Corporate Training & Fitness Training: Adrian Bartlett's Race to the Top

From entry-level trainer to Senior Director of Training & Development, Adrian Bartlett has had a fast-paced L&D career trajectory to the top. Leading a national fitness franchise's training, it's only been seven years since she started in L&D. Check out this episode for the details of her exciting journey.

Luis Malbas  
Hello, everybody, welcome to the training learning and development community. We have a great guest set up for this morning. recommendation from from Suzanne Erlich, who many of you may have seen in the DI event that we just produced a couple weeks ago or was it last week? I don't know what the holiday things have just like Time is moving really, really crazy for me right now. But Suzanne was an excellent guest, she and Michelle Bartlett. She they spoke at the DEI event. But Suzanne recommended Adrienne to come on to the broadcast, Adrienne sent me sort of a summary of her story. And like Suzanne had mentioned in her message to me it is a powerful one. And so I thought it'd be great to share with the community. And so that's what we're going to be talking about today. Before we get going, let me just say hi to a shout out to some of the folks that are already logged in. Cam and Lauren, Lisa's here, Molly, Danny, Damian Michelle. Camille, thanks for joining us. All right. So, Adrienne, we have 11 questions so far in the question, ask a question area. And we're going to just be going through those. It's basically a, you know, your summary that you sent me in email, I kind of created the questions from there. But you do have a really, really fascinating story. And let's start out with where we were talking a little bit in the green room about when you had started it. Can we mention it's your where you work at crunch fitness? Okay, great. Seven years ago, you started out you had a communications role just completely separate from lnd. Right. And then you saw like the you went through the onboarding journey, and you notice that there were some things you wanted to make some improvements on. But let's just talk about coming in, as you know, with a communications role, and then sort of how the lnd piece piqued your interest. Maybe you can start with that part of your journey.

Adrian Bartlett  
Yeah, of course. Yeah. And thank you guys for having me today. I'm super excited to be here. And I'm enjoying seeing all the comments in the chat box. But yeah, I started with crunch fitness. If any of you guys are familiar with the brand, we have 367 gyms worldwide currently started with them about seven years ago as a communications manager, which was basically policy writing a lot of operations manuals, construction manuals for our franchise owners, so that way, they would know exactly how to build and operate a gem. So as part of the onboarding process for those franchise owners, they had to fly to New York go to through a two day training in our corporate headquarters in our New York office. And as part of my onboarding, I went through that exact same training, and at the time that we were a very young company, so we didn't have anybody in that formal learning and development or training and development role. So the team members that came in presented were basically the subject matter expert, so there wasn't much behind the logistical planning of it. And I sat in that training, I thought, you know, this would be a really cool gig for me, I would love to do something like this. And just think about, you know, the atmosphere and the presentations and the breaks and the schedules and just make it a little bit more of a comfortable experience. And at the time, we also had a learning management system, it was we quickly outgrew that LMS, but I was responsible for managing that just from a user standpoint. But we had some challenges with that LMS, which I'm sure we'll get into it a little bit and where we're going with that now. But yeah, so basically brought it up to the EVP and said, hey, when the time's right, I would love to be in that position. And it took me about four years of persistence. But finally got into that back in 2019.

Luis Malbas  
Nice. So okay, so you started out you were doing communications, but were they kind of having you do some of the training stuff already? Is that how it work?

Adrian Bartlett  
Yeah, yeah. So I would help with that new franchise onboarding. We eventually moved that training class from New York to our home, our headquarters here in Jacksonville, Florida, where I'm located. So I did do a lot of the hosting of that event, making sure that their, you know, run of show was going smoothly, and then managing that the the small functions that we were doing with our LMS at that time, so yeah, I was kind of dabbling in it, but still had bigger responsibilities that I had to focus on at that time.

