For the approximately 1,400 employees of Informatica, a leading provider of data integration products and services, finding time for learning can be tough. That’s because the company operates in a “very hypercompetitive environment,” according to Linda Pfeifer, director of HR global learning and performance.
“Our business is very fast paced,” she said. “It’s very important for our employees and managers to be up to date on the latest technologies, soft skills and leadership skills. At the same time, because everything’s moving so fast, it can be hard to set aside time for training. My biggest challenge is helping busy managers carve time out of their busy schedules for learning and development. One of the ways I do that is by ensuring that the learning solutions are well aligned with the needs of the managers and the employees, as well as aligned to strategic goals.”
With those kinds of performance demands, it might seem surprising that Pfeifer is so enthusiastic about mentoring and coaching initiatives, which typically require a fair amount of time and effort. But in her role, she has just launched a pilot for a mentoring program, and she also operates extensive coaching offerings for managers.
“We have a core management curriculum that all of our managers go through,” she explained. “It’s coach-based. It doesn’t matter if they’re a manager in California or Bangalore or the Netherlands — they’re all going to go through the same management development experience.”
Using external coaches, the program teaches managers about key knowledge and skills for their roles, such as motivational techniques and leadership practices, Pfeifer said.
“As they work with the managers, there is structure in that there are certain skills that the managers must learn and apply in their own environment. At the same time, there is a lot of flexibility, in that the manager has the freedom to determine how they’re going to apply the skills, and in what context it works best. Providing structure around what the manager must learn while at the same time providing flexibility so the managers have freedom for self-direction is a powerful combination.”
Another advantage of the program is that the information flows in multiple directions. Particularly, it serves as a way to gather expertise and lessons learned from Informatica’s management population.
“Our coach-based management development program is set up to capture and continuously grow and pull in new best practices and learning from all our managers,” Pfeifer said. “Even if I’m a manager and I’m too busy to enter the mentoring program right now, at least through our core management development curriculum, I can benefit from the lessons learned and best practices of other managers half a world away.
“What I’ve learned is how these programs morph. They continuously change and adapt to the new knowledge that comes into the environment. What’s exciting is when these processes and skills are actually applied in the real world, we gain even more awareness and insight as to how to translate that research into effective management behavior. You only get that if you have your hand on the pulse of what’s happening in the trenches.”
Also, Pfeifer pointed out that mentoring and coaching programs are effective ways to capture knowledge before it leaves the organization.
“To me, the organizational learning piece is critical,” she said. “When you have a top performer who’s been a mentor to many people leave the company, if you haven’t figured out a way of capturing their best practices and expertise to share and disseminate on a global basis, then you’ve missed a tremendous opportunity.”