GOLD: Deborah McCuiston, Director of Corporate Learning, Virgin America
Since its launch in 2006, airline Virgin America has blossomed into one of the more recognizable brands in an industry dominated by a few major players. But in fall 2012 the company needed to slow down its fast-paced growth to maintain profitability amid the broader forces in the industry, namely the economy and an increase in fuel prices.
The course change prompted another need: a way to explain the strategy shift to employees, who would find the change a deep contrast to the internal messaging of the previous several years.
Guided by Deborah McCuiston, Virgin’s director of corporate learning, the company developed a learning program called Refresh, a series of two-day events from January through March intended to unite employees around the culture shift. Refresh played a key role in transforming the organization’s culture. It would also serve as the main tool to manage the change the company was about to embark on.
Through 19 Refresh events, the program introduced the new strategy to employees, launched educational sessions explaining how Virgin was going to achieve it and reconnected employees with the company’s broader vision and mission.
The events also included breakout sessions to provide employees with more details about the strategy shift and its key tactics, an address by Virgin’s CEO and 45-minute “leadership tables” in which senior leaders were available to answer questions.
In a recent companywide engagement survey, the strategy and culture shift were the highest-ranked of all topics. On a scale of 1 to 10 where the goal is 7.5 or greater, every strategy question rated higher than the goal.
SILVER: Tara Gray, Learning and Development Lead, Chevron
Energy firm Chevron Corp. expects most of its experienced employees to retire in less than five years, meaning it would have an insufficient number of qualified people to fill needed roles.
The problem was compounded because the company’s project management process, tools and practices are proprietary and not widely used throughout the industry, meaning the majority of its staff were not accustomed to using them correctly. Chevron created a learning and development program and function, Project Management Academy (PMA) from the ground up.
PMA is based on evidence-based learning and development practices which have demonstrated to accelerate and improve competency development, consistency, quality, and performance, including a systems approach, active, experiential instructor-led training, and just in time learning. The program measures quality and impact using the Kirkpatrick and Brinkerhoff models.
To date, pilot outcomes and initial year of deployment outcomes in Houston, London, Kazakhstan, Australia, Indonesia and Singapore demonstrate improved competency development and quality. Further, early qualitative measures administered by the company show general employee satisfaction with the PMA program.
BRONZE: Ann Marie Sidman, Vice President, Learning and Development, Gen Re
Insurer Gen Re’s learning and development team sought to build a program to enable its professional client-facing staff to improve collaboration, decision-making and other critical skills.
The program, Strategic Thinking, Tools & Tactics, or ST3, included a three-day advanced curriculum featuring instructors from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. ST3 included an experiential learning simulation to replicate the realities learners would face at work.
The program promoted associate interest in learning as well as knowledge retention. Engagement surveys show that roughly 95 percent of participants have been able to recall and apply the lessons taught during the course on the job.