• Tess Manning

Moving from Mandatory to a Moment of Learning

Updated: Sep 1

Ethena attended and hosted several panels at this year's ASU/GSV Summit and walked away with some insightful advice. Below are our key takeaways.

From Left to Right: Tess Manning, Greg Giangrande, and Jonathan McBride at Ethena's recent panel

The annual ASU+GSV Summit brings together ~5,000 changemakers across education and workforce learning. Leaders gathered in San Diego this August to share emerging technologies and design strategies for inclusive and effective learning programs.


You guessed it! The Ethena team was there in full force. We met creative and passionate Learning & Talent leaders. Our CEO, Roxanne Petraeus, led an inspiring fireside chat with Chanel Miller (author of Know My Name: A Memoir). Our Head of Enterprise Sales, Tess Manning, who loves a stage, hosted a handful of provocative panels.


One of our favorite panels was Moving Beyond "Check the Box" – Workforce Training Driving Real Behavior Change. Tess invited two incredible panelists:

  1. Jonathan McBride: the former Global Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Blackrock and current Berkeley Haas lecturer.

  2. Greg Giangrande: the Chief People Officer of Ellucian and formerly of Time, News Corp, McKinsey, and more.

The conversation danced between understanding current issues with mandatory training, reframing training as an opportunity to build a learning culture, and designing for employee experience and impact.


If there’s one guiding principle to takeaway for company leaders it’s this line from Greg:

Never do anything that you wouldn’t want to be above the fold in the New York Times. Behave as if everyone is watching.

Now how do you convince your entire organization to adopt the same philosophy?


Take a look below for some of our key takeaways from this panel in particular.

Scroll to the bottom of this article to see the full panel recording!


“Traditional” mandatory training kills learning culture and wastes money. But . . . it doesn’t have to!

  • “There’s a whole feeling around required training,” Greg explained. Companies typically train their employees to limit liability and feel good that they’ve checked a box. It’s often mandated because something bad happened or there are performative gains. However, this shifts the focus away from continuous learning and personal/career development and puts employee learning into a box.

  • There’s an assumption that if something is mandatory, people will pay less attention. This doesn’t have to be true. Jonathan pointed out that there are some things you must learn if other people’s careers are in your hands (harassment prevention, new manager training, etc.). Make them great experiences.

  • Jonathan: Centralize, simplify, and sequence training. Training overwhelms people. We throw a lot at people with lots of things to do. Science tells us that we learn with digestible bits and by focusing on one topic at a time.

Build with the lens of your employees as “customers” and measure impact.

  • Your expectation can’t be that everyone is going to love your training. Treat your employees as you would your customers. Get enough people who like the training to give you a high NPS (Net Promoter Score) and they will influence the next group. Big changes will follow.

  • Greg: There’s never follow-up on tracking how effective training is. For example: the world spends billions of dollars on manager training but on average only 35% of people are satisfied with their managers.

  • At BlackRock, Jonathan explained, feedback directed down the ladder usually exists but feedback directed up to leadership rarely does. If you hear from someone lower that your program was great, it’s a huge way to validate it and change org-wide behavior.

Training is a great opportunity to reinforce and cultivate a culture of continuous learning.

  • Spend time understanding the company culture and what is rewarded. Training should map to this and the internal language.

  • Not enough companies are excellent at creating a learning culture, Greg observed. It’s important to recognize and reward people who say “I need and want to learn more.” Companies want to help people navigate their careers and fill skill gaps. Right now, people are scared because it seems like gaps are growing and they’ll be replaced.

Change Management starts with changing people’s hearts and minds. And sometimes even their role.

  • Greg: Companies don’t go through a large change management program successfully because it lives only on the wall. The fastest way to change the culture is to change the people!

  • Jonathan: There’s no way to incentivize change other than storytelling. This is true with many tenured people at BlackRock. Address the people who aren’t going to “get it” first and see if it can work. They know deep-down what needs to change and want to know if you have the guts to call it out.


Special thanks to GSV for hosting the annual ASU + GSV Summit, and Jonathan and Greg for taking the time to share their wisdom and humor.


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Latham & Watkins wrote about our unique and effective approach to harassment prevention. It’s less boring than it sounds!

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A company using Ethena could reasonably expect to face fewer enforcement actions and to be less vulnerable to liability for sexual harassment."

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