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Examining 'WhatWorks'

Bersin & Associates launches new awards program to laud organizations and their human resource leaders for employing talent initiatives in bold new ways across all spectrums of HR.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013
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In organizations around the world, both large and small, you can find dedicated, hard-working, passionate professionals in HR and related disciplines. These people play a critical role in their organizations' success. Bersin & Associates (which became Bersin by Deloitte after this was written; see disclaimer below) knows this, says David Mallon, the company's vice president of research.

"We know because we at Bersin are honored and privileged to have the opportunity to talk with many of these people regularly," he says. "And let us tell you, there is some amazing work being done out there. In fact, we believe that one of our greatest obligations is to trumpet as many of these stories as we can, as far and as wide as possible."

With that goal in mind, Bersin launched its first awards program, Learning Leaders®, in 2006, through which it celebrates innovation and success taking place in the learning community.

"Over the years, just as we saw organizations taking a more holistic view of talent, we broadened the focus of the Learning Leaders program to encompass initiatives in such areas as employee onboarding and succession management," Mallon says. "Eventually, we realized that, to continue calling the program 'Learning Leaders' was no longer reflective of the breadth of amazing stories being brought to us.

"So, for this iteration, we decided to rebrand the program and further widen its focus. This year, we are pleased to present the Bersin WhatWorks® Awards, a bigger, bolder awards program, recognizing innovation and excellence in critical areas across the spectrum of HR, learning and talent."

The term "WhatWorks" speaks to Bersin's core as a research firm since its founding, says Mallon. "There are many good ideas out there, but the practical constraints and challenges of the real world cause many of them to end up in the waste bin," he says. "Our research has always been designed to, first, quickly and efficiently isolate those enduring practices and processes that bring continued, measurable value to an organization; and second, distill from those practices and processes the common, repeatable steps that other organizations can take to derive similar success."

The WhatWorks winners -- all "demonstrating measurable real-world success," according to Mallon -- are divided into six different categories, depending on types of submissions: transforming HR, developing tomorrow's leaders, enabling high-impact learning, acquiring top talent, optimizing talent management and delivering innovation. The sixth category -- featuring the most innovative talent-management solutions coming to market (from Axonify, Blatant Media Corp., Xyleme, Glassdoor, Jobvite, oDesk, PDI Ninth House, PeopleMatter, RiseSmart and Tech Transfer Services) -- is not included in this publication but can be found in the full report on the Bersin website listed below.

In each category, contest applicants were asked three basic questions: What was the problem? What was the solution? What were the results? Stories were judged based on their demonstrated proof of positive business impact based on the change, initiative, program or process improvement described in the submission.

The award winners are presented here as part of a media partnership between Bersin and Human Resource Executive®.

(The WhatWorks Awards program that includes all materials, announcements and agreements dated earlier than Jan. 1, 2013 were created by Bersin & Associates LLC, prior to the acquisition of substantially all of the company's assets by Deloitte Consulting LLP, and bear the Bersin & Associates brand. The following is taken from a Bersin & Associates March 2013 report, The WhatWorks® Awards 2013: Lessons from the Best, authored by David Mallon, vice president of research at Bersin by Deloitte.

TRANSFORMING HR

To say we are in an era of HR transformation is an understatement. Wherever there is an HR organization, fundamental transformation is either under way, about to begin or under serious consideration. HR is changing its processes, policies, structures and -- in many cases -- its very reason for being. Why? What is the goal of all this so-called transformation?

The answer is to resolve a disconnect, and a big one. The combined effects of forces such as technology, demographic change, globalization and the ever-increasing pace of change are making business agility the defining competitive differentiator of this age. Core to that agility is the organization's most important appreciating asset: talent. Both the leaders in organizations and the professionals in the HR function can see the big changes taking place in the workforce and workplace. Collectively, everyone sees the writing on the wall. On paper, HR should be at the center of building business value through talent. The problem is that, in most organizations, it is not strategic. It is often viewed as the antithesis of agility. Its function is compliance and control, not speed and specialization.

HR as currently manifested in many organizations is in danger of irrelevancy. Business leaders are forcing an essential reinvention of the function. They want their HR teams to help drive the business forward, by empowering and enabling managers to operate more effectively. They realize retention is a talent imperative.

The good news -- as evidenced by the submitting companies in this category -- is that real change in HR is not just possible; it is happening. Common themes among this category's winners are: business-initiated change, whereby big changes in HR started at the top; data-driven HR, whereby data is being used to predict issues and likely paths to success; and courage to go big, whereby winners forced themselves to question fundamental assumptions about HR's purpose, strategies and structures.

Accenture

A global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company headquartered in Dublin, Republic of Ireland, with more than 249,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries.

Accenture's growth strategy includes expanding its range of services to clients. With more people working on accounts worldwide, there's a greater need for managing these client-facing teams more efficiently and effectively. Internal research identified the requirement for a more client-centric approach by HR operations to help account teams drive growth and employee engagement.

To address this, Accenture implemented a renewed program to align HR professionals at the front of the business. Intended outcomes were to: expand deployment of HR talent and strategic capability to include complex client teams and emerging business entities; redesign the client-account HR delivery model and measures to ensure cost-effective, flexibly focused service delivery; standardize the scope of service with a focus on business outcomes, retention and engagement; and better align with other corporate functions.

