Robbins-Gioia has always had a strong commitment to the professional development of employees. For years it was a privately held business with steady growth and a close family type of environment. Benefits such as continued education, conferences and workshops were readily available to employees. However, other than a cost allotment per employee, there were not many metrics visible at the corporate level to demonstrate the impact of the professional development. This approach had to change after the company was acquired by a large firm. All overhead costs had to be justified, and ROI had to be shown for every dollar spent.
Luckily the professional development department, like the rest of the company, was project-management-focused. For years, it kept its own metrics in anticipation of a day like this. Even apart from the ROI study, the professional development team wanted to show the positive impact that investing in the workforce has on the top and bottom lines. The team had a strong belief that the management of learning is a C-level function and should have a seat at the table right next to finance, sales and operations.
The team wrote a business case and project plan to implement a corporate university—Robbins-Gioia University (RGU). At the rate the company was growing, a learning management system was also in order. The big goal had two parts: not only did Robbins-Gioia have to prepare the culture for a new corporate university concept, but it also had to get people to accept e-learning.
While the LMS was being planned and implemented, two important parallel activities were occurring with the HR department and leadership team: revising career paths and establishing a practice area management environment. Although career paths were in place, they needed to be overhauled to include this new notion of practice-area management. The company uses practice-area management as a way to identify and support key solution service offerings. Through this alignment of practice areas with career path planning and workforce professional development, Robbins-Gioia can create a very clear picture for employees on the company’s direction for growth as a whole and for them personally and professionally.
RGU was established with major colleges to support the practice areas. One of the significant actions the corporate university manager completed was to have each practice-area manager fill the role of dean for a specific college. This important role ensures the synergy needed between the operations side of the company and the professional development and HR sides. Together this team works to create certification programs that enable employees to move up the career path as well as poise the company for further growth in key strategic areas.
A major factor in determining project success is whether or not goals were achieved. The best way to do this is to establish performance goals for the project up front and measure results against them. Separate from the project goals of implementing the LMS technology project, three goals were determined to best demonstrate the impact of the corporate university concept:
- To increase the number of professional certifications obtained by employees by 25 percent.
- To hit revenue targets established in the key practice areas. This was expected to occur as a direct result of having more employees educated in those areas, which means a larger resource pool able to deliver solutions faster.
- To establish mechanisms that would contribute to the reduction of turnover by 5 percent below the industry average.
In the end, the metrics demonstrated that:
- The number of professional certifications increased by 58 percent.
- Revenue targets were exceeded. Again, the point here was to track revenue by practice area, so the impact of learning on each area could be assessed.
- The attrition rate went down, and Robbins-Gioia is working to reduce it even more.
The soft but perhaps most important goal realized was the collaborative and team spirit produced by working toward these initiatives. Three functions of the organization—professional development, human resources and operations—came together with amazing fluidity to accomplish challenging goals. The parent company was obviously happy with the revenue achievement, but also commented on how impressed it was with the team’s ability to truly work together to accomplish its aims.
Jennifer Stanford is Robbins-Gioia’s director of professional development. She has been featured as a panelist in PM Network’s “Today’s Project Manager” column and published in several project-management periodicals. Jennifer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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