Most companies understand learning and development opportunities are a big part of what keeps them in competition for talented personnel. To be sure, they might do employee education out of the kindness of their hearts or because it’s “the right thing,” but it’s typically sold to Mahogany Row as a part of a larger strategy to attract and retain the cream of the crop and get the best possible performances from them.
Yet for SmithBucklin, the world’s largest association management and professional services company, both bringing in top talent and caring for employees factor into the support from the enterprise’s leaders. Without a doubt, SmithBucklin’s learning and development programs still sustain recruitment and retention objectives, said Colette Huzinec, director of corporate learning and development.
“I feel we can attract top talent by having a rigorous development plan and training platform for our people,” she said. “Talent is a key differentiator in today’s marketplace, and simply offering comprehensive professional development opportunities allows us to recruit the best talent.”
The company also believes, however, in helping its employees through education because of both corporate culture and the fact that the workers are also the owners.
“Our company is 100 percent employee-owned, which happened in 2005,” Huzinec said. “We recognize and embrace our company’s responsibility to create and protect our culture, and that relates to our chosen values, which really represent the heart and soul of our company. SmithBucklin has 10 chosen values, and one of those is called ‘people care.’ Part of that is written along the lines of, ‘If we take care of our people, then they will take care of our clients and our business.’”
To ensure the development programs are helping SmithBucklin employees, the company includes questions about learning in its annual survey of the workforce, which is conducted by Moorehead Associates.
“There are a number of questions that are asked, but two of the ones we look at from a learning and development focus are, ‘I get the training needed to do a great job’ and ‘SmithBucklin encourages employees to be committed to continuous learning and selfimprovement.’ We always track those scores very closely to make sure that we outperform ourselves year after year,” Huzinec said.
SmithBucklin asks employees six questions related to training in the employee growth and development section of the poll (including the two above). In 2005, SmithBucklin scored an average of 3.88 across all six on a five-point scale (1 being the lowest, 5 being the highest). In this regard, the company outdistanced the Moorehead’s industry average of 3.52.
Crucial to this worker-centric approach is SmithBucklin’s Learning Center, an LMS-supported platform designed to help employees build and extend their professional, technical and managerial skills.
“Our Learning Center serves as a retention strategy in its own right because people appreciate the opportunity to develop skills on the job,” Huzinec said. “The SmithBucklin Learning Center, which is what we internally call our training and development platform, basically provides ongoing training and professional development to all of our people.”
All the modalities SmithBucklin uses — virtual or face-to-face, synchronous or asynchronous and so forth — combine to foster an inclusive, accessible and collaborative learning environment, Huzinec said. She cited the company’s onboarding curriculum as an example of this.
“We have a comprehensive new-employee orientation program that has video, classroom, self-study, job aids and checklists, and it also ties back around to our e-learning library,” she said.
One of the key elements of the orientation program that all employees have to go through is compliance training regarding issues such as sexual harassment. Yet, just as important as meeting mandated regulations is creating a secure and stable professional setting for the workforce, Huzinec said.
“In our comprehensive new-employee orientation program, we have several modules that support our values and help create and sustain a comfortable and productive work environment,” she said.
– Brian Summerfield, firstname.lastname@example.org
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