Yeah, yeah. Isn't that so interesting? Because I hear that from other people that have to manage LMS is there like, yeah, that, you know, they might be from another department, they might be from it, they might be from, from, from marketing, but they have to, you know, they're the ones responsible for, for for managing the LMS. And then eventually, the, the organization might migrate to a scenario where they actually have a formal LMS admin and, and all of that stuff. So with this onboarding program that you went through, you noticed that there were some things that you would probably change about it. Like what was it about the onboarding program that you felt like you could improve on? Yeah, I

think you know, at the time are only responsible was to, to train and onboard the franchise owners. So I think it was a lot of information that we were, you know, cramming into a two day session. And you know, not knowing anything about how adults like to learn, and neither theories at the time, I've just thought, you know, what if this was delivered over a period of time, so they could, you know, take some time to really absorb it, or deliver it at the key moments to where if there's, you know, if they're focusing on construction, why not just talk about only construction, and then branch into, you know, operations. So that was a piece of it. And, and then I think, you know, just the atmosphere in general is, you know, when you're when you can look at it from a learner's perspective, because I truly was a learner in that experience. And you know, if there's not enough breaks, or if the chairs are uncomfortable, or if your head has to turn this way to look at the screen the entire time, you know, it just it can be uncomfortable, and that becomes distracting. So just little things like that. But I mean, overall, at that time, given that we didn't have anybody in that position, I think, you know, crutched did an amazing job of delivering that content. Our franchisees have been extremely successful in it. But I definitely saw some room for improvement. That's cool. Now,

prior to your, you know, being at crunch fitness, had you ever done any training before? I mean, even in as a, as somebody that had some expertise with communications, was that something that you kind of had an affinity for, anyway? Or was this all kind of new to you?

Yeah, yeah, good question. So I definitely had a little bit of experience, just not in this formal type role that I'm in now. So many, many years ago, I worked for another franchise company for about seven years. And being that more senior leader at the time, I was responsible for all the onboarding of the new hires at a much, much smaller scale that I'm at currently, so But I enjoyed that I enjoyed helping people, I enjoy taking the information that I had, and bestowing that upon other people and watching them grow and watching them flourish. flourish. So I've always really enjoyed that aspect of it. I just didn't know that there was a whole world out there dedicated to that. So, you know, I wish they would have come to Career Day back in high school and talked about that a little bit more, because maybe I would have gotten involved much sooner.

Yeah, no, that's totally a great point. And and so when you were there, you had you know, you started you were interested in this role improving the onboarding program, and you started getting getting to be more like, you know, sort of rolling out into the l&d side of things more. Did they create a role for you? Do they actually like, say, hey, Adrian is here doing all of this stuff? It looks like maybe we have an l&d department in the making?

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It was a brand new roll brand new department. I think over the four years that I started with crunch, I was kind of in the ear of the EVP a little bit saying, you know, hey, when that time comes, I would love to do this, every six months or so we talk about it. And then we got to the point where, you know, crunch was growing rapidly. And still, they still are. And it got to the point where we needed to really scale this training and development, and we realized that EVP had, you know, the idea of, well, we can't just train the franchisees only, we really need to expand beyond that, and start training their their management team as well, because our franchise owners, they're multi gym owners, they're multi business owners. So it's really hard for them to take the training that we're delivering, and and turn that over to all of their team members. So I think once he had that idea of, we really need to scale this out, and we need to do it rapidly. So therefore, we need somebody and I was already, you know, managing the LMS and the in person training events, it just kind of made sense to move over into that brand new role brand new department.

Nice. So I am curious, you know, prior to actually being the forum, you know, formally like the l&d department, what was what was your job? Like, you know, you're responsible for communications, but then you were doing some training? Like, what, what, what was, what were like your tasks? And what were the types of things you had to do? Yeah, so

from the communication side, so So managing that process, like I mentioned, earlier, manuals, we were constantly reevaluating our manuals and our policies and working, you know, those drafts to for approval there. And, you know, another big piece of it was trying to maintain that LMS that we'd really outgrown. Therefore, it wasn't getting a lot of use, and it was a lot on on our small team to really manage it. So do our best to work with what we had in those moments. And then I was also in charge of a lot of operational projects. So if we wanted to roll out a new tool or a new system, that wasn't my area of expertise to know about those tools or systems, but I had developed some really great relationships with the other department heads or who are subject matter experts. So pulling together the right players, putting them together, setting some timelines and deadlines, and just making sure that we're following projects. all the way through. So that was a big component of my job prior to moving into l&d, which actually worked out really well, because that's a lot of what l&d is now is working with your knees and, and tying it all together and trying to get them, you know, to work on deadlines and things like that. So,

wow. So, yeah, ton of project management, it sounds like, you know, and, you know, like, Kim is saying, sounds like you've done some technical writing, you know, working in those manuals. That's, that's really, really impressive. Now, when you did decide, like, okay, here, you know, there's this lnd role that I could feel like, I mean, that I could fill, what what do you think you did to establish sort of the value of that role? Like, what? What kinds of things did you bring to the table where they're like, Okay, we definitely have something here, Adrian can pull this off. You know, let's, let's, let's make this happen.

