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A Conversation with Kelly Lake, Chief Strategy Officer at EI

March 30, 2023 | By Matt Pittman


Kelly Lake, Chief Strategy Officer at EI

Our goal at Brandon Hall Group is to help organizations create excellence in Human Capital Management (HCM) practice. The opportunity to tap into the experience and expertise of leaders across our industry is one of the most valuable aspects of the work we do.

Matt Pittman, Principal HCM Analyst with Brandon Hall Group, recently had the privilege to sit down with Kelly Lake, learning and performance industry veteran and newly appointed Chief Strategy Officer at EI, a Brandon Hall Group SmartChoice Platinum Preferred Provider.

As a global thought leader, Kelly has a successful track record of creating learning strategies and maximizing ROI for Fortune 1000 companies, resulting in performance and business optimization. She has been in the Learning business for 30 years, strategically creating global blueprints for learning and performance to enhance client and organizational business success.

The most insightful takeaways from the conversation included:

  • When looking for partners, companies are looking for high-quality collaboration and partnership, not just product.
  • We should be talking more about return on performance to bridge the gap between measurement and execution.
  • The real power of AI in learning may be in L&D professionals knowing how to implement solutions on the basis of AI-driven data and insights.
  • The future of performance support will be both high-tech and high-touch.

We started our conversation talking about what the “next big thing” might be in learning and development. What is it that will shape what we do for the near future? There were three trends that Lake mentioned in response: collaboration, goal alignment, and translating insights into action.

In talking about the opportunity for collaboration, we spent some time discussing the search for high-performing partners. After a year or two of pulling most things internally, customers are starting to emphasize outsourcing again. The trend seems to be around wanting higher-quality partners and better alignment between training goals and business goals from the outset.

She was next asked about that connection and alignment between business goals and learning goals and why we are still talking about it in much the same way we were 20 years ago. Lake pointed out that many L&D pros still don’t know what to measure successfully or how to measure it successfully and more importantly, what to do with that data once you have it.

“If I can’t translate the data insights into a blueprint for action, I’m missing an opportunity,” said Lake. Most providers are good at matching modalities to performance points but not actually connecting the data to the actual results. We should be talking more about return on performance to bridge the gap between measurement and execution to help make people smarter.

We also spoke about how the disruption of AI in Learning is in what Lake called the validation stage. “Everyone wants to jump on the AI bandwagon but the real test comes in what do we do with all this amazing data that AI generates for us?” That’s the gap that needs to be filled because you can leverage the power of AI to give you all these amazing insights but if you don’t know what to do with that data, how to implement solutions for what it’s telling you in order to drive performance results, then we’re missing out on its real power.

Curious to know her thoughts, Lake was then asked what she thinks may not be on the radar of corporate learning teams that probably should be. This brought the conversation back around to the disconnect between the delivery of learning and the impact on performance in a way that makes sense in the context of the organization. “Everyone is talking about upskilling and reskilling,” said Lake, “But what does that actually mean for your organization and how will you drive that performance forward?”

This led to more conversation about the impact of performance enablement or performance support technology on traditional training. We talked about how this issue seems to be really polarizing right now, with one extreme being that it will replace all training and the other extreme digging their heels in, saying in-person training will always be around.

We also talked about how those extremes come from different places and that somewhere in the middle is probably the right response, because you can innovate and automate a lot, but we are still people and the human touch is important. You really can’t have success in one without the other. “What happens if there’s a coexistence/co-reality of both grassroots innovation and high human touch?” posited Lake.

She went on to share, “And that’s really what excites me about the work that we do at EI. Emotional intelligence is at the heart of what we do. We choose to drive smart innovation. EI brings so much experience with every role that we have. So many in our industry underestimate leaders but people are smarter than they’ve ever been before. We want to leverage our expertise not to tell you what you should be doing but by helping you connect the dots. There is an industry trend toward more collaboration, more insight, more focus on performance. I think the market is stronger than its ever been and I’m excited to see what possibilities come from the expertise we provide.”

EI is a Brandon Hall Group SmartChoiceTM Platinum Preferred Provider offering a full suite of learning services and products. You can read more about them at www.eidesign.net.

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