Adding value to the business is extremely important at Allstate Insurance Company. In fact, senior executives want evidence that the company’s learning and development programs are providing measurable value to the business. Approximately two years ago, Allstate Chief Learning Officer Dave Groff set out to do just that. With more than 20 years of experience, Groff has held similar roles with Deere & Company, Kodak and Corning. But as chief learning officer for Allstate, Groff is not only responsible for enterprise-wide learning and development, but also succession planning, organizational development and effectiveness, performance management, and integration with staffing, selection and compensation. Therefore, it is no surprise that he developed a strategic architecture to guide improvements and investments for all talent management initiatives at Allstate.
In order to prove the program’s value as well as improve the overall vision and performance of Allstate’s comprehensive learning and development program for the organization’s 38,000 employees, 14,000 agents, financial specialists and their licensed sales professionals, Groff decided that simply examining the learning and development organization was not enough. Thus, he developed an all-encompassing proposal for a new vision and performance plan for Allstate’s entire talent management system to uncover opportunities for improvement.
“We reframed the original question of how we could try to improve the way in which we deliver education and training to looking at the broader opportunities. We wanted to find the opportunities to deliver education and training better, and how to better manage the flow of people from entry-level positions on up,” Groff explained. “So that entailed what we call the Talent Management Architecture.”
Allstate’s Talent Management Architecture integrates seven key processes affecting the management and development of talent. The strategic seven components include the overall business needs, capability requirements, assessment practices, development planning practices, education and training practices, work-related learning practices, and progression and mobility practices. According to Groff, under each of these seven strategic components, the human processes associated with them are identified as well. “For example, under assessment practices, we may have something like performance management, multi-rater tools, assessment centers, team assessments, self assessments, etc.,” Groff explained. “Also, under work-related learning, for example, we have things like action learning, mentoring, taskforce participation, board participation, communities of practice and more.”
Groff said Allstate is in its second year of realizing the integration among a wide range of these human capital processes. “We started with articulating and getting a clearer view of the strategies of the company and then articulating the sets of capabilities that would be required to reach those set business strategies successfully,” Groff said. “So we developed competency models for key roles within the organization, and we are now in the process of embedding these models into the various human capital processes in the company.”
Groff and his learning and development team have already embedded the competency models into Allstate’s performance management system, education and training processes, succession planning and management processes. “We will also be embedding them in things like mentoring processes, communities of practice, the LMS, performance development guides, etc.,” he said. “Another thing that we are doing this year is embedding them into the selection process because we are trying to get the various human capital processes in the company to represent the same direction as our defined business strategies.”
Groff said the overall purpose of the Talent Management Architecture is to align the core talent management and development processes in order to improve the individual performance of employees, the functionality and efficiency of the company’s business units, and the overall performance of the organization. Groff anticipates that the Talent Management Architecture will be fully realized during the next two to three years. “The Talent Management Architecture is really a point of view that says that all human capital processes within an organization can and should be integrated using a common language or logic that aligns with the business strategy,” Groff said. “The idea behind it is the more you can coordinate all of these activities, the more success you have at the integration of producing the successes both in the people and the results the corporation delivers.”
The Talent Management Architecture affects everyone in the organization in its own way. Whether an employee is a financial specialist, HR executive or IT professional, Groff said the Talent Management Architecture could impact his or her career and personal development. “Coordinating the wide range of human capital processes makes it possible to develop people in a more serious, more aggressive and effective manner,” he said. “Development is looked at too simplistically in many companies. Typically it is best thought of as part of the organizational infrastructure and fabric, and it is the coordination of that infrastructure that makes development work, not what an individual gets, per se. We have more of an organizational-centric idea of development than an individual-centric idea.”
In addition, because the Talent Management Architecture defines the core capabilities and critical roles, employees are more knowledgeable of future opportunities and avenues for advancement. “For example, the required competencies for Allstate leaders are available to everyone in the organization. This allows everybody in the company to know what we hold leaders accountable for and how they could develop leadership qualities, characteristics and attributes that not only will make them more successful in the company but might make them personally more successful at moving around in the company,” Groff said.
