Adri Maisonet-Morales’ career with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina didn’t start in learning. She was an implant from operations, and it’s one of the factors that has made her so successful leading the company’s learning function.
During her tenure in operations at the Durham-based company, she held a number of leadership positions before moving into learning and development in 2004. Four years later, she accepted her current role as vice president of enterprise learning and development, and each year she has added to a growing portfolio of honors she and her team have been awarded.
Today, nearly unprecedented policy and regulatory changes have added considerable pressure to insurers like BCBSNC, forcing them to reexamine how they do business. With learning and development as a work enabler and a performance driver, Maisonet-Morales’ strategy to lead with a business lens just makes sense.
“I always have an enterprise mindset as I look at the demand and make decisions about what we need to accomplish in order to have the workforce ready to activate and achieve the strategic imperatives of the organization,” she said.
For instance, she reconciles every project against three pillars: efficiency — assessing whether the cost accommodates the effort; alignment — looking critically at whether training is really the silver bullet to address a business problem; and effectiveness — ensuring all stakeholders are clear on desired outcomes and how they will improve performance in the subject area at hand.
In addition to using learning to equip the BCBSNC workforce of more than 5,000 internal employees and contractors to perform in a continuously changing environment, Maisonet-Morales and her team systematically reduced business costs by improving existing processes and systems and enabling workers to develop new and needed skills faster. She said learning opportunities are everywhere, and she has made it a key strategy to use innovations in digital technology to meet learners where they are, with what they need.
Today the demand for learning is incredibly high. As evidence, consider the 373,510 hours of training Maisonet-Morales’ department delivered last year. Her enterprise learning and development team made it a priority to figure out how to meet that increased need without learning becoming cost prohibitive. And, she said she encourages her team to think about how it could use this dilemma as an opportunity to strengthen internal partnerships.
With those objectives in mind, the learning function created a facilitations program, for which subject matter experts could apply to participate in a rigorous apprenticeship experience. Following program completion, the SMEs became adjunct faculty for the learning department, better equipping that team to deliver learning across the company.
“Not only were we able to meet the demand with deep expertise, we were also able to avoid thousands and thousands of dollars in cost,” Maisonet-Morales said.
It’s all about being part of efforts that bring strategic value to the organization, she said. BCBSNC’s learning strategy adapts learning and development to new learner behaviors using tools like video, social media and microlearning, a focus on decreased learner time in the classroom, improved content management and workflow, researching and evaluating new technologies and best practices in learning and development, and continuing to build partnerships and increase organizational alignment.
Maisonet-Morales and her team employ a multipronged approach designed around dedicated work teams for large-scale enterprise projects in enterprise system migration, health care reform and business transformation. Through the department’s Workforce Performance Consultants, the learning team works closely with business partners to create programs and initiatives that address changes in business processes that have come as a result of enterprise system changes, organizational realignment and corporate projects.
Maisonet-Morales said she sees coaching as critical in making strong leaders. Coaching is core to BCBSNC in developing leaders, she said, and it is embedded in the company’s signature Leadership Essentials program. The immersive three-week program is a requirement for all newly promoted or new-to-the organization people leaders.
Learning and development initiative and product effectiveness are measured in a number of ways. For instance, Maisonet-Morales has her team measure increases in learner perception of increased knowledge, productivity and capability through surveys and focus groups. And in the transformation of BCBSNC to a place where learning happens everywhere, the numbers show that development efforts are clearly making an impact. According to the company’s enterprise learning and development department, a 2014 biannual Denison engagement survey indicated an increase in organizational learning and capability perceptions by a factor of 16 percent.
It’s a team effort. Maisonet-Morales’ staff includes 46 core team members ranging from project managers, program managers and instructional designers to master trainers and facilitators. She also works with an extended team offshore through a partnership with digital content developer Aptara, to whom roughly 40 percent of the organization’s learning content development work is outsourced. Strategic use of external resources like Aptara has produced an estimated annual savings of $844,800 for BCBSNC, and the cost savings is expected to grow moving forward.
Leading learning with an eye on the bigger business picture, Maisonet-Morales said she is very deliberate in decision-making, drilling down to where the work is being done, “so my team is very clear about what is driving our work.” Team members are intimately involved in the overall learning strategy because when people understand how they add value in the organization, it supercharges their motivation to do good work, Maisonet-Morales said.
And, of course, it pays to adapt to meet the needs of today’s workers, and to deliver impact against the business strategy. “It’s an empowered workforce,” she explained. “I get out of the way, and then let the talent do what the talent does best.”
Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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