As a result, Accenture's Global Client Account HR Lead program expanded by 36 percent in total revenue and more than 40 percent in the number of full-time employees supported. The HR Lead team grew by 100 percent across 15 countries, including several emerging markets. The firm established a greater partnership between these business areas and the HR functional areas. One of its largest global client teams showed significant gains in retention and progression, as well as the highest client satisfaction scores.

Ryan

Ryan is a global tax services firm headquartered in Dallas that provides a range of state, local, federal and international tax advisory services on a multi-jurisdictional basis for many of the world's Global 5000 companies.

Although Ryan has grown successfully since 1991, over time the firm began experiencing high voluntary turnover rates, losing many talented employees and experiencing low employee morale and satisfaction, as evidenced in exit interviews and employee surveys. A large percentage of exiting employees indicated that lack of work/life balance was a key decision-making factor.

Its solution, the myRyan workplace-flexibility program, measures employees on results achieved, not hours worked. Employees are given complete freedom to choose where and when they want to work on a day-to-day basis, provided goals are met and a manager approves. Employees were equipped with tools, resources and support to stay connected.

The results were a reduced voluntary turnover rate (from 22 percent in 2008 to 12.4 percent in 2011, versus an industry average of 26 percent), the return of many valued alumni, stronger client-satisfaction scores (97 percent in overall client satisfaction, technical expertise and accuracy, and 98 percent in professionalism) and better employee perception of work/life balance (scoring 90 on the "people are encouraged to balance their work life and their personal lives" item in the 2012 Great Place to Work survey, which was 2 percent above the top 50 average).

Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.

A technology, strategy and analytics consultancy headquartered in Tysons Corner, Fairfax County, Va., with 80 other offices throughout the United States.

Booz Allen Hamilton's voluntary attrition rate has increased by more than 25 percent between FY2010 and FY2012. For professional-services firms, it is vital to retain talent. At Booz Allen, managers were provided numerous tools and resources to combat attrition, but often found themselves not knowing how best to apply them or which employees to target.

Large amounts of data were collected across multiple warehouses and from numerous vendors. The data were analyzed to determine what indicators predict future voluntary attrition. Two deliverables emerged. The first involved bivariate calculations of numerous hypotheses. These calculations, independently validated, helped provide better insight into the causes of attrition, and led to the second outcome: a model that could significantly increase the predictability of voluntary attrition.

One division of the company used the information to identify high-performing and/or high-potential senior staff that may be at risk. They were able to cross-check the high-risk list with their high-valued employees and provide a total of 15 names that required additional focus. Another leader focused on junior staff, specifically a segment that was experiencing high turnover. He looked at where risks existed and worked with his recruiting contact to ramp up efforts to build a stronger pipeline.

First Data Corp.

Based in Atlanta, First Data is a global technology and payments processing provider, serving more than 6 million merchant locations, thousands of card issuers and millions of consumers worldwide.

First Data's HR group was bloated, decentralized and horribly inefficient. In 2008, total HR cost was 1.3 percent of revenue. The 450-employee HR army resulted in an unimpressive headcount-to-employee ratio of 60:1. There was no enterprise HR strategy, several HRIS and LMS systems, hundreds of localized policies, a painfully slow recruitment process, scarce leadership-development and talent-management activities, inconsistent sales-compensation plans and little development of the HR team.

In response, HR created and implemented a multi-year strategy that completely revamped HR's structure, process, governance, technology and measurement. The strategy included a new HR technology roadmap, a new global shared-services model and HR call center in Costa Rica, HR-role clarification, HR-development programs, robust self-service tools and more.

As a result, time-to-fill exempt roles dropped more than 40 percent, HR resources were completely reallocated to groups of centers of excellence, talent-management and learning functions were rebuilt into a global university called MindSpring, robust data analytics were developed, and employee-engagement and development results improved by more than 20 percent.

DEVELOPING TOMORROW'S LEADERS

Around the world, executives are struggling to identify the next generation of leaders and prepare them to meet the rigors of the future. A demand for dynamic leaders and leadership development is made only more problematic by ongoing marketplace turbulence. Confronting a shortage of leadership talent, companies are revamping their strategies for developing leaders from within their own ranks, as well as for building and maintaining leadership pipelines.

Further complicating this challenge, companies in all industries are rapidly expanding product and service strategies into emerging economies -- yet they do not always know how to build the right leadership in these geographies. With a worldwide shortage of leadership talent, organizations must build these capabilities within their leadership ranks.

Business leaders consistently tell Bersin pollsters that leadership development is their greatest talent challenge, so -- not surprisingly -- it was one of our most popular award categories. Common themes among our seven winners in this category include: an understanding that long-term investments will pay off, a rising worry about the capabilities of the lower and middle tiers and a commitment to multi-level strategies, the knowledge that leadership development can be a culture-change strategy and a robust ability to measure long-term success.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group

A Melbourne, Australia-based provider of banking and financial products and services to more than 8 million customers worldwide across the retail, wealth management, commercial and institutional sectors. The firm employs 48,000 people across operations in 32 countries.

In 2007, ANZ -- with more than 8 million customers and 48,000 employees -- set a new direction to transform into a top 10 global bank and double profits. In 2009, it was experiencing relatively low alignment to Asia Pacific; increasing complexity, pace and ambiguity resulting from global financial instability; lower margins and revenues, putting increased pressure on costs; a competitive recruitment market; low internal bench strength; 100 percent external hires to the board; declining employee engagement; a fragmented, Australia-centric leadership-development focus; and a globally inconsistent leadership culture.

