Topgolf: Becoming The Superhero of Change

With more than 40 venues worldwide serving more than 13 million guests annually and the world’s largest digital golf audience, Topgolf has become a go-to destination for fun. It is the only entertainment experience of its kind, offering golfing games for all ages and skill levels paired with food, drinks, big screen TVs, and music.

Today, Topgolf continues to blend technology and entertainment, golfers and non-golfers, children and adults – to create an experience that makes socializing a sport for everyone. Topgolf prides itself as “Superhero’s of change and never victims of it.” The organization is built to always be flexible and agile in order to be able to evolve swiftly .

In today’s digital world the age of continuous learning is forcing business models to adapt. Employees can now take on new information in bite-sized chunks, as opposed to traditional classroom learning, which often leads to rapid forgetfulness among trainees.
With micro-learning; employees can learn quickly, put it into practice, get immediate feedback, and then get back to learning more. It is a cycle that keeps forward-thinking companies at the edge, and greatly improves retention of knowledge.

Training in the workplace – especially workplaces increasingly defined by technology and digital innovation – needs to change. Only by making each employee an expert, always learning and always looking for what’s next, will companies have the best chance of remaining competitive and safeguarding future success.
I had the opportunity to chat with Keith Meyerson, Senior Director of Training and Development at Topgolf to get his thoughts on tomorrow’s learning and development landscape.

Tell us more about Topgolf’s unique training strategies that keep the company agile and progressive?
Our core values are embedded into all of our teachings – these include “Caring, One Team, Fun, Edgy, Spirit, and Excellence.” Unlike any other brand I’ve been associated with, these values permeate every aspect of our operations – from our recruitment events to our training to our performance management process.

In our classroom events, it’s not uncommon to see facilitators dressed up in tiaras and tutus, and that’s just the guys. Fun is an instrumental part of our learning process. We use it as a way to engage our learners so they aren’t even aware that they are learning – they’re just having fun. One simple example is a scavenger hunt that occurs outside of the classroom. We strategically remove items from our tee-line (bays and tables) or re-arrange items such as switching the position or number of sugar substitutes on the tables. This may seem simple – but the placement is critical so that our visually impaired Guests know where the “sweet n-low” will always be found. This simple, fun game is an effective way to train our learners to spot what is out of place and how to correct it.

Another example is our heavy focus on One Team. This means that everyone is expected to help and pitch in. My very first observation of this was when a colleague was taking me on a venue tour and instead of taking a direct route through the lower dining area to the offices, we were delayed as she was focused on straightening chairs and picking up loose straw wrappers along the way. This simple show of empathy and support struck me and we incorporate these strategies into our programs. Aside from being the right thing to do, think about the efficiencies gained, as well as the labor and guest impact from an engaged and committed workforce that strives to make things easier and better for their colleagues.

What do you think learning and development will look like in 2020 and what are some of the best ways to prepare your organization now?
Performance support and instant access to information required to perform our jobs. Not necessarily micro-learning for all business needs – but less focus on formal programs and more access to Youtube style video chunks as well as peer-peer social learning and instant access to learning objects.

What do you feel is the biggest innovation in learning and development thus far?
The move to content on-demand. Access to information as the learner requires it rather than the need to schedule formal classroom attendance.

What do you think will be the ‘next big thing’ in learning and development?
Predictive analytics, Machine Learning, and AI. Being able to access content based on other learner’s profiles. Or access content based on data analytics that follows the progression of those with similar interests or career path.

What do you see as one of the biggest challenges that learning professionals will face this year?
Well, as my former consultant-self would say, that depends. There is a huge disparity in the maturity of learning organizations. From building programs to leveraging Machine Learning, organizations are on a broad spectrum in their evolution. I find one of the most common challenges is helping organizations understand the value of training. I’m hopeful most of us have moved well beyond level 1 metrics at this point. But I still see colleagues struggling with aligning programs to business metrics. And in fairness, a lot of this is due to the rapid pace of requests and the lack of understanding of when training is the correct intervention. I’ve found that focusing on 2 things will help with the business case of learning:

Firstly, separating symptoms from problems. Internal clients often like to leverage training programs to address symptoms. As an example – having an attrition rate of 75% is not a problem, it is a symptom of other problems. Additionally, we need to provide holistic solutions to these issues – not throw a training band-aid on them. If we continue to address the symptoms – we will constantly fail and often be blamed. Topgolf: Becoming The Superhero of Change.Second, we really should discuss learning as part of performance and OD, not as a standalone discipline. I can train people all day every day and even test to 100% retention. But if there isn’t reinforcement or accountability, then the training doesn’t become muscle memory. As an example, I could train every one of you to pour a perfect beer. But will you continue to do that at 9pm on a Saturday when the bar is rocking and people are standing 3 deep screaming for their drinks? Training shouldn’t be about knowing HOW to perform a task, it shouldn’t even be just about the ABILITY to perform the task, it should be about consistently applying that knowledge in a sustainable manner that positively impacts the business.

In conclusion learning professionals must address their own knowledge and practice, and to upskill and reskill themselves. They need to make sure they have the skills to listen, observe, question and reflect how learning can best support the delivery of organizational goals. They need to understand where and how learners are learning, and to understand the potential for all the different forms and channels for learning, as well as when to create and when to curate. They must be role models in the new learning agenda where close alignment to the business operation must be the norm. In this drive for innovation and change, The Chief Learning Officer, Spring will be the executive meeting place for learning and development professionals taking place on May 15th-17th in San Francisco. Join us and explore what is needed to drive the workforce of the future


Hannah Mitchell
Content Director CLO Forum

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