By Margery Weinstein
When you develop coursework for your employees, you focus on teaching them what they need to know to keep your company on track to meet financial goals and make customers happy while also nurturing their career growth. If everything works according to plan, the process of rolling out this programming is efficient and cost-effective. But when there is too much process or bureaucracy wrapped around the development of learning, coursework, and people, programming is not ready in time to ensure employees are able to meet their goals. Worse yet, inefficient talent development governance risks leaving your company unable to deliver the products and services you’ve promised your customers or clients.
On the flip side, a too-rigid talent/learning governance structure can produce similar unfavorable consequences.
Training recently spoke to a handful of 2012 Training Top 125 winners on how their companies effectively govern talent and learning development.
McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.: Formalized Approach
“Rolling out new learning programming has evolved over the last decade into a more formalized approach in conjunction with the evolution of our learning and development programming,” says Director of Training and Development Robin Renschen. For example, for the rollout of McCarthy’s Management and Leadership Development programs, the company’s president/COO provided primary oversight in the development and implementation of the programming, with input and direction from the Executive Committee, Vice President Operations Committee, Human Resource Directors Committee, and the corporate HR & Training Department.
“Once designed, the program was presented to the Vice President Operations Committee for buy-in and assistance with the rollout,” says Renschen. “This presentation included an overview of the program and an explanation of what to look for in a possible candidate. Then, each vice president worked directly with his or her division executive leadership team and HR director to formally identify and invite potential candidates to participate in the program.”
As a result of the creation of this formalized process, McCarthy subsequently identified the need to also formalize its “high-potential conversations” as part of its annual employee talent review. “In 2011, this was rolled out following the same governance procedure and is now a standard check-point in our talent development process,” says Renschen. “This formal governance has become a mainstay in our company.”
When McCarthy introduced its companywide federal compliance training programs, division training representatives were notified that the corporate training department would be presenting to the C-suite about the program. Upon approval by this group, a similar presentation was made to the Vice President Operations Committee to communicate that this would be a focus for the upcoming year, explain what their role would be in the rollout, and address any concerns.
“Subsequently, the corporate HR & Training Department implemented a rollout plan, which included e-mail, intranet, learning management system (LMS), and division training champion communication to employees (the McCarthy training champions in each geographic division serve as advisory committee members for relevant peer-group training and also play an important part in the development and rollout of learning programming at McCarthy).
Renschen recommends stressing the need for an action-based planning process over one mired in bureaucracy. “Start using the term, ‘proactive approach to training,’” he says. “Governance structures will help organizations approach training from a proactive standpoint rather than reactive. Using the phrase as part of your vernacular will help gain buy-in that a governance structure is the ‘insurance policy’ that can help ensure the training group is not just reacting (which is also not the most cost-effective approach).”
Vanguard: Prioritizing Critical Business Objectives
Vanguard has several governance boards, each comprising senior leaders from across its business areas, says Dean of Vanguard University Diane Tiger. “Vanguard University is governed by an Advisory Council, the objective of which is to ensure that we prioritize the development activities with key critical business objectives in mind,” Tiger explains.
Vanguard’s Talent Oversight Team is responsible for Vanguard’s strategy for identifying and developing high-potential talent. “They actively lead talent discussions within their respective departments, sponsor crew identified as high potential, and sponsor education supports developed by Vanguard University,” says Tiger. Meanwhile, the company’s Leadership Advisory Council is responsible for setting the strategic vision for leadership and support and sponsoring leadership development activities throughout their respective divisions.
Vanguard University, through the CLO, serves as the linchpin for these governance councils. “Additionally, we ensure that there is overlap of at least two business leaders on each council,” Tiger points out. “The benefit of this structure is that by having separate and distinct councils, they are able to focus deeply on their charge, while having a few members who cross over enables successful management of boundaries.”
Allied Barton Security Services: Built Around the Individual
Every new employee, as part of Allied Barton’s onboarding and talent management process, creates an employee profile, which indicates their background, career interests, and goals, and other information that can help a supervisor understand the direction this employee would like to go in his or her career, says Vice President of Learning Brent O’Bryan. “Supervisors also can go into the employee’s profile and update their readiness status for their next promotion or career move within the organization.”
Allied Barton uses individual development plans (IDPs) early on in the employee’s career, but after the robust onboarding process to help ensure the employee has a successful career with the company. “Our people leaders are responsible for monitoring and coaching employees, and the IDPs are used to continually move employees to the next step with their career,” O’Bryan explains.
To tie all of the critical aspects of employee development together, AlliedBarton pulled several departments under the umbrella of human capital management. “This solidified the company’s team approach to employee development,” says O’Bryan, “and ensured that all efforts aimed at supporting and developing employees are well coordinated.”
American Fidelity Assurance: Whole Company Represented
American Fidelity Talent Management works with three governing groups with regard to colleague initiatives, says Assistant Vice President, CHR Talent Management Bev Wood. Each group has representatives from a population of the company. The member’s role is to solicit and share feedback with his or her committee, as well as deliver information about coming initiatives to colleagues and management in their area. “Participants do not serve specific terms, but rotation occurs based on individual needs,” Wood explains. “This provides continuity in the groups, as well as allows for fresh ideas.”
The first group is the Leadership and Management Program Committee. Originally tasked with designing and maintaining leadership training, this committee also advises on other training for the organization. The Compensation Review Team is the second team that looks at all matters regarding job descriptions, pay, and performance assessments. The third team works specifically on the strategic initiative to be an employer of choice and reviews colleague engagement surveys for recommendations on how to make American Fidelity an even better place to work.