It put together a three-phase multidimensional-development approach to build a foundation for super-regional leadership (defining a new enterprise-leadership model with leader levels, mapping critical transitions for leaders and designing a new suite of learning programs), accelerate and deepen its value (with senior-leader sponsorship and program endorsement and the development of a new online learning tool) and extend and broaden leader perspectives (through community partnerships on programs, leaders teaching leaders and collaborative technology).

To date, 3,000-plus people have completed the Leadership Pathway programs, 95 percent of senior executives have completed the executive-leader program, internal-leader appointments have increased 58 percent from 2010 to 2012, underlying profit went up by 33 percent in 2010 and 12 percent in 2011, and Asia Pacific and Europe, Africa and Middle Eastern contributions to group earnings are growing steadily and on track to achieve 2017 targets.

New York Life Insurance Co.

A long-established New York-based Fortune 100 company providing financial insurance, annuity, and investment products and services.

In 2010, with more than 50 percent of New York Life's executive officers eligible for retirement by 2015 and top managers wanting to make investing in people a top priority, the organization's new CEO approached the talent-development team to help solve the demographic problem and drive a cultural shift. This program would both prepare individuals for more senior positions in the organization and instill in them what it meant to be leaders and culture carriers.

The company established the Accelerated Leadership Program to bring high-potential leaders (those about to enter the executive-officer ranks) from their mid-level positions to a place of readiness for more senior-leadership roles. The program employs individual coaching using Hogan and 360 assessments based on the company's leadership-competency model, networking events, executive discussions, reading groups, workshops, virtual sessions, an action-learning project and four residential sessions.

Since 2010, 36 percent of ALP alumni are in roles two to three layers away from the CEO, 15 percent will be promoted to vice president or managing director, seven are critical-role incumbents and 16 are succession candidates. According to ALP-alumni reports, 52 percent have taken on broader managerial capability, 45 percent have taken on broader individual-contributor capability, 52 percent have significantly changed roles and 47 percent have broader spans of control. In addition, 87 percent of managers have said their direct reports were better prepared to take on a more senior role, and 97 percent believe ALP added value in developing the next generations of leaders.

(See ALP Program Architecture.)

BMO Financial Group

A diversified financial-services organization providing a range of retail banking, wealth management, and investment banking products and solutions. The company operates internationally through offices in Canada, the United States and 23 other jurisdictions.

In 2008, BMO began a transformational journey to establish a new strategy that ultimately triggered leadership renewal of 70 percent to 75 percent turnover in senior leaders throughout the organization.

This presented a talent-management challenge. The current approach to training and developing leaders was now obsolete. The firm needed to re-examine the definition of leadership, identify and articulate the leadership capabilities required to drive the company's vision forward, and design a completely new strategy and approach to leadership development.

It implemented a three-tier, development curriculum for the 6,000 leaders at first-line, middle and senior levels, including formal and informal experiences, called the Leadership Development Curriculum. The three programs use the same lexicon, theories, models and practices to ensure a consistent and well-integrated approach to leadership at all levels across the company. BMO's leadership values, perspectives, messages and practices are identical in each program. All leaders are held accountable for the same capabilities regardless of where or at what level they operate.

More than 1,600 leaders have participated in the three to four years since the program launched. Impact reports from participants include anecdotes and proof of: significant revenue growth; improvements in productivity, process effectiveness and expense control; increases in customer loyalty and activity; elevation in employee engagement, retention and morale; improved personal effectiveness, influence tactics and leadership brand; heightened community and social activity; and greater collaboration and synergy between executives and middle managers. There is also increased career movement and promotions for senior-leadership-development graduates and their employees.

Trinity Health

A Catholic health network of 44 acute-care hospitals, 379 outpatient centers, 26 long-term-care facilities, and numerous hospice programs and senior-living communities in Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Idaho and California. Headquartered in Livonia, Mich., it is the fourth-largest Catholic health system in the nation based on total revenue, and employs 44,500 full-time staff and more than 8,000 active physicians.

A commitment to the development of leaders and a growing concern about the projected shortage of qualified leaders has led executives at Trinity Health to focus on creating and developing talent pools through a well-aligned leadership-development approach that cultivates both high-performing current leaders and healthy bench strength. In 2005, Trinity Health recognized that existing talent pools did not have enough depth and leaders were not appropriately prepared to take on more strategic roles in the organization, or lead in a manner consistent with the company's mission.

The Strategic Leadership Program, customized for Trinity Health by The Advisory Board Co. and offered at the enterprise level to targeted leaders, is held over 18 months and includes six multi-day "intensives." Participants go through each intensive session using case studies, team-based simulations and exercises, action learning and didactic presentations. High-impact learning requires managers to partner with their SLP participant(s), meeting both before and after each session to discuss its impact map, identify opportunities for application of learning, and target specific results to measure success. Trinity Health's most senior leaders are engaged as guest speakers. Participants conduct an action-learning project focused on business-line strategy or process improvement, and project teams present their work at the SLP graduation.

As a result, 82 percent of graduates are still with the organization, graduate promotion rates are all above the 75th percentile of the Saratoga Database, and 100 percent of graduates would recommend the SLP to other leaders, as would 93 percent of those participants' managers/mentors. In addition, 100 percent agreed the program made them more effective leaders and gave them specific tools to improve their leadership performance, 96 percent agreed they "have been able to produce valuable, measurable business results" and more than 85 percent of responding managers/mentors saw growth in participants' leadership capabilities.