Yeah, I, you know, I think I was, it was good in the sense that I worked so closely with the EVP who manages all the operations side of the business. Because I was able to work very closely with him and all the department heads on various projects and drive those to completion. I think that, you know, spoke well of my skill set my abilities. So I think it was just, you know, being really persistent and just reminding the team of what, you know, my goal is where I want to be what I want to do, and just, you know, really being persistent about it.

Because I guess what, what I'm asking is kind of like, you know, other instructional designers like say somebody else that might be in a position similar to yours. And they want to be able to, to, to sort of highlight what, you know, the value of what of having an instructional designer or an l&d professional at the business? Was there anything specifically that you're like, you know, if I do this, you will see x happen and that type of thing?

Yeah, I think using those skill sets and existing projects, right, it might not be super easy to get approval on, hey, I want to go and I want to create this eLearning course. And this is what it's going to take to be there. And this is the time and the money. And here's what we need for that, instead of using a component of that and tying it into an existing project. So if there's a deliverable, where you can showcase just a little piece of what maybe your writing skills are your, you know, authoring tool skills are and just incorporating that into something existing, just kind of sliding it in there without it taking up too much time, but to say, Hey, I've got this skill set. I'm passionate about it. I enjoy doing it. And here's what else I can do.

Yeah. So Danny has this great point in here, you saying building relationships matters? Sometimes that idea is lost in the day to day of l&d? How important was that for your role? Yeah, I maintain those relationships.

It's huge. I mean, I think you right now, one of our primary focuses for 2022 is building out new elearning content, we have this amazing learning management system that we just transitioned to over the past year. And now where our strong push is really taking our elearning content to the next level. And that means working with subject matter experts. I don't know the first thing about personal training or group fitness or, you know, front desk management. And our job, you know, typically in l&d is to bring all those resources together, pick their brains, and then put it on paper and then go out and create it. So I think building relationships does matter. I think, you know, I've been lucky to have some really great department heads that I work with very, very closely and have for several years now. And we have common respect for one another, and they know that I can't drive my projects forward without them. So I think they're compassionate towards that. And as long as I'm being realistic with timelines, knowing their busy schedules, we just have that mutual respect. And we're building great relationships because of that. So yeah, relationship building super huge with l&d.

How do you feel, um, I mean, is working with SMEs easy for you?

I think I've gotten lucky. I have some really great SMEs. And I've been working with them for so long now that, you know, we know how to operate with one another. I know who prefers email over phone calls. I know who prefers zoom over emails. So I just really know how to work with them. But I think in general, I mean, that's in any conference. I've been to any webinar. I think that question gets asked all the time is I can't get my SMEs to do you know this or to do that. And I think that is a challenge for everybody in the l&d world. So I mean, like we've been talking about build those relationships get make sure that you're understanding, you know, what it is that they have on their plate, they have a full time job, and sometimes, you know, pulling them to create some of these cool projects is just one more thing to put on their plate. So yeah, it can be challenging with their busy schedules, but I think you know, if it's handled properly, it can really help build those relationships and get the end result that you need.

Yeah, yeah, like Christiana saying cookies help with SMS to

smoothies in the fitness world. But yeah,

it's great. Exactly. So here you are. Now all of a sudden, you went from communications to lnd. From what I can see on your LinkedIn profile, you actually, at the time didn't have a formal background in instructional design or anything like that. But so is there anything What did you do to get yourself up to speed and, and training adult learners?

