We recently hosted a professional development and networking event at The Second City, with a learning leaders panel hosted by Mike Prokopeak of Human Capital Media and featuring John Kaplan of Discover, Julianne Rollefson of Harley-Davidson, Matthew Eade of Empire Today, and Carlos Velazquez of Mead Johnson.
Here’s some of what was discussed during the panel session:
Inspired by improv theater troupe The Second City, which boasts alumni including Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Amy Sedaris, Keegan-Michael Key, and Stephen Colbert, our panelists considered the general improv idea of “Yes, and …” the concept where people continuously build off of each other’s ideas and shared about learning and leadership development at their respective organizations.
Matthew Eade, Senior Director, Learning and Development, Empire Today
Eade joined Empire Today to help rebuild learning & development initiatives, which had drastically decreased at the organization. He was faced with the task of consolidating multiple learning management systems, securing a partnership with a course provider, and launching Empire University. With the goal of improving employee engagement while building out new learning programs, Eade and his team conducted surveys to find out why employees were disengaged.
The top driver of disengagement at the company was not surprising: a lack of training opportunities. With new learning content available, a centralized LMS, and Empire University, Eade and his team started monthly professional development workshops—focusing on different transferable skills like project management, time management, putting the customer first, and more. To show employees that the company was invested in employee development, the workshops were supported by monthly newsletters to notify employees of related microlearning courses available in the new LMS.
After employees had the opportunity to participate in these learning opportunities, surveys showed a 20 percent increase in the company’s “My Training” metric, indicating higher satisfaction with training at Empire Today. Eade and his team will be focusing on leadership development next.
Julianne Rollefson, Organizational Development Manager, Harley-Davidson
Rollefson comes from a consulting background, where she helped clients create programs to help prepare high-potential employees to reach C-level positions. Programs included a focus on learning by doing, specific competencies, case studies, assignments for each competency, and time with the C-suite to receive feedback, advice, and coaching.
She joined Harley Davidson recently—not long after the company announced a new accelerated strategy earlier this year—and is working on building a high potential program to help drive the new strategy forward. Now Rollefson has the opportunity to make more of an impact internally, and is taking on the challenge of competing for time and resources while implementing a new learning & development program.
At Harley Davidson, Rollefson plans to tie learning directly to the organization’s strategy, measure behavior before and after the program, have leadership get involved by providing advice and feedback, and help employees learn as they work on solving real problems at the company.
John Kaplan, VP of Training and Development, Discover Financial
Kaplan has been at Discover Financial for about 10 years, initially running the call center training programs. He now leads all of training and development at Discover, which includes functional training, compliance training, leadership development, and executive development. The company has long placed great importance on growing its talent and has offered a tuition reimbursement program for several years.
Discover also has a strong focus on creating a culture of opportunity: in May of this year, the company started investing even more heavily in developing employees by launching a free bachelor’s degree program. By partnering with universities and covering the entire tuition, including all additional fees such as textbooks, Discover offers seven different bachelor’s degrees.
Kaplan noted that since the programs launched, the organizations has seen an immense boost in retention, with attrition at its lowest rate ever at Discover. Free college education helps employees accelerate their careers, grow transferable skills that all employees need, and aligns with the brand: Discover treats its employees as they would treat customers.
Carlos Velazquez, Head, Global Capabilities Director, Mead Johnson/Reckitt Benckiser
Velazquez leads learning and development strategy at Mead Johnson, and saw the company through a successful integration after its acquisition. Feedback is a key success factor at the organization—but that wasn’t always the case. Managers struggled with giving constructive feedback in the past, so the company now has a strong focus on ensuring that managers learn how to give specific, helpful feedback to help employees work on their weak areas and accomplish their goals. Velazquez notes that feedback—and all facets of learning & development in general—at Mead Johnson is focused on being “simple and impactful.”
Earlier this year, Mead Johnson was acquired by Reckitt Benckiser, which owns brands including Lysol, Durex, Clearasil, Dr. Scholl’s, and more. Through the transition, feedback remained a key success factor, especially when working with a greater number of teams with different cultures in multiple countries.
To make training consistent across the larger organization, Velazquez and his team had leaders in different countries use a talent matrix to assess managers on aspects such as emotional intelligence and leadership style, and then provided managers with feedback—keeping in line with a strong culture of feedback.