Merck & Co. Inc.

Headquartered in Whitehouse Station, N.J., Merck is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. The company discovers, develops, manufactures and markets a broad range of products to improve human and animal health, directly and through its joint ventures.

The industry faced new healthcare models, globalization, increasing influence of emerging markets, consolidations within the industry, increased pricing pressures, patents reaching maturity and rising competition from generics. These strategic shifts required new skills from Merck's leaders, but no formalized executive development programs existed.

A program was designed for general managers and managing directors with commercial-strategy responsibilities around the world. The company designed a highly customized and innovative multi-modular design, including one module in an emerging market, interspersed with action, virtual live and on-demand learning components over a 12-month time frame. The aim was to develop and strengthen GMs' and MDs' skills, knowledge and behaviors through formalized learning and link the learning with real work critical to the success of Merck.

Brinkerhoff's Success Case Method showed the program was a major force in advancing competencies, changing behaviors and achieving results. The capabilities and leadership behaviors acquired as a result of attending the program led to significant business outcomes realized by new market opportunities. More than 60 percent of those taking part in the program were promoted or moved into new leadership positions during or after the program. Also, Merck reported significant achievements in terms of its business goals, with the growth projects resulting in new sources of revenue generation, expansion into new markets and more efficient decision making.

Thomson Reuters

A Canadian-British multinational-media and financial-data firm based in New York, created by Thomson Corp.'s purchase of Reuters Group in 2008 and operating in 100 countries with 60,000 employees.

Thomson Reuters had a gap in the leadership pipeline. There was a clear succession/development plan for replacing current executive leaders, but the next generation had not been identified.

Project Generate was one of five key development initiatives highlighted in the 2010 HR agenda. Its aim was to develop, challenge and engage this pool of high-potential future leaders in keeping with three overarching business objectives to develop future leaders, retain top talent and build global capability. (See Program Structure Overview.)

It is an 11-week blended learning experience split into four phases. Each phase is designed to ensure learning transfer. The tight time scale and emphasis on virtual collaboration accurately reflects the daily challenge of working in a fast-moving global organization. Thirty participants work in five virtual project teams focusing on virtual collaboration, global awareness and innovation through the delivery of a sustainable business project for a community partner in India. Participants only meet once during the process, so engagement, creativity and teamwork are maintained virtually.

As a result of Project Generate, 75 percent of participants have received promotion, 23 percent have been promoted twice, 95 percent still work with Thomson Reuters, 96 percent are more committed to the organization and 100 percent have agreed it gave them the opportunity to give back meaningfully to a community. In addition, 96 percent agree it will make them more effective at working virtually and collaborating on global teams, and 81 percent agree it offers the right balance between virtual and face-to-face collaboration.

ENABLING HIGH-IMPACT LEARNING

All learning and development organizations are intended to boost the performance of their companies. Some, however, are much better than others at achieving this goal. High-impact learning organizations distinguish themselves by very effectively and efficiently providing learning solutions that support key business objectives. In other words, they are not only well-run in their own right; they are well-aligned with the larger organization of which they are an integral part.

Becoming a high-impact learning organization is not a "one-and-done" proposition. As our research into this area demonstrates, today's high-impact learning organization can become tomorrow's also-ran unless constant effort is exerted to stay ahead of the game. Learning functions are under tremendous pressure to become more agile -- and to build the foundations for agility within their larger organizations.

The most mature of these organizations transcend traditional notions of training programs and processes. They are, by nature, effective and efficient at supporting learning in all its forms throughout the organization. They are accelerators and multipliers, ensuring that the organization has the human capabilities it needs to be successful, and providing the organization's leadership with the leverage to drive and respond to change.

All of the winners in this category showcase what we have found to be major differentiators between high-impact learning organizations and other learning organizations, including: learning measurement and evaluation, learning-content capability and high-impact learning culture. They have tackled the major structural issues such as organization structure and governance. But they also understand that their ultimate success depends just as much on mastery of core capabilities such as performance consulting and creation of essential scaffolding in the form of a well-defined learning architecture as well as competencies, profiles and career paths. All focus their efforts on building organizational capability, evolve into enablers and brokers of continuous learning and focus on L&D core capabilities, such as content, measurement, culture, performance consulting, audience analysis, technology and continuous learning support.

Electronic Arts Inc.

A Redwood City, Calif.-based developer, marketer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment (including video games).

The video-game industry is experiencing massive marketplace disruption. Consumers are rapidly migrating to online entertainment. Many of them expect to play games for free. Suddenly, proven business models do not apply anymore, forcing game-makers to reinvent, rebuild and re-stabilize on a path to digitally delivered games. There needs to be a set of internal change agents with their hands on the rudder, using a forum for high-impact learning and organizational change.

EA reached out to directors, managers and "creatives" from its labels and departments to form its first strategic action team in 2010. Clearly, the way to develop business-changing innovation was through strengthening EA's culture of learning and cross-boundary sharing. A senior-executive group convened after each work session to green-light, ask for changes to, or kill ideas. Nothing lingered or languished -- it was either declined or enthusiastically supported at the highest level. The team rolled out one cost-saving, paradigm-shattering solution after another.

The 10@10 Strategic Action Team implemented six innovations and created EADevCon, EA's first internal developers' conference. The Breaking $3Billion Strategic Action Team innovated in three clusters: digital culture with online learning roadmaps, interactive town halls and annual digital-contribution objectives for each employee; digital leadership, including summits to set cross-functional practices; and growth in key digital markets, including China, India, Brazil and Eastern Europe. EA is profitable again and on track to lead digital interactive entertainment. People want to join future strategic-action teams to propel the company forward and learn along the way.

