“My main driver is to see people thrive at work,” says Jess Falconer, Director of Learning & Development, who is in her second year with Audible. “Helping them identify what their career path might be and figuring out how the organization can support them on that path.” Falconer’s nurturing nature has propelled her career to date. Having helped other large organizations adopt a more personal approach to learning and development, Falconer is now helping to recreate the way we support our employees’ growth.
From her perspective, Audible is at an ideal cross-section of technology and media. “I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot with Audible! We’ve got the tech component in our service, our user experience and the product. And we’ve got the media component, with the creativity that goes into building original content and podcasts.”
Her approach to learning has never been a check-the-box list of courses, but instead one that requires strategic thinking and planning. That’s why she’s been busy building partnerships with colleagues and managers across the business to understand where ambition and opportunity overlap. “It’s about resources, not courses,” Falconer says. “We’re turning Audible into a place that understands everyone learns things differently, and so we want to bring different learning experiences to them in an agile, accessible way.”
One way her team is creating this understanding is through last year’s launch of “a new philosophy of sorts” to change how people saw careers here — specifically, that a career should be a celebration of discovery, rather than a linear ladder. The “Career Journey” approach now has its own dedicated internal Audible website filled with prompts, activities and resources to help employees discover work that’s most fulfilling to them—even if it means changing roles. Falconer uses the example of a team member who started in customer service, but whose skills and ambitions better suited the Learning and Development team. It’s this cross-pollinating—bringing knowledge and experience from elsewhere in the organization—that results in what Falconer calls “diversity of thought”.
Her purview also includes employee wellbeing and mental health, which has become an even greater priority given Covid-19. Falconer has helped her colleagues transition and adapt to the new normal through educating them about how best to work from home, and educating managers about how they can better support their own teams at a distance. She is particularly proud of how her colleagues across the business have prioritized empathy — encouraging the little things that go a long way toward making people feel happy, comfortable and connected. “We all got offered a $500 stipend to set up our home working environment, which was incredible,” says Falconer. (This stipend has been offered again this year.) “And where previously every Wednesday we used to have food delivered to the office and eat as a team,” she says, her team makes it a point to “still sit and eat together — just virtually. It’s something small, but it’s a really nice touch.”
Falconer wants to remove the barriers and misconceptions that might hold people back. That’s why she’s an active participant in our Spectrum and Belonging efforts to promote diversity and inclusion at every level of the business, and it’s why she’s been helping to build Audible’s mental health supports in Europe. These include professional training for human resources to be mental health first-aiders, virtual wellbeing workshops for managers and employees, meditation sessions, and a weekly wellbeing newsletter. Her team has seen positive results from awareness-building, says Falconer, as it “breaks down the stigma of suffering from poor mental health. We have more people being very open and talking about their mental health conditions,” she says, adding that it indicates “we have this environment of trust.”
Falconer’s favorite listens:
Falconer struggled to name just one favorite listen. Her favorite work-related listen is Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking by Matthew Syed. “It’s a really insightful book that talks about just how powerful diverse thinking is, why it’s critical to businesses and how to encourage it.” Her second choice is The Sun King by David Dimbleby. “This one’s more for entertainment. It’s a six-part series and it’s all about Rupert Murdoch and his career in media. A really interesting, measured story.”