Best HR Ideas in Training & Development

The editors of HRE announce their top picks for ideas launched this past year that helped strengthen productivity, boost morale and engagement, and put a well-deserved spotlight on the creative powers within HR.

These are the best ideas chosen in the training and development area:

Monday, March 2, 2009
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Corporate Service Corps

IBM, Armonk, N.Y.

Because IBM staff have sometimes been transferred more than once to the company's various field offices, there's an old saw among them that the company's initials stand for "I've Been Moved." With the introduction of Corporate Service Corps, the initials might also stand for "I've Been Motivated."

Launched in 2008, the Corporate Service Corps is IBM's version of the Peace Corps, aimed at aiding communities in underdeveloped countries, developing high-potential leaders and expanding the company's global presence.

Out of about 5,500 high-performing employees who applied for the service from the company's ranks of nearly 380,000 worldwide, only about 600 were chosen. In 2008, about 200 participants were sent to countries such as Tanzania, Ghana and Turkey to assist local entrepreneurs and chambers of commerce, help expand markets for artisans and provide technological advice.

Through such targeted philanthropy, the staffers were exposed to greater challenges in the global marketplace, helping them to further their leadership skills for IBM.

Training-and-development programs for high-performers are abundant, but IBM's multipurpose commitment toward helping others and helping itself is truly praiseworthy. While helping to expand its footprint in the global marketplace, IBM's Corporate Service Corps is also helping those less fortunate step into a more prosperous future.

Day of Learning

Bank of America, Charlotte, N.C.

By early 2008, executives at Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America knew their calendar for attending industry conferences was going to be sparse due to the nation's growing economic concerns. The challenge was how to engage the staff, provide essential learning and development skills, and still keep them home. The solution was both logical and novel: Instead of going to conferences, they created a conference themselves.

We're not talking about a "Hey gang, let's put on a show" conference, either. Teaming up with the American Society for Training and Development, Bank of America hosted its Day of Learning conference in Charlotte last December, attended by about 280 professionals from a variety of industries, with more than 20 sponsors.

The keynote speaker was industry learning expert Elliott Masie, head of the think tank The Masie Center; sessions also featured Bank of America's Jon Revelos, vice president of enterprise curriculum for management, on how to create more powerful instruction through storytelling; Suzanne McLarnon, Cisco's director of worldwide sales force development, on managing the learning function; and Gene Pease, CEO of Capital Analytics Inc., on strategies for measuring business impact.

And the price to attend the day-long series of top-notch speakers? A mere $49 per person; vendors and sponsors with tables donated just $500 apiece. Neither Bank of America nor the ASTD kicked in to fund the conference, and still the organizers wound up with a small surplus, which they donated to a micro-grant program and the local ASTD chapter. That's truly creative financing.

Failure is Not an Option

L-3 Communications Corp., New York

Leave it to high-tech defense contractor L-3 Communications to spice up training and take away its often-suggested promise of nap time.

When company organizers wanted to provide essential management training to more than 150 program managers throughout the world, did they seat them all in a darkened room, throw stacks of notes at them and ask them to sit through hours of lectures? No.

By teaming with education experts from Successful Strategies International, L-3 Communications developed a curriculum for its program managers at 24 site locations that blended Web 2.0 technology and hour-long learning modules, archived online for reference anytime.

Each learning module was followed by an assignment, to be completed and submitted to an e-coach, who provided personalized support and encouraged participants to stretch their capabilities. Each session that the participants successfully finished earned them a "Certificate of Mastery," signed by the coach, the SSI president and the leader of L-3's HR department.

The program worked so well that L-3 created a new Program Management Steering committee to build on its 2008 training initiative. We like the way L-3 has blended technology with personalized coaching and easily accessible training material. L-3 Communications is blazing new trails in management training.

Need to Lead

EMBARQ Corp., Overland Park, Kan.

Executive coaching is an essential tool for many senior executives, providing valuable feedback and guidance. But why should such a resource be limited to the C-suite? At the communications and networking services company EMBARQ, HR recognized that leadership development can help both managers and customers when it's applied as close to the front line as possible, so it created "Need to Lead."

Through the initiative, EMBARQ assigned a professional leadership coach to each of the company's 38 field district managers. Forget about the boring lectures and static leadership presentations; here, the in-house leadership coaches created mentor relationships with each manager, helping them create goals and strategies to improve their performance.

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The result was not only improved leadership from the district managers, but also those whom they supervise. Organizers from EMBARQ say that about 400 front-line supervisors and 5,000 network technicians have benefitted from the executive coaching the field district managers received. They estimate that organization performance has improved by as much as 20 percent. That's a leadership program worth keeping.

Leadership Development Portal

SITA, Geneva, Switzerland

Let's face it: Using some company portals can be about as much fun as watching socks dry. Not so with the Leadership Development Portal, from SITA, the global air-transport-communications and IT company. When executives needed to hone the competencies of the company's potential leaders, the HR and training departments teamed up to create the portal. With the help of Harvard Business Publishing and other content providers, the leadership and organizational-development group from SITA created eight core competencies behind successful company leadership.

Far from dull, SITA's core competencies on the Leadership Development Portal are represented as fuel gauges. Participants who are "low on fuel" in some competencies can access useful material from the portal, and then work with coaches and each other to dynamically increase the fuel level on a competency gauge. Follow-up calls from coaches -- sometimes within minutes following a query on the portal -- kept participants further engaged.

Since the portal was developed, SITA says participants have responded favorably to its user interface and downloadable content, which allows them to balance their busy schedules with the leadership-development assignments. Our judges were impressed by SITA's creative and dynamic approach to their portal. By combining a pleasing interface with ease of use, SITA's Leadership Development Portal brings a welcome approach to sometimes dull and static training programs.

Read the Best HR Ideas main story and our winners for Benefits, for HR Technology, for Talent Management and for Training & Development.

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