(See High-Impact Learning Organization Maturity Model®.)

Fifth Third Bank

A Cincinnati-based diversified financial services company operating in 12 U.S. states and comprising four main businesses: commercial banking, branch banking, consumer lending and investment advisors.

Fifth Third Bank faced internal and external challenges, including the financial crisis of late 2008 and the recession in 2009, heightened regulatory scrutiny and a very low level of consumer trust in the banking industry. In 2010, after weathering the crisis but still experiencing flat financial results in 2009 and 2010, the bank looked for new ways to strengthen and deepen its relationships with customers.

It delivered 13 sales-training programs to nearly 7,000 participants, across lines of business and at the levels of salesperson and sales leader. The learning solution included the creation of common selling and service models; the design and delivery of a skills-development system that installed consistent selling and service behaviors companywide; the establishment of a simple, easy-to-execute measurement system aligned with what really matters to critical stakeholders; and reinforcement of continued learning.

As a result, its customer-contact center received a 329-percent increase in sales of complex products, and average revenue per sales agent increased 96 percent in just five months; the bank's retail direct sales team experienced its highest sales-per-hour month in outbound selling since 2006; and its business banking group saw a 12 percent increase in positive responses to this customer-survey question: Has your relationship manager presented a new business solution or idea to your company in the last 12 months?" All key financial metrics have shown significant improvement and 2011 was the most profitable year the bank had experienced since 2006.

Marriott International Inc.

An American diversified hospitality company, based in Bethesda, Md., that is the franchisor of a portfolio of hotels and related lodging facilities, and has more than 3,700 properties in more than 74 countries and territories around the world.

Marriott was faced with several challenges regarding developing associates. First, having such a large, geographically dispersed workforce made it necessary to provide development opportunities suitable for a variety of audiences. Second, given the high service orientation and guest focus of the business, it can be difficult to take associates off the job to participate in instructor-led training or e-learning. Third, Marriott's approach to learning historically only focused on formal learning approaches, including instructor-led training and e-learning, making buy-in for a new method of learning difficult.

To address these challenges, the company developed the Leadership Learning Guide, an innovative development resource that maps formal and informal learning activities to core competencies. Associates access it through a performance-review tool or through the intranet. Activities are filtered by position type, leadership level, brand category, continent, competency, and then formal or informal development activities available to that individual. Associates can either choose to add additional competencies or build their plans, with all LLG output unique to each individual. Marriott built an extensive library of informal development opportunities to supplement the formal courses.

The LLG, available to all 26,000 property-based management associates, resulted in savings of more than $1.2 million annually while increasing the number of development opportunities available. It also increased both the quality and quantity of development options by showing where the curriculum had insufficient development activities to support a particular competency by level, brand segment or continent.

HCL Technologies Limited

HCL Technologies Limited is an information-technology services provider and consulting company headquartered in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India. The company is one of the two businesses falling under the corporate umbrella of HCL Enterprise.

HCL wanted to minimize the employees on the bench and improve deployability. It needed to train employees to enhance their technical competencies. However, increased training would have led to escalated costs, which was undesirable in the prevailing economic environment.

The Technical Academy for Competency Enhancement was established to improve the deployability of employees through internal online certifications and customized training programs. Some of TechACE's offerings included: internal technical certifications developed and launched by a panel of SMEs, virtual labs launched to offer real-time training in simulated environments, 4,500 e-learning courses made available on the learning-management system, 1,290 internal trainers and 536 SMEs covering 1,208 knowledge areas, post-training online coaching and online communities launched on an internal knowledge-management portal.

The academy ensured scalability without escalating costs, harnessed internal knowledge and expertise, achieved global coverage without adding training staff, allowed learning to continue beyond the classroom and leveraged technology to bring in efficiency.

As a result, 72 internal technical certifications were launched, 9,394 employees were internally certified and 90 percent of training is now done internally. In addition, there was an 81-percent increase in the billing of employees post-certification, 23,973 employees were trained across 26 countries, customer satisfaction ratings improved and the company saw a cost savings of more than $3 million in fiscal-year 2012.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

A Washington-based, government-run military veteran benefits system with 309,000 employees serving more than 37 million Americans at hundreds of medical facilities, clinics and benefits offices worldwide.

In 2010 and beyond, the VA faces tremendous challenges as hundreds of thousands of military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan join the ranks of America's veterans. Regrettably, they enter an increasingly overburdened system struggling to serve them. In 2010, Secretary of Veterans Affairs General Eric Shinseki realized that, for the VA to achieve the higher levels of efficiency, productivity and performance necessary to meet its challenges, every member of the workforce would need to contribute fully. He envisioned a solution that would engage and motivate the workforce while equipping them with the skills, knowledge and abilities required to become a high-performing, 21st-century organization.

In 2010, the department launched its Human Capital Investment Plan, with the majority of the plan's budget allocated to the VA Learning University. VALU integrates a dynamic career-pathing technology built on competencies that chart a development program based on employee aspirations and departmental needs. It provides synchronous and asynchronous learning, including curriculum ranging from games-based training to traditional classroom learning, and measures the impact of the investment using industry best practices for training evaluation.

