Excellence in Executive Education recognizes executive education providers that have delivered a targeted executive education program for a client that has delivered measurable results.
The Regis Co.
Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s business model is based on having a strong field presence in communities where its district and field offices support financial representatives. These representatives are responsible for developing relationships with customers who ultimately purchase the Milwaukee-based company’s products and services. With the goal of expanding its sales force, Northwestern Mutual was looking to increase development efforts to build the skills of its emerging leaders to be able to lead the growing organization.
To create this leadership pipeline, the company came up with Leadership NEXT. The invitation-only, three-year, high-potential program debuted in 2014 and includes simulations and experiences that allow participants the opportunity to improve and focus on their leadership skills. These experiences include real-world applications focusing on the financial acumen of running a small business, leadership development, and other leadership competencies in a peer-to-peer setting, according to the company’s application.
Initially, to help determine the needs and strengths of Northwestern Mutual’s financial representatives, The Regis Co., a developer of custom simulation-based experiences, conducted interviews that were then codified in a needs document. Next, a cross-functional design session was held with financial representatives, leadership and stakeholders. Finally, working with Regis, Northwestern Mutual designed the NEXT Simulation Board Game, the primary activity in the Leadership NEXT program. The game is designed for six teams, with each team representing the leadership in an Northwestern Mutual office. As the teams play the game, they encounter tasks that emulate running an office, including making investments and ROI impact, as well as situations in which leaders must make financial decisions unique to running an office. The game is delivered in a live, facilitated session to prompt discussion among participants. Each year, the game can be updated to reflect new challenges facing Northwestern Mutual.
While it’s too early to tell whether the program has made an impact in market share and improved financial representative performance, behaviors have changed among its target audience, according to the company’s application. Observations by Northwestern Mutual executive leadership share that participants are making fewer decisions alone. They are engaging more people in their offices when making difficult decisions, which will hopefully create better change-management processes and clearer communication in the long term.
Northwestern Mutual has also experienced an increase in its executive leader succession pool. Due to the NEXT program, more sales leaders are expressing interest in becoming a managing partner; Northwestern Mutual reports a 400 percent increase in interest among sales leaders to continue to executive roles in the company.
As part of its Strategy 2020 goal, Clorox wanted to gain a competitive advantage by developing an industry-leading supply chain. The company enlisted the help of Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech, which was already providing successful executive education to senior leaders for the company. These senior leaders felt that in order to execute changes in the business, lower-level managers needed to be properly trained as well. But bringing in Clorox managers for a two-week offsite program was not feasible for both logistical and budgetary reasons.
To meet this need, Scheller created a blended online program, Global Operations Leadership Forum. The program utilizes the NovoEd learning platform to incorporate online learning with an onsite residential component at the Georgia Tech campus, allowing participants to interact with Georgia Tech faculty and network.
The GOLF program focuses on three areas crucial to implementing an industry-leading supply chain — strategic thinking, operational excellence and leadership development — and lasts eight weeks. The first two weeks are completed online. Participants learn about basic topics, divide into small groups and work on team assignments. Week three is held in-person and consists of three days on campus at the Scheller School of Business, with seminars led by faculty and subject matter experts. The final four weeks are held online and consist of a continuation of learning content and one team assignment per week.
The program requires three to four hours per week spent in the NovoEd learning platform. Each week, the teams are expected to meet via video conference at a time of their choosing to work on and submit their team assignment. In the platform, each team has its own private workspace in which they can schedule times to meet virtually, have discussions and share documents. Team assignments receive feedback from instructors and staff so participants are receiving both peer and expert feedback during the program.
By building a greater sense of accountability and relying on each other in teams, the initiative has garnered a nearly 100 percent completion rate. Based on survey feedback, participants reported a high level of impact on their activities and management of supply chain initiatives.