An example of a training program rollout that touched all three committees was American Fidelity’s Leadership Camp. “Consistent training on leading the ‘AF Way’ was a recommendation from the team reviewing colleague engagement surveys,” says Wood. “An annual event was created called Leadership Camp that all managers are required to attend. Both the Compensation Review Team and Leadership and Management Program Committee have assisted with content for the annual programs.”
CENTURY 21: Multi-Pronged Approach
CENTURY 21 Real Estate LLC has a self-described “multi-pronged approach” to learning and development governance, says Senior Director of Learning & Development Dr. Christina Murphy. “We have a national committee that consists of peer-selected real estate brokers and managers who have shown leadership using our branded tools and CENTURY 21 Learning System,” she points out. “They help us shape our strategy, along with providing feedback on the needs and desires of the agents, managers, and brokers who make up the CENTURY 21 System.” The Learning & Development team also receives input from the company’s field and telephone business consultants on what training solutions are most applicable for the business of real estate. In addition, Murphy and her learning team colleagues receive guidance from CENTURY 21’s parent company, Realogy, “on the various initiatives they are supporting on an industry basis to ensure we are supporting those through our curriculum offerings.”
As a franchise organization, Murphy says CENTURY 21 Real Estate LLC needs to be receptive and action-oriented when new ideas or suggestions bubble to the surface. “We base a lot of our design on an amended ADDIE model, so if we recognize a need, we can act on it quickly with all the rigors of due diligence, but in a real-time environment,” she says. “When we have individuals who want to take on the ownership of training their teams, we work alongside them and guide them as to how they develop and deliver such learning. We may not be the expert on the subject matter, but we are experts in learning, so we provide our guidance as needed but with all the support that non-learning professionals need to be successful.”
Coldwell Banker: Large-Scale Advisory Committee
Learning governance at Coldwell Banker Real Estate supports the training of approximately 85,000 sales associates located in more than 3,000 offices through its Coldwell Banker University (CBU), says Senior Director of Learning David Rubenstein. “CBU has a unique performance improvement challenge in that about half of the learner population is affiliated with independent franchises, while the other half is affiliated with company-owned offices,” says Rubenstein. CBU follows the business objectives set each year by the brand’s CEO, and has several mandates including:
Vice President of Learning David Birnbaum explains it this way: “The goal of Coldwell Banker University is to be the best industry training in real estate. We are always focused on business impact—how do we prepare Coldwell Banker agents and managers to do their jobs most effectively?”
In addition to supporting the overall business objectives of the company, Coldwell Banker University has an advisory committee representing the groups that use its learning materials. The stated purpose of the advisory committee is to “represent your peers in providing guidance and feedback for the development and deployment of Coldwell Banker University learning and performance support initiatives.” The advisory committee meets once per quarter via the virtual online classroom.
In addition to the advisory committee, there is a quarterly interactive online meeting called Trainers’ Forum, where anyone in a training role in a Coldwell Banker franchisee can attend and give their input and feedback on current learning projects. “Often, there are 70 to 80 people online for one of these sessions,” says Rubenstein. “CBU also uses newsletters, social media, videos, word of mouth through business consultants, and close relationships with franchisees to both get the word out and to receive feedback from the field.”
Jiffy Lube: Focus on Consistent Quality and Customer Service
The Jiffy Lube University training program is designed to equip store-level employees to perform their jobs with a consistent level of quality and customer service, according to Learning and Development Manager Kenneth Barber. Franchisees also use it to identify and promote talented individuals into supervisory positions. “The biggest thing we have ever done regarding governing is the creation of the Training and Standards Committee,” says Barber. The committee is made up of franchisees, learning team members, and business members. Every new or updated training course is developed through the combined efforts of this 12-member committee. The Jiffy Lube International leadership team sets the strategic direction, but the training committee handles the tactical priority, course development, review, and deployment. “The result of this combined effort,” says Barber, “is a high level of acceptance by the entire system.”
Since franchisees who serve on the training committee are running stores, coursework developers are always dealing with real-world problems and practical solutions, says Barber. “This is one of the strengths of our effort and has allowed us to avoid virtually any missteps along the way.”
Suffolk Construction: Providing Buy-In
Suffolk Construction has several constituencies weighing in on new learning programs, says Vice President of Learning and Development David First. The company’s Executive Committee and Management Committee (comprising the company’s senior leadership) are responsible for setting/validating strategy for the organization. This includes a down-flow of important initiatives requiring development activities and learning programs. “This also provides buy-in on prioritization and customization of strategic and tactical endeavors by our learning and other talent professionals,” says First. An example of this would be the coordination of the many learning initiatives for the company’s Build Smart branding campaign over the last 18 months. “Without committee buy-in, with respect to prioritization, the rebranding campaign could have led to an endless amount of effort without desired results,” says First.
The company’s management committee helps propel learning development by staying connected to all of Suffolk’s lines of business. “There are many examples of how programs have originated as a result of members of the management committee being connected to the business and to learning and development,” says First. “The recent economic slowdown, which changed the nature of our business, required new value propositions for customers (how we sell), as well as tactical changes for our line. This has driven modifications to existing programs and the origination of new talent development procedures.” Suffolk integrated corporate department strategic planning with that of its business units, nationally and regionally. “Bringing all stakeholders together helps to ensure not only that we are developing the appropriate programs,” First says, “but also that we have the greatest amount of buy-in from our leadership.”