Vice President, Learning
With some 325,000 employees around the world, any single learning program or initiative that could impact the entire IBM workforce would have to be incredibly large in size and scope. Yet, in effect, that’s precisely what IBM Vice President of Learning Ted Hoff and his team did when they developed and implemented the Role of the Manager@IBM initiative to foster leadership transformation. This program has impacted its intended audience, the manager population at IBM–which numbers approximately 30,000 people across a broad spectrum of regions, in terms of both geography and organizational structure–as well as the employees they lead. Additionally, IBM executives have taken an active interest in the initiative in a variety of ways, including participating in an online management forum.
Perhaps part of the reason Hoff, who has served as IBM’s vice president of learning for more than three-and-a-half years and has been in the field of corporate education for more than 17 years, has been so effective in his role is that he thoroughly enjoys it. “I love my job,” he said. Hoff also acknowledged, though, that the commitment of every member of the organization to learning and development programs, from the CEO to entry-level employees, had a hand in his success at IBM.
The Role of the Manager@IBM divides several different learning modalities, including online conferencing, online skill building and simulations, and an in-class learning lab, into phases of the program that blend together to form learning that is process-based, rather than experience-based. This process never really ends, either, as the last phase, Manager Action Net, a Web-based community of purpose spanning the entire enterprise, can be used ad infinitum by IBM managers to discuss problems, solutions and best practices.
Prior to deployment of the initiative, Hoff and the IBM Learning department hired an intervention-analysis firm to impartially determine the efficacy of the program. This outside organization collected data at 45- and 90-day intervals through Manager ActionNet, e-mail and interviews that took place after participants completed the program. A random sample of managers was interviewed in the first instance, followed by a group of leaders of team action plans, called imperative leaders, who were identified during the learning lab phase. Information on four metric levels was amassed, ranging from learners’ perceived merit of the program to business impact resulting from applying new knowledge and skills within IBM.
The first stage of measuring showed that 80 percent of the participants who were randomly selected to provide feedback believed the program was a valuable learning experience, while 85 percent of the imperative leaders in the subsequent survey thought it was constructive. In addition, the latter group reported greater levels of achievement of company objectives, as well as increased levels of collaboration and communication throughout the business, which they attributed to the Role of the Manager@IBM initiative.
Other follow-up surveys conducted a few months after participants had completed the Role of the Manager@IBM showed that about 60 percent of participants had taken actions based on their participation in the program. The initiative reaped financial dividends as well. Out of 50 cases reviewed afterward in which imperative leaders implemented action plans in their teams, 12 generated combined estimated revenue of $284 million dollars. All of these 12 leaders cited the Role of the Manager@IBM as the single factor that enabled them to carry out the plans so effectively. Because the total cost to create and deploy the initiative was approximately $80 million, it can be said that the Role of the Manager@IBM netted IBM about $200 million in this handful of cases alone.