L&D Best Practices: July/August 2013

Strategies to strengthen at career development and skills training strategies.


By Sean Ramage, AVP, Talent Management, CarMax

CarMax is the nation’s largest retailer of used cars. Headquartered in Richmond, VA, we operate more than 120 used car superstores across the country and have sold more than four million cars. CarMax is a member of the Fortune 500 and a TrainingTop 125 winner.

Our team of highly engaged associates makes us one of Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.” There is a wealth of research that shows a link between high engagement and opportunity for personal development. We believe that CarMax’s strong history of growth from within supports this connection. Last year, internal promotions at CarMax included:

  • 83 percent of management positions
  • 76 percent of senior management
  • 78 percent of directors
  • 100 percent AVPs and RVPs

Growing from within requires a development plan for every associate.

CarMax provides foundational training to each associate to help them do their job successfully. This includes development opportunities we provide to help them grow their career. CarMax encourages associates to be active participants in their own development. Each year, associates work with their managers to develop an Individual Development Plan (IDP) tailored to fostering their strengths, developing opportunity areas, and preparing them for future success. The key is that associates have an individualized, targeted development plan that both they and the company are invested in.

The development plan requires programs that enable professional skills growth.

Once the career development plan has been established, CarMax offers professional skills development programs that help our associates complete their plan successfully. One example of this is our GPS (Growing Professionally for Success) Program, which we offer to our future supervisors and managers. The program consists of four parts:

  • Instructor-led classes through our College of 
Continuous Learning
  • Workshops to build “soft skills”—examples include Bootstrap Leadership, Communication Styles, and 
Mapping Your Move
  • Application exercises consisting of assigned tasks, project team work, completion of case studies, and use of a simulation
  • Demonstration of proficiency through exercises with a “virtual associate”

Each associate is required to complete a required number of classes and workshops in each of the four areas to receive a Certificate of Completion. Quarterly, participants meet with the program manager to discuss progress; participants’ managers receive updates on progress, as well. “The GPS program provides associates a means for career development, while still allowing associates to work at their own pace,” says Sandy Lieberman, Training manager, CarMax Auto Finance. “We’ve found that providing a flexible environment for learning kept the associates engaged in the program through completion.”

The development plan also requires programs that keep technical skills on the leading edge.

CarMax also offers programs that help our associates grow the technical skills they will need to advance their career. One example of this is the programs we offer our IT associates. We have three main ways we help our IT associates grow their technical skills:

  • CarMax Certified IT Professional Program—The program has the following goals: to lead to a better understanding of our business processes; to aid in the understanding of the requirements for applications and systems; to teach appropriate design development and implementation methods to improve the quality of our systems; and to teach how to lead teams in the development of these applications and systems. With more than 75 different course offerings available, IT associates must complete four business process courses, three technical or systems analysis courses, and four team leadership courses to be eligible for certification. To maintain certification, associates must complete four courses each year.
  • The Technical Lunch & Learn Series—This series is designed to provide IT associates with high-level introductions into emerging technologies and practical, hands-on experience with development tools and best practices. The Lunch & Learns are facilitated by experienced associates in a given discipline. Topics such as Microsoft Kinect development, enterprise authorization strategies, and reporting services give associates a view into industry trends with the goal of sparking new ideas and creating a culture of innovation.
  • The CarMax IT Academy—The academy is held once a year and focuses on training junior IT associates on the skills they need to be successful. The goals of the academy are to provide not only the technical skills, IT process knowledge, and foundational business knowledge, but also to create a team atmosphere so new associates make CarMax connections and feel supported in their new role.

At CarMax, we believe that providing our associates with the environment, training, and tools they need to grow their career leads to a more deeply engaged and highly skilled workforce.


By Maureen Doran-Houlihan, VP, Global Talent Development, MasterCard Worldwide

As MasterCard expands its customer base from financial institutions to include retailers, merchants, corporations, governments, and the like, there is a critical need to not only recruit talent that understands our lines of businesses, but also a need for us to provide the necessary training to create a culture of innovative thought around the products and solutions we bring to market.

Identifying a Need

Last year, the MasterCard Global Talent Development (GTD) team conducted a global assessment of the learning needs of our talent in order to identify common skills gaps and needs from across our global workforce. One critical area that rose to the top was the need for more product training and bringing our workforce up to speed on MasterCard’s more technically advanced solutions in the e-commerce space. The assessment also helped us to determine what we wanted our training to look like; who should design, develop, and/or deliver it; and how we wanted it delivered.

Delivering Integrated Programs

GTD partnered with a social learning vendor to develop a comprehensive product training program. This collaborative learning community allowed us to virtually connect with specific communities and business units around the globe. This comprehensive product training took place over a series of weeks, leveraging subject matter experts, videos, articles, case studies, and e-learning. This training method was adopted quickly and has provided key insights into how we evolve our training programs for the future.

Pooling Skills

One of our key findings was that our college hires demonstrated niche skills in the areas of social media, IT technology, and mobile—areas critical in moving MasterCard business forward. So, MasterCard continues to work with universities and colleges to attract and recruit candidates with these needed skills. Once on board, we leverage their areas of expertise and combine them with the collective “powerhouse of wisdom” inherent in our multi-generational workforce. Employees share experiences and expertise with each other through our two-way “Reverse Mentoring” program, social learning communities, and our employee-led business resource groups.

A World of Options

We continue to listen to our employees and develop programs to align their skills with our business. Currently we’re looking into Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as another way to supplement our training. We also have been entertaining gaming platforms and other “sticky” vehicles of learning that help to engage and train a global workforce in more timely and cost-effective ways. There are so many great options out there—we just need to find the best ones for MasterCard.

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.