Furthermore, the Talent Management Architecture is helping Groff and his team identify specific opportunities to improve learning and development programs. “There are many challenges in a job like this, and I don’t know if one is more challenging than the other. Things like continuing to coordinate with the strategic agenda of the corporation, trying to differentiate the products and services we provide to the various audiences throughout the organization, establishing priorities and getting things to market quicker drive our efforts to improve,” Groff said. “It can be challenging to know what the biggest advantages or disadvantages of initiatives implemented in the company are and applying the products and services to priorities is critical.
“Concise solutions are also a rising concern. The tolerance for long-winded people and long training sessions is a thing of the past because everybody wants to do things in half the time these days. So our products and services need to be very efficient, concise and precise, both from a level of expectation from clients and from a cost point of view,” he said. “We are always looking for more efficient ways to deliver the same services, and that means we sometimes have to expand our use of alternative solutions or outsourced methods.”
Groff said his education team uses a combination of internal resources and vendor partners to deliver quality education experiences to Allstate’s geographically dispersed organization. This collaboration enables Allstate to provide learning that is both timely and cost-effective.
Additionally, Groff said managing variable content and delivering a customized experience for learners is a challenge that his education team faces regularly. “State insurance laws for auto and property vary, and when designing an educational approach for a product such as Allstate’s Your Choice Auto, our team must reflect state-specific nuances in the education we design for agents and support staff in the various states where we do business,” he said. “In addition to customization driven by state-specific insurance laws, our representatives in agencies, call centers and Allstate’s claims organization have different learning requirements for common content as well. These factors have motivated us to find innovative ways to leverage and reuse content.”
With more than 3,600 learning activities offered through various delivery methods to improve individual and corporate business performance, Allstate is on the brink of implementing a new LMS as well. “The increasing sophistication of the products that we buy from third parties, the levels of mediation, the levels of interaction, etc., couldn’t be accommodated by our previous LMS,” Groff said. “So we had to move ahead with an LMS that had functionalities that would allow for the utilization of products that were coming to us from the outside. But on the other hand, the new LMS will allow us to gain more sophistication in the delivery of products internally as well.”
According to Groff, the new LMS will also give Allstate greater capability to observe employee usage as well as allow local offices to add additional materials to the system. “The last piece that is particularly beneficial is the extent to which we can now begin to start associating metrics in the LMS with performance metrics in the business. So for example, if we are interested in making correlations between course usage, job aid usage and sales statistics in regions, we would be able to examine correlations like that. It will give us a fabulous view to much more sophisticated measurement opportunities.
“Beyond the LMS, we are expanding our measurement frameworks to include conditions for success that are necessary for each key process to operate effectively within the broader corporate organization. This goes beyond standard process outcome measures. For example, how much of the success of a training program depends on what happens in the program? Very little, I would say. A program’s success is far more dependent on its fit with key organizational decisions, contingencies or conditions. Managing and measuring these conditions is the role of each process owner, whether staffing, training, succession, etc. So, we are moving ahead to understand and calibrate ourselves against a broader set of factors.”
—Cari McLean, email@example.com
Name: Dave Groff
Title: Chief Learning Officer
COMPANY: Allstate Insurance Company
- Established the Talent Management Architecture to guide improvements and investments in talent development products and services.
- Created consistent, research-based logic frames to issue and improve decisions on human capital.
- Recognized deeper connections to strategic and operational planning processes to focus human capital investments.
- Segmented talent by criticality to the strategy to focus resources on performance improvements that are more consequential to business success.
- Developed conditions for success to expand traditional process metrics to business decisions or conditions outside of core processes yet necessary for core process success.
Learning Philosophy: “The learning function’s contribution to the corporation is enhanced when: part of a comprehensive HR strategic framework; objectives are derived and resourced from the business strategy process; products and services are aligned with other key factors that drive required performance; and measured by impact on talent pools most important to business results.”
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