The Vanguard Group is one of the world’s largest investment companies, managing about $3 trillion in global assets and more than 14,000 employees. The company’s core purpose is to treat all investors fairly and give them the best chance for investment success. Through Vanguard’s learning and development strategy, the company strives to affect “the three C’s”: crew, clients and community.
Vanguard University, or VU, is the company’s “culture carrier.” Learning strategy, directly related to the company’s overall business strategy, focuses on the flywheel effect — creating momentum to drive powerful results. “Our learning strategy accelerates Vanguard’s corporate flywheel by advancing the knowledge, skills, and capabilities of our crew while giving them the same focus and opportunities for greatness we give our external clients,” said Alison Young, a senior instructional designer at VU.
Because of its focus on leadership and crew skills, VU is a catalyst for engagement at the company. It provides targeted learning experiences in areas considered critical to Vanguard’s success.
Vanguard CEO Bill McNabb emphasizes Vanguard’s leadership standard by which he holds the company’s leadership responsible for developing their crew. Nearly 500 leaders participate in VU as adjunct faculty, more than half of whom are senior leaders, officers or executive staff members.
Last year, these adjunct staffers spent 3,574 hours in the classroom developing crew and taking on coaching roles for individuals and small groups. Leaders’ involvement in developing learning and supporting a strong learning culture is especially important because Vanguard promotes and develops more than 80 percent of its leaders from within.
To stay ahead of the curve and make learning and development stronger, Vanguard made 2015 the Year of Learning, which ended at the third VU Learning Summit in May 2016. “We recognize that for VU to continue developing both personally and professionally, we must continue to disrupt ourselves before we are disrupted by industry trends,” Young said.
Composed of a series of curated opportunities, the Year of Learning enabled crew to evolve in the spirit of innovation. For example, VU introduced a collaborative platform where people can discover and share content, and communicate virtually. This inspired leaders to embrace virtual learning on a larger scale to create new global learning opportunities.
Leaders have amplified gamification — applying elements of game play such as scoring points into learning strategies. This has been an effective way to engage crew in fundamental topics like business acumen.
Also, the organization uses the results to identify missed questions and additional development opportunities. Finally, the Year of Learning inspired Vanguard to use deep technical assessments to measure the effect of learning on the individual and assess knowledge gained.
Separate from its Year of Learning, Vanguard has a strong development focus on areas such as innovation, immersive experiences and social collaboration. Innovation is especially important in the financial services industry because there is constant change.
“Our learning strategy is effective because we are nimble as a learning organization,” Young said. “By aligning each business strategy into the most critical priorities and must-win battles, VU appropriately deploys learning and development resources.”
Immersive experiences allow Vanguard crew to learn in a live, simulated, nontraditional environment. For example, learners role-play with actors to practice client communication, an approach the company found to be effective at transferring desired skills to live client interactions.
The organization also plans to use social media to bring groups together. Vanguard recently started an online pre-leadership program that connects aspiring leaders globally, allowing these motivated but geographically separated people to collaborate and to develop the skills of a Vanguard leader.
In the future, Vanguard plans to develop strategies that will enhance the learning culture and make it even more nimble. “We welcome the challenge and look forward to learning in ways one might not have ever imagined,” Young said. “We can only get there by embracing the spirit of experimentation and innovation.”
Andie Burjek is a Chief Learning Officer editorial intern. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.
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