Agency Life 101: Kristina Norris, Learning & Development Coordinator

Norris_Kristina 2From time to time, we like to open a window into what life is like here at SHIFT. We pride ourselves on our smart, dedicated (and who can forget ballsy) culture. This week, we check in with Kristina Norris, the Agency’s Learning & Development Coordinator based in our San Francisco office. Kristina gives us insight into her role and offers advice for those looking for a glimpse into the SHIFT life.

What are your main focuses as SHIFT’s Learning & Development Coordinator? How do your day-to-day responsibilities play into this?

You are! Well not just you, but everyone that works here is my main focus. The beauty of this role and being a part of our HR department is that I get to focus on what makes the lives of our SHIFTers easier and address these initiatives head on. I’m always here to help – whether it’s with access to core competency training, in-depth management programs, streamlining the onboarding process or one-on-one guidance on getting from good to great in and outside of the office.

No day is the same in my role, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What are some of the things you enjoy most about being the L&D Coordinator? What are some of the challenges?

I enjoy having the opportunity to interact with everyone across the Agency regardless of what level or team they’re on. SHIFT does a phenomenal job keeping our culture in mind throughout the hiring process, so it’s always a pleasure getting to know my fellow SHIFTers and working with them to accomplish their goals or larger initiatives within the Agency.

As for challenges, that answer is largely two-fold. I accepted this role because I saw an opportunity to have a positive impact on change within the organization, knowing it would be an ongoing challenge. It’s no secret that the PR and marketing industry is fast moving and constantly changing, especially when you’re working for a progressive agency like SHIFT. Thus, announcing new agency initiatives or processes and expecting them to stick when everyone is so focused on staying up to speed while also balancing client demands is not an easy ask. I like to believe that’s where my role provides the support and facilitation to ensure change occurs successfully.

SHIFT has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, recently opening a new Austin office and being named among the 10 fastest-growing agency nationally in 2014. How have you helped SHIFT adapt in the process?

Since I’ve only been with the Agency for a little over a year now, I can’t take too much credit in SHIFT’s success over the years. Nevertheless, I have been able to assist with internal processes like onboarding, creative brainstorming practices and management development that make adjusting to growth like ours a little easier. I’ve also really enjoyed helping out on the operational side of things by creating the framework and functionality of our new intranet and supporting our teams during their transition to our new document management system.

As you mentioned, PR and marketing are constantly evolving nowadays. How do you help your fellow SHIFTers keep up with what’s become an ever-changing industry?

Last year, I spent a lot of time working with teams to identify skill gaps worth addressing through formalized training along with strategizing with them about ways we can maximize everyone’s potential. This includes our bimonthly public speaking group in our Boston office, where I’m thrilled to say the program’s intended skill improvements are coming to fruition by those dedicated to the initiative.

In 2015, with a lot of the L&D structure and framework now in place, I see myself having more time to focus on identifying and crafting resources that keep our staff up to speed on the fastest-changing topic areas. I know it’s not going to be easy, but we have so many bright minds on staff that it’s all about tapping into them to find creative ways to share their knowledge broadly throughout the Agency.

You’ve worked in training in everything from the real estate field to the PR and marketing industry now. What’s it been like to work with 135 PR, marketing and creative professionals day in and day out?

I love it. I’m lucky that each day I can go into any of our offices and surround myself with some of the most creative, talented and driven people I’ve ever met. These same people consistently challenge me in my role because there is a mutual understanding that just having skills in the PR and marketing field is no longer enough.

Technology has leveled the playing field for even DIY communities to master the core industry competencies. In order for SHIFT to stay ahead of the curve, we must focus our energy on perfecting relationship, creativity and leadership skills. Thankfully, the Agency trusts me to come up or lead them to creative solutions that address these topics. I cannot be more appreciative of each SHIFTer’s personal dedication toward development. It’s a fundamental part of the culture here.

Last fall, you made the move from SHIFT’s Boston office to our office in San Francisco. Other than more sun and warmer weather, talk about this transition and what it’s meant for your role.

It’s been exciting, that’s for sure. After spending most of my life in Boston, sneaking away for the winter (and now Juno!) was a very welcomed change. Outside of the weather and acclimating to a new city, my role has continued to grow in the same way it has from the first day I started with the Agency. I walked into this role with an understanding that there was no defined path, but there was a clear need for someone to address the development of the Agency and its resources as a whole.

I’ve never been limited to being one office’s L&D Coordinator, but moving to the SF office has strengthened my efforts in knowledge sharing and cross-office collaboration. The only major difference is that I have more exposure to subject matter experts here on the West Coast and I can assist in launching programs or initiatives that have been successful in Boston without hitting all of the bumps we experienced when first rolling them out on the East Coast.

We SHIFTers know you’re full of advice. What are your top tips for today’s PR and marketing professionals when it comes to their personal learning and development?

A recent discussion with one of our newest vice presidents, Nicole Bestard, helped me realize that in one way or another all of us at SHIFT are in the service industry and often find ourselves in an advising role with clients. But when you’re advising or just thinking of the next question to ask, you may miss an opportunity to uncover the true needs of the client. This means that every day we can all be improving on our coaching skills. Why? Because a coach aids with the process of helping others successfully get from point A to point B by actively listening and asking good questions.

When you stop advising your client and start listening to their needs, it organically improves client relationships and can easily create new business opportunities. You don’t have to be a subject matter expert on your clients industry, but by asking questions and showing sincere interest, you’re thoughtfully proving that you care more about trying to help them accomplish their goals and not sell your next service. Plus, focusing on listening helps you customize a program that can achieve the exact results they desire.

Zach Burrus
Marketing Analyst

Keep in Touch

Want fresh perspective on communications trends & strategy? Sign up for the SHIFT/ahead newsletter.

Ready to shift ahead?

Let's talk