have the necessary skills, information and knowledge to help them be better at their jobs – something he recommends other state CPA society leaders focus on.
[08:35] – Further discussion about the value in taking a learner/learning centered approach and how that serves as an important differentiator and offer a competitive advantage.
[09:41] – You’re going to facilitate a session at the Leading Learning Symposium in October that centers around servant leadership. In your experience working at ICPAS and other organizations, what have you learned about what it takes to effectively lead an education team? Ralph describes the current environment we are in using the acronym, VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity). He says it is particularly difficult for learning leaders to try and navigate this and although they have been able to act as an incubator for new ideas, it takes a great deal of work. The rationale behind servant leadership is we spend a lot of time talking about what will disrupt/be the next big thing in learning, but not enough time talking about the people behind the scenes who have to bring about that change. Servant leadership says it’s not about the leader but about the actual staff member and making sure you tap into their talents.
[12:30] – For those podcast listeners who will attend the symposium, what should they expect from you in the classroom as far as style? Ralph emphasizes that it’s all about the learner and attendees should expect to be very active and to learn while having fun.
[14:39] – ICPAS has a pretty robust education offering—in your role overseeing the strategic development and management of all of this, what have you learned/what insights have you had? Ralph talks about his wide range of experiences over 20 years in the learning development field. He says what astounds him is that every audience is different in how you market to them, how they respond to promotional offers, as well as how they learn and there is no magic bullet. The other thing that has surprised him at ICPAS is the embrace of online self-study and he shares the reasons behind this.
[18:24] – How do you go about measuring the impact of the education and learning that you offer? Ralph explains that one way of measurement is based on strict financial goals but if you focus on the learner, you would look to see if the learning is helping the person be better at their job. With over 23,000 learners this is difficult but he can focus on slowly changing the current evaluation structure they have. They have been using the research of Dr. Will Thalheimer to help transform their smiley sheet evaluation into a performance-based assessment (see our recent podcast with Dr. Will Thalheimer to learn more).
[21:27] – What’s happening in learning these days that’s exciting to you? Is there a particular trend or a development you find yourself really drawn toward? Ralph shares that he is at a point in his life where he believes he can throw everything he knows about learning and development out the window and start over. This is because we are at a point where all things are possible due to the current disruptive environment (VUCA) and people are hungry for help with skills, knowledge, and content that will help them do a better job. He adds that we are at a point in time where the idea of lifelong learning is finally “a thing”. Ralph references data in a study that came out from the PEW research center, Lifelong Learning and Technology which showed that about 73% of adults view themselves as lifelong learners (see our podcast interview with John Horrigan, senior researcher at Pew Research Center, to learn more about the report). He adds that he is excited about the potential of virtual reality in the area of learning and development. (This was a topic at Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD). See Celisa’s related blog post: IoT, AI, and VR: Cutting-Edge Technologies That Will Irrevocably Change How We Learn.
[24:37] – What are some of your own lifelong learning habits? Ralph shares that it is about maintaining his curiosity. One of the ways he does this is by regularly reading the NY Times, taking notes on what he’s read as it relates to his job, and then doing research on learning and development trends. He also takes courses and attends conferences (such as the Leading Learning Symposium where he will also facilitate a session). He emphasizes the importance of building in time to do these things.
[26:29] – How to connect with Ralph and ICPAS:
ICPAS Website – https://www.icpas.org/
[27:20] – Wrap-Up
A reminder to check out the Leading Learning Symposium.
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[28:54]- Sign off