Yeah. So when I first got the news that, okay, we're gonna move you over to this department, and you've got all these objectives that you need to hit, I immediately went into panic mode of Oh, my goodness, I've been asking for this. And now I have it, and what do I what do I really know about any of this? You know, I think I could do things better. But can I really, so I started feeling that imposter syndrome, I felt like a fake for a while there. And so I panicked. And I immediately went to the internet and started Googling, you know, learning and development, training and development, corporate education, adult learning, and started following, you know, influencers in those areas, I started asking for the funds to go to training conferences, and really just absorb. And while doing that, you know, so making change in the business, I started small with our training classes, the things that I was already somewhat comfortable with. And now I had the keys of the kingdom to do what I wanted to do with it. So I started making those changes, while I focused on, you know, my own informal learning. So, informal learning was my first go to and then I decided to go back to school and get my Master's in educational technology, training and development, which I will be graduating in two weeks, and I'm so excited for that. Regulations. Thank you so much. The informal learning was was super huge to help me feel a little bit better and realize there's so many resources out there available. And if you want to know something, all you have to do is look for it.

Yeah, yeah, no, totally agree. So, imposter syndrome? Do you still feeling it? Or do you feel like you're over it?

Yeah. I feel like it comes and goes a little bit, I feel like in certain areas, and lnd, specifically, the live in person trainings, the virtual trainings, when we flipped to a pandemic world, you know, having to change all of that I feel really strongly in those areas, I feel confident, I've done a ton of research. I've watched other professionals and learn from them. But then there's other areas that creep up on me or new projects that I've not really had a large hand in, and I start to feel that same, you know, stress and that pressure of OH my gosh, you know, can I do this? Do I know what I'm talking about? So again, you know, I think a big piece of that is because we're focusing on elearning. That's something over the past six months to a year, I've really been educating myself on, you know, who are the players for elearning? Do we want to outsource the work? Do we want to bring somebody in full time I started talking to in networking with other team members, or other l&d professionals outside to see how did they do it when they were starting out building elearning content. So I think it's normal for everybody to feel that imposter syndrome periodically throughout that career. Because there's always going to be a new challenge or a new, you know, project that we're not super comfortable with. And it's just a matter of, you know, feeling that imposter syndrome is okay, but then what are you gonna do about it? You can't just live in that, right. So do your education and making sure that you don't feel like that for very long,

right. And I think, you know, Adrian, it's a powerful thing for you to say that just simply because you're a senior director of of training at a huge fitness, you know, company, I mean, I can't remember the number that you serve, but, I mean, we actually have crunch fitness locations nearby where I live. And so when I found out your credit, I'm like, Oh, my gosh, that is, you know, that is like, franchise, so I'm really, really impressed by that. But with the imposter syndrome, I almost like a lot of times I related a little bit to music, where I know where like, especially in jazz or you know, the, you know, the, the notes you want to hit, it's just filling in the blanks that you're not quite sure about, and that's where, you know, you get sort of that gray area. And but for the most part, everyone's just winging it, you know, with the punches. So, speaking of franchises, and franchisees, like what, what kind of challenges have you seen, like with rolling stuff out to, to those folks in particular?

Yeah, sorry, I think the franchise world is is very interesting in that we, the employees of the franchise owners, they're not our employees, we cannot force them to go through any particular training program. Now, our FTD you know, says that there's certain mandatory requirements and things like that, but that's definitely the challenging piece of it, we, you know, partnered with a brand new LMS company that we're super happy with so far. And we've been rolling that out over the past year tying it in with their payroll, the franchisees payroll company, so that way the employees automatically feed into the system, which was the challenge that we had in the past is it was up to the franchisee and their management team to manually add employees in the LMS. So we thought, you know, we can get everybody to complete their courses, because now we're automating that process. But it's, you know, it's not that simple. It's with it in the franchise world. You know, if you're in a typical corporate setting, you can just mandate that everybody has to go through these steps, they have to apply to these classes, they have to take these 10 elearning courses, they have to go through this coaching in this mentoring, you know, program, and we can build all of that, but not necessarily come, you know, make them come to it. So if you build it, they will come, it's not necessarily true in the franchise world. So trying to that's a challenge in itself, in the sense that we have to make sure that the content that the training materials that we're providing are valuable that the franchise owners see the value in it, the manager see the value in it, and they're trickling that down to the gym level employees as well. So that is definitely a challenge that we're still, you know, working through, as far as I'm, you know, making sure that all this great content that we're building, and we're creating is being utilized the way that it should,

is, is there a particular way that you're showcasing the value of that content?

