John Hancock Insurance and Financial Services provides solutions for many of consumers’ top financial concerns, including the need to plan for retirement, the cost of health care/medical expenses and financial security after retirement. Owned by Manulife Financial Corp., one of the largest life insurers in the world, John Hancock has found learning success by building the knowledge of its business into several key areas of its organization, including the new hire-orientation program which onboards about 100 new employees a year.
“Most of our opportunities for learning and development are based on change and improvement,” said David Muratori, director, performance development, John Hancock. “A lot of our training is about skill development. The prime mandate of my area is hire the right people, provide them with the training they need to do the job. Then once they get to the job, provide them with the tools or communications they need to succeed.”
Muratori is responsible for a division of John Hancock called Retirement Plan Services, which has 1,100 employees. The company has built different curricula for more than a half a dozen different job families.
“We look at the competencies for each job — they have some of the same modules in common,” Muratori said. “They all have benefits (What is a 401(K)? What does the company do? — that sort of thing), and we build customized modules for each of the classifications. Some of those are e-learning, some are facilitated. New-hire programs are facilitated.”
Almost all project training and other ongoing learning is delivered via e-learning because of the inherent efficiencies it brings to course logistics.
“We hire in groups,” Muratori said. “It’s very efficient to hire 20 people in bulk and throw them through a facilitated program. We have 280 people in the client account representative position. It’s much more efficient to do e-learning for all the training that they need. This fall in November we have seven large projects, constituting of 12 hours of e-learning all rolling out in two weeks. The material goes into a test, and then it goes into part of their benefits, their bonus and their variable incentive pay.”
Linking learning to monetary incentives has a profound effect on the company’s culture.
“We use learning to change organizational culture by basically reminding people that the more learning you do, the more you’re rewarded in terms of promotions and opportunities. You cannot move to certain jobs until you’ve shown a willingness to learn,” Muratori said. “It’s not an indirect link if you take this course you get a dollar, but if you’re not continuously learning, then you’re not on the fast track. If you’re not on the fast track, you’re not getting ahead.
“It increases the professionalism of the organization because if you have everybody learning, it improves communication. The old way I work in systems, finance and marketing, I don’t have to learn about what our business is because I’m in this little subset. When you put those three people in a meeting together, they don’t know how to communicate because they don’t understand what the underlying business is. By everyone having a higher bar and understanding the basic background of our business, there is a base set of knowledge that allows us to communicate with each other more efficiently. Less mistakes are made, and we don’t have to push the learning to them. People draw learning to themselves — people want to learn because if they don’t, they don’t get ahead.”
Increasing the impact of learning programs such as new-hire orientation has had a measurable effect on the company’s bottom line. Time to competency has decreased from a year and a half to just a few weeks, and there is an 80 percent standard for some training, which increases the new hires’ skill level.
“For some of our new hire training programs, if you fail, you don’t get the job, Muratori said. “We’re hiring people to key in and deal with financial transactions, 80 percent is actually not good enough.”
John Hancock is focusing more attention on e-learning and what Muratori calls its biggest strategy, InfoNet, a knowledge-based database with a natural language search engine.
“Adults, when they want to learn, they ask somebody, or they read a book, or they look it up — they don’t take a course,” Muratori said. “Instead of going around and asking three people, we’ve put everything we can think of into our database. Combined with the strong commitment to new hire training, the ongoing e-learning that we do for project training really shows that we’re building a culture.”
Kellye Whitney, firstname.lastname@example.org
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