By: Kathy Albarado on June 8th, 2010

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Taking Care of Your People Takes Care of Your Business

Communication | Business Management & Strategy | Best Practices | TBU


In an economy where every dollar is cautiously and carefully spent, the most important investments become apparent. Companies admit the secret to their success is their employees. Even in a down economy, investments in employee programs are on the rise.

Organizations with strong employee development initiatives achieve a critical competitive advantage. A global workforce survey conducted by Towers Perrin found that companies with the highest levels of employee engagement achieve better financial results and are more successful in retaining their most valued employees. In fact, companies with the largest percentage of engaged employees experienced an increased operating income of 19 percent. By engaging employees with development and training programs, they believe the company values their efforts and feel a part of the organization’s overall success.

For four years, Helios HR has hosted the Apollo Awards, a program dedicated to recognize employers that invest in employee development initiatives. In parallel, leading market research firm, Market Connections, collects survey data from all nominees. This data is analyzed in a best practices program overview. Through the Apollo Awards, executives and human resource (HR) professionals can learn about the actions of enlightened and innovative organizations, which exemplify strong HR programs. Certain commonalities become evident, this year a clear trend emerged: leading companies are offering their employees customized training programs in skill development (i.e. personal, time management, technical) via a diverse array of learning channels.


Offering Multiple Channels of Learning

The finalists for our awards program take very unique approaches to employee development, but one common thread is in offering customized training through different channels. Most of these top organizations offer a variety of employee development opportunities such as peer-to-peer mentoring, attendance at events, seminars, online training and instructor-led classes so that employees can select the training that will be individually most effective.

The benefits of offering different learning approaches can include increased retention, a positive effect on company culture and productivity, improved ability to effectively recruit, enhanced quality of work, and increased organizational expertise. Reduced opportunity cost also occurs when employees are assimilated into an organization more rapidly. Two of these forward-thinking organizations, Dewberry and Métier, offer customized programs, with a variety of channels to cater to individual learning styles and preferences.

Dewberry’s Blended Learning

Dewberry, a professional services firm, recognizes that people learn different ways; therefore, they utilize a blended learning approach. This approach offers employees a variety of learning channels as part of The Dewberry Learning Center including: classroom, software, mentoring, coaching, one-on-one, seminars and brown bag lunches, among other approaches.

One key to Dewberry’s blended learning success is in involving internal resources such as corporate leadership to host or participate in the programs. The active involvement of top executives impresses upon employees the seriousness of the training and demonstrates that their efforts are valued.


Métier’s Development on Day One

Métier, a project portfolio management solutions provider, doesn’t have an assembly line. Tweaking and fine-tuning the organization is all about polishing their greatest asset – the employees. Métier considers each employee’s learning abilities and needs with customized development beginning on the employee’s first day. Every new employee attends a two-week orientation known as Boot Camp, where each individual’s strengths and weakness are assessed to provide a benchmark for their career-long professional development activities. The Boot Camp also provides instructive and interactive orientation in a variety of learning ways such as instructor-led, computer-based, seminars, webinars and on-the-job-training.

Métier’s approach paid off: the company witnessed greater employee camaraderie and improved knowledge retention. In fact, when Métier shifted Boot Camp from one week to two weeks, the percentage of employees with tenure of one year increased 25 percent and tenure of two years increased by 12 percent.


One Size Does Not Fit All

Dewberry and Métier are just two companies finding value in offering their employees multiple development opportunities. It’s no surprise that both organizations are service providers that understand their success is tied to the performance of their employees. Both provide innovative employee development initiatives. We can look to these companies as models in implementing strong programs.

Companies that don’t explore developing their greatest resources – their employees – will loose a competitive advantage that can be a costly loss. Organizations are quickly finding that there is no “one size fits all” approach to learning.

Hubert Humphrey, former Vice President of the U.S. put it very simply, “There are incalculable resources in the human spirit, once it has been set free.” And it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who quoted, “The mind, once stretched, never regains its original dimension.” Innovative employee development practices offered through multiple learning channels provide an organization the opportunity to stretch beyond “its original dimensions.”

~Kathy Albarado