As of July 2012, more than 922,000 training events had occurred. From 2010 to 2011, VALU analyzed data from 89,664 reaction surveys, 36,268 pre- and post-course questionnaires, and 3,953 surveys to learners and supervisors. On average, 91 percent of learners responded favorably to reaction surveys. In fiscal year 2012, more than 50 percent of learners and supervisors responded that they "agree" or "strongly agree" that VALU courses had a positive impact on their work group.

SAP America Inc.

Newtown Square, Pa.-based SAP America is part of SAP AG, a German multinational software corporation that makes enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations.

Over the past year, mobility has become one of the most impactful elements of business growth and innovation. SAP's commitment to mobile solutions extends to internal processes, and Value University recognized the significant value that mobile learning could bring to its sales force.

In 2011, Value University put two innovative mobile learning solutions in motion. First, it launched the SAP Now app that runs on the iPad and other mobile devices. It also developed a mobile game -- Road Warrior -- that simulates a full sales cycle and covers important differences between prospects' needs and how to engage the customer in a value-based discussion. It also covers how to know when to engage SAP executives, members of the Virtual Account Team and partners.

SAP Now has been downloaded more than 7,000 times and used by more than 80 percent of the sales force. As an example of the pervasiveness of mobility tools, the learning video with the most views is Account Executive-Mobile Main Street. This video covers how to effectively use an iPad in the field.

The fact that this video is the most viewed is further evidence that the field is adapting to mobile learning, and it ratifies that SAP is responding to the mobility trend. Road Warrior has been downloaded nearly 1,500 times and has contributed to the success of numerous SAP Mobility Solution deals. In a recent survey, four out of five users agreed that the game adds value to their work.

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ACQUIRING TOP TALENT

With a volatile economy, a need for greater agility and the rise of the millennial generation, organizations are faced with a real dilemma -- how to find and hire great talent. They have to be more creative in leveraging their employer brand and more agile in reconfiguring their workforce and developing and maintaining relationships with candidates to build a steady talent pool in order to fill positions quickly. Simply, they must transform recruitment from a string of ad-hoc requests to a never-ending, continuous process. In addition, the millennial generation is sparking an even greater need to be tech-savvy -- both in terms of new tools and technology, as well as social media. The function of talent acquisition has responded to these needs, changing dramatically over the past 10 years from an ad-hoc, reactionary program to a strategic business process. Consider the terminology. The phrase "talent acquisition" (at one time considered to be marketing hype) is now mainstream, and is embraced by both large and small organizations. Companies now understand that a broad end-to-end focus is needed, one that stretches from building a strategic employment brand, through sourcing and recruiting, all the way to onboarding top people.

With this new way of thinking, talent acquisition has become an incredibly complex and fragmented process at many organizations, often highly distributed and uncoordinated, and often challenging for practitioners wishing to stay ahead of market trends and best practices.

Best-practice organizations -- including all of the winners in this category -- are focusing on strategic areas (such as employment branding, social networking, candidate-relationship management and key analytics), and have tightly integrated talent acquisition with talent management -- organizationally, systemically and technologically.

The winners in this category all methodically sought out data to drive decisions and understand the effects of those decisions; leveraged their employee bases for knowledge about what makes their brand unique, for sources of new employees and for understanding how best to compete for future talent; and collaborated with marketing to leverage their employer brands.

Mars Inc.

A privately owned, McLean, Va.-based American global food manufacturer operating in 73 countries with $30 billion in annual sales in 2010.

As a consequence of a decade-long strategy that focused only on marketing the brands but not the company, people knew the product brands very well, yet attributed them to others. The rankings in candidate attractiveness worldwide were therefore far below competitors. At the end of 2010, Mars made it a priority to unify the company in the eyes of candidates and address existing issues to ensure messaging and execution remained in sync throughout the globe.

Instead of only focusing on developing campaigns, Mars adopted a holistic approach based on three pillars: a global recruitment narrative rooted in associate feedback, a creative framework to ensure one Mars "look and feel" and an "up-skilling" of the HR community to think and deliver holistically.

The solution was found within the company itself. Mars associates were finding remarkable ways to add value and substance to their jobs. Everything rested on the following four words: "Make It Mean More." Having defined the positioning statement, Mars let associates' stories speak for themselves. The company developed an intriguing and surprising graphic style that involved picking out a feature of each story and wrapping it in the packaging of a brand relevant to the story.

Internally, more than 200 HR and corporate-affairs associates have been trained as part of the deployment effort. Sixteen of the key markets, six of them for the first time, have put three- to five-year plans in place in order to deploy and continue to strengthen their brand presence.

Mars was recognized as the best graduate advertiser in the coveted, student-judged Times Top 100 Awards in the United Kingdom, as well as the Top 3 international campaign in the industry's leading, expert-awarded RAD awards. In the United States, for the first time, Mars entered the Top 100 best employers in the Universum rankings. Globally, for the first time, Mars is in the Top 50 employers in the Universum global rankings.

Accenture

A global management-consulting, technology-services and outsourcing company with more than 249,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries.

Several years ago, Accenture was doubly challenged in its desire to keep alumni connected and in its struggles dealing with a volatile talent-supply situation. It recognized that creating a strong alumni "ecosystem" would be crucial to sustaining talent requirements and growing the business.

In response to these challenges, Accenture launched the Accenture Alumni Network, a large-scale program catering to a diverse multinational alumni population by following a holistic global approach with local customizations. The program is owned by the chief human resource officer, with country managing directors being actively involved.