Yeah, yeah. So we actually just rolled out our first brand new, we have approximately 85, elearning proprietary courses that we created over the past 10 years. They're a bit dated, they need to be revamped their, you know, strictly video, quiz, Video Quiz video plays, and we know that we want to change that and make them more interactive. So we partnered with an elearning company called Think up, and we just rolled out our very first interactive elearning course, we just rolled it out about two weeks ago. And, you know, we wanted to try a couple different things, you know, if we incentivize, does that help drive the adoption of and completion of that course, I know, there's a lot of studies out there that show, you know, people aren't necessarily extrinsically motivated, or intrinsically, it just depends. So we are, we do have a contest going out right now to see if that helps in any way. It might, it might not. And then we're also tracking, we need to prove the ROI on that new elearning content. So just having somebody go through the elearning contents never going to be enough. So we've partnered with a couple of our management teams who really do a great job of getting their teams to comply with the the onboarding program. So once they're done completing the elearning course, having those managers work with those individuals to reinforce that training, to prove, you know, does that help improve the sales in their gym? So we're starting to roll out different, you know, incentives, different ways to track ROI and prove that these new concepts and new projects that we're working on are working the way that we want them to?

Wow, that's great. Thanks for sharing that. I do have one nice question from Lauren here that's in the chat. And she's asking any advice on how to get any change process resistors to get on board and support implement your new progressive approach?

Yeah, yeah, that's a that's a tough one. And I have experienced that a few times where, you know, we want to say, hey, presenters, you know, we don't want to be talking heads, just chatting up people for an hour, right? We want to interact, we want to interact with the chat box. And we've had some people that have been a little bit more resistance. And I think it's because they're uncomfortable. It's it's new to them, they're used to presenting a certain way, or they think that this is what works, because it's just what they've always done. So inviting them to some of those experiences for the non change resistors, who are doing well with that you are exceeding if you can prove any ROI. If for instance, if it's a webinar, and you've got somebody who's extremely interactive with the chat box or doing trivia on there, are they getting higher numbers on their webinars? So inviting them to participate in some of those to see the value and I think would be a great idea for that.

Great, great, excellent. Um, let's see. Yeah, Kim's asking using x x API to track any ROI or do you use any tools like that?

Not yet. No. So we are still in the very early stages of just getting the the payroll integration set up to get all of those learners into our platform. So we just finished that project. And now we're starting to kind of tap into Okay, well, now what now we want to build the elearning content. And it's really hard to track the ROI and until we have a good amount of content to show that okay, well if I have a new front end past employee, and they have to take these five courses, if they do it in this timeframe, is it helping them feel more competent at the front desk with answering telephone calls or, you know, greeting guests and converting them into a new member. So we just don't have the content there yet to really invest in a reporting, you know, analytic software or anything like that. But it's something that's on our radar for hopefully 2023.

Yeah, it seems like that would be huge project to just being able to integrate something like that into into what you're doing. But, you know, if it was something you did it be super useful for sure. All right, just a few more questions here. And then we'll wrap up, if if you could redo sort of this, this crazy, fast paced, LMD journey that you've had, if you could redo it, again, anything you change over the last seven years,

oh, um, I would say, the change for the past seven years, I would say I would probably invest in myself a lot sooner when it comes to, you know, formal and informal, you know, I did start my college experience way later than that I typically would have liked to. So I think maybe starting that a lot sooner had I known about LMD, I would have started that sooner. And maybe I would have changed my, my major for my bachelor's. And so I think investing in myself a little bit sooner, and then also just opening myself up to the informal learning world too, because I think, you know, though, I got a lot out of my formal education, I got so much, you know, maybe even more in my informal learning as well, just networking with people, you know, through LinkedIn, and different blogs, and then just attending webinars, attending conferences, I would have liked to have done that a lot sooner than I think I would have been a little bit further along or had a little bit more, you know, have the tools in the tool belt.

