From The Vanguard Group’s perspective, learning and development strategy doesn’t just affect the company’s employees and bottom line, it also affects the retirements and financial futures of thousands of clients worldwide.
The mutual fund company delivers its learning and development through its Vanguard University. The goal of its learning department is to enable employees to “reach their highest professional potential so that they, in turn, can help our clients achieve their financial goals and dreams.”
With that in mind, learning is a key component of the company’s culture. One of the most important aspects of Vanguard University’s learning strategy is the client relationship management training program, which integrates learning at all levels of the organization to help employees interact with co-workers, management and, ultimately, clients. Further, Vanguard University’s directors ensure learning is directly aligned to employee performance. New hires are taught basic skills through the CRM program, and as their careers progress, they are encouraged to continue their development by acquiring increasingly advanced skills critical to guiding client accounts.
New hires from the company’s Retail Investment Group also participate in the RIG Academy, a classroom experience to educate new employees about Vanguard’s history and client-focused strategy. Driving home the emphasis on client service, the RIG Academy has employees tour booths filled with client artifacts, such as hand-written letters and photos related to their retirement dreams and success stories.
Vanguard expects its leaders to facilitate employee development by sharing their knowledge in the classroom. Employees can attend workshops taught by nearly 600 Vanguard adjunct faculty members, more than half of whom are senior leaders, officers and executive staff members. The adjunct faculty members fill various roles in addition to being workshop instructors. These organizational leaders conduct small group or individualized coaching sessions, hold client interaction simulations and make themselves available to learners to debrief about learning content covered.
Seven competencies, known internally as the Leadership Standard, help Vanguard judge its leaders’ performance. One of the seven competencies is a commitment to developing employee professional skills. Overall, Vanguard leaders spend an average of 120 hours per year in the classroom actively supporting employee development.
To help employees make the most of their learning and development education, volunteer service was a new addition to Vanguard University’s curriculum in 2013.
“We think that providing VU [students] with a skills-based philanthropic outlet will heighten engagement and maximize community impact,” said Nate Prosser, learning and development manager at Vanguard University.
Hoping to have an even deeper effect on the communities Vanguard serves, the company plans to extend its learning and development efforts to charitable organizations. Last year more than 40 courses in Vanguard University’s professional development and learning curriculum were generalized to be broadly distributed to partner agencies.
Vanguard’s learning content is given little chance to become obsolete, as its learning department constantly evaluates how well it is executing its learning strategy. Vanguard University relies on learning and development consultants and other organizational leaders to identify which existing learning needs are best aligned to business performance needs.
The university increased its emphasis on technologies that encourage social connections, such as discussion boards and wikis, an enterprise learning portal and a multimedia sharing platform. Further, every year the employees in charge of Vanguard University get together for the Learning Summit, a two-day retreat held each spring. Global thought leaders share their insights, and internal and external experts hold workshops, lectures and presentations on the latest trends in corporate learning and development.
The company’s learning and development function believes the Learning Summit is a testament to its desire to learn and grow, and in turn help the organization be more successful overall. Ultimately, Vanguard’s deep commitment to organization-wide learning and development appears to be working the way it was intended to.
For example, 90 percent of employees said they’re proud to tell others they work at Vanguard, according to the 2014 Great Place to Work survey. Sixty percent of all positions are filled internally. The company also enjoys an employee turnover rate of 7.5 percent, which it says is one-third of the industry average.
Perhaps most importantly, Vanguard says it owns the highest client retention rates in the mutual fund industry.