This Global Alumni HR Team is responsible for asset creation, governance, effectiveness and sustenance across multiple processes. The Global Marketing Team manages communication toolkits and the Accenture Alumni Network website. Local country teams provide high-touch support, manage country-specific alumni events and work diligently to create awareness. The Accenture Alumni Network website is a central, secure, social network site that is integrated with recruitment tools and kept fresh with the latest technological advancements.

As a result of this initiative, global-alumni hires increased significantly between 2009 and 2011. Since the launch of the Accenture Alumni Network website in 2007, registrations have increased significantly.

UnitedHealth Group

A diversified managed-healthcare company headquartered in Minnetonka, Minn., offering a range of products and services through two operating businesses -- United Healthcare and Optum -- and serving approximately 70 million individuals nationwide.

The challenge for UnitedHealth Group involved two critical dimensions. First, the company had to educate the talent market on the sophistication of its business model and place in the evolving health system.

This included repositioning an insurance company as part of the solution, not the problem. Second, the company had to help the coveted and heavily recruited individuals envision their role within its very fast-paced, high-performing environment. In almost every critical area of hiring, UnitedHealth Group faced intense competition, even with the higher unemployment rates that endure today.

The organization embarked on a three-month qualitative and quantitative research process of more than 3,000 employees and leveraged Claritas demographic and psychographic information to guide and shape its engagement strategies.

As a result, surveys and metrics showed the following: overall hiring manager satisfaction, +9.6 percent -- including quality of applicants at +9.8 percent, candidate knowledgeable about mission and values at +62.9 percent, and perception of UnitedHealth Group at +45.5 percent; overall candidate satisfaction, +10.6 percent -- including perception of UnitedHealth Group as an employer of choice at +18.9 percent, ability to make an informed employment decision at +22 percent and candidate quick quits at –14.1 percent; cost savings -- including marketing cost per hire at –18.9 percent and total cost per hire at –12.2 percent; and engaged employees in unique value proposition that comprises the work experience at UnitedHealth Group -- with employee engagement at +10 percent and overall employee satisfaction at +14 percent.

CACI International Inc.

A worldwide, Arlington, Va.-based provider of information solutions and services in support of national-security missions and government transformation. The Fortune 1000 firm has roughly 14,900 employees in more than 120 offices.

CACI works within an environment of increased competition for positions from competitors, teaming partners and the government itself, and revenue is lost every day a position goes unfilled.

As government defense and intelligence budgets have shrunk, CACI, like many government contractors, has faced a higher level of competition for new and existing contracts. Government insourcing efforts have also increased, creating an elevated employee-attrition risk.

The challenge is how to reach, capture the attention of, and ultimately provide the best opportunity for the perfect candidate before anyone else does.

To help CACI meet its recruiting challenges, its Recruiting and Assimilation Team merged the two key functions of marketing and technology, and invested significantly in technical solutions to improve the candidate experience, decrease recruiting and hiring-time expenditures, and elevate the company's overall hiring performance.

Once the new Recruitment Marketing and Technology Team was formed in August 2011, team members quickly reassessed their strategy and focused on how to help the organization achieve its recruiting objectives.

As a result, they improved and enhanced mobile-recruiting technology, search-engine optimization, talent-community marketing, social-media marketing and the applicant tracking system.

Mobile traffic increased 38 percent, talent-community membership increased by 247 percent, social-media followers increased by triple digits, prescreening questions were adopted for specific positions, 4,927 positions were filled (a 12-percent increase over the previous year), days-to-hire decreased from 26 to 24, and cost-per-hire decreased by 8 percent to $2,633, delivering more than $1.1 million to CACI's bottom line.

OPTIMIZING TALENT MANAGEMENT

Organizational talent management has become one of the most critical priorities in human resources. Even more importantly, we now clearly understand that highly integrated and business-focused talent-management strategies directly drive business results. The phrase "talent management" was coined many years ago and initially referred to the programs we used to manage the "top talent" in an organization. Since then, organizations have come to realize that integrated talent-management strategies should be applied to all workforces in the organization.

Talent management is now a mainstream concept. In that light, a couple of important conclusions have come to the surface:

First, and perhaps most important from a "making it happen" perspective, these changes have created the need for a new type of HR organization, one that functions like an integrated part of the business. This new HR organization is globally integrated, operates locally, and is powered by highly skilled HR professionals and business partners. It functions on data and drives managers to make data-driven decisions. The new HR organization uses integrated self-service technology; is focused on leadership development, talent assessment and culture; and has a firm grasp on the business's current talent and future needs.

This new HR organization is just starting to emerge, but it foreshadows the inevitable future of our industry -- one in which HR becomes an integrated "talent business operations" function, able to support major transformations in the company. HR helps the business itself to function as a "talent producer," developing and supporting talent on a regular basis.

Second, and related, the optimization of the organization's people, processes and technology in support of this talent-producer role sums up a major set of decision points facing the HR (and talent) functions today. A well-formed top-line talent strategy, likely focused on agility, is important. But successful talent management begins "in the trenches." Organizations need clearly defined and commonly understood "languages for talent" in the form of competency and role frameworks. These frameworks become the foundational lingua franca on which critical connections and conversations between talent pillars -- such as talent acquisition, talent mobility, performance management, learning and rewards -- are built and sustained.