Nice. Now, there was this question that I thought of, I don't have it in the list here. But there was this point where, after you had sort of, you know, gone in, and you you decided you wanted to do this, and you got the lnd position. But then in your summer, you'd said, Oh, no, what have I done? Like, you were like, Oh, am I in over my head? How did you navigate that? Like, how did you Was there anything in particular that you, you know, that you sort of did to to stay ambition? ambitious, and just like, continue to progress?

Yeah, I think, you know, when that panic set in, it was okay, I, you know, I think I know what I need to do to improve this system, or to change this over here. But I don't feel super confident saying that. So I wanted to go and find the information to back up my thoughts and backup my ideas. And so just jumping in there attending the webinars, going to the training conferences, learning from other people from the veterans in the industry. And what I was learning is that, you know, my natural intuition was, was pretty spot on with with most things. Whereas there's other things, you know, I was just way off, way off on, but then also trial and error. You know, just because there's proven theories out there doesn't mean that it's always going to work for this exact, you know, circumstance. So there was a lot of trial and error and things that we did, so doing surveys, getting feedback from our participants, putting myself and putting various internal team members in the seats of the learners and having them provide feedback. So we were getting feedback from multiple angles to make sure that, you know, just because I believe it's true, doesn't make it true. I wanted to hear that from other people and and then tweak it if need be. So

it feels like you're, you know, your communications background is really kind of helped your your role in l&d Because it sounds like you're, you know, you're always like looking for data and trying to find information from people. So that's been really, really helpful. What is your biggest challenge right now, going forward? Is there anything that you can share with us?

Yeah, yes, I would say bandwidth is and I think everybody experiences that. Right now. You know, we are a very, very small team. There's only three of us in our l&d department, and one of those team members was just brought on, I would say about five months ago. And so to do all of these things are so many different moving parts. We have 16,000 learners in our LMS platform. Outside of that we've got ongoing webinars, we've got in person training classes, we're building a state of the art National Training Center in Jacksonville. So and then, of course, the elearning. That's no small, small task right there. We've got five elearning courses that are in the works to be developed and completed in March. So just with that small team, a new LMS I think that we do struggle to keep up with the workload. But help is on the way we are building our team for 2022 and adding a couple new positions on it. So shameless plug I am hiring for positions right now. But help is on the way. And I think that, you know, I'm excited for that. But we are growing as a company so rapidly that I do feel like with any other company, you know, as soon as you hire two more people, you need three more, and then you need six more. So we're just growing so quickly here, I think bandwidth will always be, you know, somewhat of a challenge, but with the right team members who are passionate and excited about, you know, all these cool things that we're getting to do, it's definitely feasible to get it all done.

Love it. No, that's great. One last question. You can go back seven years, and you could give yourself some advice, what would it be?

Um, so I think just investing into my, you know, education into my career goals, educating myself on what jobs are out there, and not just sticking to oh, this, you know, fell into my lap, and this is what I supposed to be doing for the rest of my life. You know, I think had I stumbled into l&d Much, much sooner, I would have, you know, fell in love with it back then. Just like I did now, and but a little bit further along in my journey. But, um, yeah, I think just just believing in yourself, too, I think is is a huge piece of it, because that imposter syndrome does creep up. And when it does, we need to understand that. Okay, that's true, that's valid, but I'm capable of more than what I'm doing right now. So let me push that aside. Let me educate myself. And let me tackle this.

Yeah. No, that's great. Adrian, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today. This is great. I know that it'll be helpful for other listeners out there for people that will be viewing like the YouTube video or the podcast. And, and it's very generous of you to take the time out to share with CLDC so I really appreciate it. If there's anything that the community can do for you or you know, whatever, hit us up, we are on slack at TLD That CLDC comm send me a message post in the slack group. Just let us know if we can help you at all. Adrian, it's great to to hear your story. And thank you so much for sharing with us.

Awesome. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I'm enjoyed seeing the comments in the chat box and hopefully connecting with you all soon. So thanks. Alright, appreciate it.

Yeah, absolutely. Okay, good luck, and we'll see everybody next time. I think what do we have? Oh, tomorrow we have a member showcase with Bobby Lucy Vernon. So we'll be talking to her tomorrow. I early one 7am Pacific time. 10am. Eastern. And so hopefully we'll see everybody then. Thanks again. Adrian. We'll see you later. Bye bye.

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