Around the Bonfyre: Sauntura Jones Shares Perspectives on Manager Enablement - Bonfyre

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Around the Bonfyre: Sauntura Jones Shares Perspectives on Manager Enablement

6 min

Sauntura Jones is a Sr. Sales Enablement Manager at Amazon Web Services, leading revenue-driven initiatives. Her strategic impact extends to the Gen AI team, contributing to key program launches and imparting executive presence skills. Here, she addresses the challenge of establishing self-service capabilities at AWS, positioning them within the organizational learning center. 

Tell us about your role with AWS?

I’m focused on supporting frontline managers responsible for cloud service sales globally. My role involves assisting people managers tied to quota-holding sales teams across the globe. I also support AWS Gen AI Strategic teams with innovative customer centric products. AWS faces the challenge of enabling self-service without excessive curation. My focus is on training individuals to be the experts in the room.

Tell us about your L+D tech stack?

Our Learning and Development tech stack is diverse, with multiple Learning Management Systems (LMS) like SharePoint, Salesforce, and Cornerstone. We’re empowered to address issues proactively, fostering a culture of content creation by both the L&D team and sales managers/reps. It’s like a buffet, and my role involves curating the menu. We utilize internal video and podcasting platforms, allowing anyone to create content in just 10 minutes. However, the challenge is ensuring clarity for learners, as content isn’t consistently sponsored by the enablement team.

The use of podcasts, videos, internal conferences, and in-depth discussions via platforms like Slack is common. With the rise of Gen AI, there’s a trend of creating content based on the latest prompts. Coming from a background at US Bank, where there was one LMS, the Amazon environment offers a variety of options for everything, including instant messaging tools like Chime, Slack, and Discord.

How do you overcome that fragmentation?

To overcome fragmentation, we stay closely connected to our customer base, organizing teams around specific industries or program areas. These teams develop their own identity, and we link an enablement team or leader to each specialization. Constant communication with customers helps us avoid feeling like a distant entity. My focus, especially in North America, involves using quick tools within the flow of work to support sales managers so they can invent on behalf of our customers..

Regular surveys and content analysis provide insights, allowing us to understand needs and trends. In the past, our emphasis on emotional intelligence (EQ) led to the creation of an Emotional Intelligence University. Projects, like teaching empathy and active listening during the shift to virtual teams post-COVID, evolved into specialized centers of excellence (COEs). We adapt based on feedback, creating subject matter experts (SMEs) around successful concepts.

Our approach involves testing and piloting initiatives, like a role-specific coaching program initiated after a survey highlighted coaching as a key learning opportunity for the field. If the results are promising, we allocate resources and empower teams to become experts, fostering intentional growth. This iterative process aligns with our buffet-style learning strategy.

What are your company goals for 2024?

Our company is focusing on the significant initiative of GEN AI, navigating the early stages and understanding the learning challenges associated with the massive transformation ahead. With AWS evolving from tech-centric origins to engaging with a broader audience, my key goal is upskilling our salesforce to excel in business-focused conversations, considering the shift away from exclusively technical discussions.

Behavior nudging is another priority, although its effectiveness is still under evaluation. Internal tools facilitate in-the-flow-of-work support, and much of the training I create emphasizes behavioral changes. We’re working on measuring progress through surveys, pipeline data, and self-reporting, adapting to higher survey response expectations compared to traditional benchmarks.

The virtual learning landscape underwent a substantial shift in 2020, as AWS transitioned from predominantly in-person training to virtual formats. Overcoming initial challenges, we embraced e-learning, utilizing various vendors and incorporating virtual facilitation. This adaptation is vital as we navigate the hybrid work environment, balancing the benefits of remote work with maintaining a strong organizational culture. Ensuring inclusivity for those working remotely while addressing cultural considerations is a key aspect of our strategy.

How do you make virtual learning successful?

To make virtual learning successful, we prioritize smaller classes for effective engagement, emphasizing cohort learning. For larger classes, fostering connections within the cohort and ensuring follow-up is crucial. Slack serves as a valuable tool, providing dedicated channels for communication and constant reminders.

Co-creation is emphasized, offering opportunities for participants to take ownership, provide feedback, and co-create in real time. While incorporating AI into Learning and Development, we remain cautious, ensuring it complements rather than replaces human expertise. AI can expedite processes, but we emphasize training the computer with good data.

The concept of social learning and content is intriguing. We explore the potential of fostering a learning environment within the flow of work and examining what peer-to-peer and social learning looks like. The discrepancy in how learning content is perceived at work versus on social media is a point of investigation for Learning and Development professionals.

At an ethics training at Amazon, was presented in a social media short story format with multilingual subtitles, which exemplifies innovative approaches. Recognizing that learning behaviors differ at home and work, we aim to understand and adapt to these nuances. Overall, the goal is to make learning accessible, engaging, and effective in both virtual and traditional settings.

How are you seeing AI being incorporated into L+D?

Challenges arise in setting up Gen AI, and co-creation efforts involve creating avatars and exploring interactive options. For sales teams, Gen AI aids in preparing for meetings, significantly reducing research time. However, we remain vigilant not to compromise thoughtful learning for convenience.

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