Certain talent-process connections remain essential and critical, including the connection between learning and performance management. This connection underpins development planning and career management. As you will see with this category's four winners, career development is emerging as the face of talent management to the company at large. When done well, it represents the successful match of company needs to employee wants, leading to both talent-gap solutions and engaged talent.

All four winners have simple, sustainable frameworks for matching competencies to roles, and ultimately to careers; let the business determine the requirements, rather than trying to adhere to a conceptual model or attempt to be overly exhaustive; and keep their systems and approaches simple and sustainable.

Universal Weather & Aviation Inc.

A Houston-based privately owned company that provides global aviation products and services to owners and operators of corporate business jets.

Because employees with trip-support-service skills are rarely found in the open market, Universal Weather & Aviation develops its own talent pool. A few years ago, employee turnover in the area was high, mainly due to poor job fit and inadequate training. Employees were hired through agencies, placed in classroom training for one week, and assigned to observe co-workers for six to eight weeks. New representatives had a proficiency rate of 20 percent after completing the classroom training. Most new employees took up to two years to develop the skills they needed to achieve 100 percent proficiency. The cost of turnover was enormous, and customer complaints were increasing.

The Trip Representative Integration Program was initiated to re-engineer the way TSSRs are selected and prepared for work assignments. Established as part of this were new job standards, hiring profiles to identify candidates with the aptitude to learn how to perform an extremely technical job, a new training format consisting of eight to 10 weeks of intensive classroom training conducted by HR staff and program orientation led by UWA's CEO. Rigorous assessments throughout the program are also done to determine who stays, who is reassigned and who goes.

The proficiency rate for graduates has increased from 20 percent to 80 percent and the time to achieve total proficiency has been reduced from two years to six months. Client complaints have gone down, overall turnover has gone from 15 percent to 3 percent and the company has saved more than $5 million of recruitment-related expenses since the process was re-engineered.

Dimension Data Management Services

A specialist IT-infrastructure-services-and-solution provider based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and operating around the globe. The company is a member of the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. Group.

Dimension Data recently identified specific talent challenges it needed to address: failure to distinguish current or future skills, and ambiguity and incorrect value attachment to skills; inability to recognize, place and price resources in client project–driven businesses; inadequate prioritization of learning and development needs; lack of visible future career opportunities, leading employees to either leave or be placed in wrong jobs; managers struggling to identify, grow and develop skills for teams due to the absence of a supportive career framework; employees unaware of skills required for internal vacancies, resulting in disappointment and longer recruitment and selection processes; and no alignment to jobs and skills, creating ineffective job structuring, inconsistent resource placement, and effort duplication that did not support the business.

To address and overcome these challenges, the organization built an integrated job-and-career initiative called the Dimension Data Job Framework. This initiative and framework allowed the company to do the following: define, document and classify all jobs across all operations; categorize jobs into families and frameworks within their functional areas; create a shared and transferrable competency library, including specialization and critical competencies used for job and skills building; map employees to job profiles and rate competencies; and link recommended development to competencies, allowing realistic career paths.

The company now has visibility for: core competencies per region/location, skills gaps per location, comparative workforce cost per location, and what jobs exist across the business and what their related job requirements are.

MassMutual Financial Group

The marketing name for Springfield, Mass.-based Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., a leading mutual life insurance company with 1,800 offices and 13 million clients worldwide.

MassMutual went through a significant restructuring in 2009 and, as a result, became a flatter and leaner organization. An unintended consequence of the change was that it limited certain career opportunities for employees. Engagement-survey results showed a decrease in workers who felt they had the opportunity to achieve career goals there.

In the spring of 2011, an online web portal called The Career Resource Center was rolled out, giving employees access to several self-assessments and e-learning modules to help identify their interests, values and strengths, and to determine how well their current positions aligned with their career goals.

In the fall of that year, competencies were rolled out. At the same time, the Competency Development Guide was introduced as a way to help employees find learning and development resources to build on their competencies.

The third piece of the strategy was the implementation of Open Mentoring in March 2012. Lastly, the Job Framework was rolled out four months later, culminating in the release of a Career Explorer tool that enables employees to compare and contrast jobs across the organization. The Career Resource Center has been live for just over one year and its use by employees has continued to increase each month.

At the 12-month mark, 66 percent of employees had taken advantage of the tool and there has been a notable change in participation in learning and development courses in general. The Open Mentoring tool was rolled out in the middle of 2012 and has a 7 percent utilization rate versus an average of 10 percent to 15 percent for similar companies, according to the company's vendor.

(See Career & Learning.)

Infosys BPO

An end-to-end outsourcing-services provider based in Bangalore, Karnataka, India, and the business-processing-outsourcing subsidiary of Infosys Limited.

The BPO industry has seen a shift in client expectations from cost savings to value add through complex transactions, innovative ideas and solutions that will help transform business. High employee turnover continues to be a challenge; hence, it becomes critical to retain skilled talent and constantly build on competencies, thus enhancing employee satisfaction and increasing client value.

Key factors resulting in high employee turnover are lack of visibility for growth and long-term careers; employees finding monotonous work a non-value add in the long run, both personally and professionally; and a loss of skilled and trained talent to the competition.

A Lean Six Sigma Black Belt methodology project helped reassess and identify how to improve the internal job-posting process to increase employee motivation, improve retention of a multi-skilled workforce and address attrition. The areas that were re-engineered were aligned to policy, process and technology.

As a result, the organization has seen an improvement in talent retention, along with an increase in internal placements, and has reduced the internal-hiring-cycle time.

 

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