L&D Best Practices: Strategies for Success (November 2023)

Training magazine taps 2023 Training APEX Awards winners and Training Hall of Famers to provide their learning and development best practices in each issue. Here, we look at HD Supply Inc.’s Internship Program and Veeam’s Advance Pathway Program.

BUILDING THE NEXT GENERATION OF TALENT

By Alanna Dingler, Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition Programs, HD Supply, Inc.

At HD Supply, Inc., focusing on talent management and its four pillars—recruitment, performance management, learning and development, and retention—has been a huge focus this past year, with several initiatives being implemented to help build the next generation of talent. In concentrating on the employee lifecycle and building a pipeline of talent, an internship program that had once dissolved was later reignited as we launched a robust program in its place.

Program Details

Our internship program was designed to be an 11- week program where students from across the United States come to our corporate headquarters in Atlanta, GA, to gain valuable, relevant, hands-on work experience. This past year with our inaugural class, we were proud to offer this program to 21 rising seniors from 10 different universities across eight different states.

Our interns were embedded across eight functions within the business: Finance, Human Resources, eCommerce, Information Security, Information Technology, Sales Operations, Supply Chain, and Pricing. Given our industry of distribution, the majority of the students supported Supply Chain and Information Technology.

We identified one to two projects for each intern to complete over the summer. These projects were based on business needs and were signed off on by each of the senior leaders for each functional area. Their project work focused on key initiatives such as customer profitability, forecasting, automation, and inbound scheduling. One of our interns even launched an internal application for our associates.

The internship program itself was built on a strong foundation of learning. Given that this program was meant to serve as a learning experience for students, many different learning components were incorporated into the program. During Week 1, interns kicked off their first day with our New Associate Orientation. Speakers included our senior leader sponsoring the program and our CEO. They had lunch with their support team—manager, mentor, and senior leader of their functional area—and completed a variety of onboarding items such as meeting the immediate team they would be supporting for the summer, taking their professional headshot, and taking care of their technology needs.

Later that week, they attended their first course, “Project Management,” as part of our Learning Series to support their projects for the summer. In this course, they learned about the fundamentals of project management and were provided resources to assist with laying the foundation for their own project work.

During Week 2, our senior leaders kicked off our Leadership Series, where interns met with three or more of our leaders in a more informal setting, learning about them personally and professionally, as well as about their teams, how they support the company, and how the interns would interact with their function.

During Week 3 and beyond, the interns participated in a variety of classes and met with each of our senior leaders. An Introduction to DiSC course was included in this series to help interns understand their own behavioral tendencies, as well as an Emotional Intelligence course to assist them in gaining more self-awareness. Both classes were intended to help student ignite and enhance the professional working relationships they were developing.

We required interns to do final presentations to report out on their projects over the summer. So we provided a “Presentation Skills” course to prepare interns for their presentations in front of senior leaders. This course also offered the opportunity to practice their presentation in front of leaders and receive real-time feedback on their presentation in general, their presenting skills, and design.

Interns also participated in a career course, “Transitioning from Classroom to Corporate,” where they learned valuable resume writing and interviewing skills.

Each of these courses was supported by our Learning Team with the exception of one course, “Visualizing Your Career,” where we brought in an external career coach to take the interns through an exercise focused on building out their career paths for the next five years. Outside of these learning and leadership series, our interns also participated in a tour of one of our largest distribution centers, volunteered at our local community food banks, attended a local professional baseball game, and celebrated National Intern Day by participating in a teambuilding challenge.

Due to the size of this program, various groups supported it, including Talent Acquisition, Learning, Information Technology, our Human Resources Business Partners, a Steering Committee that included representatives from each function participating in the internship, Marketing, Security, and Project Management.

Results

Upon the conclusion of the internship program, we were able to extend offers to 16 out of 21 of the interns. Although we are still waiting to hear back from some of our interns, we are currently at an 88.9 percent acceptance rate. This is a big accomplishment considering that these interns, although not graduating for the next six to 12 months, already have a full-time position lined up within our company post-graduation.

In addition to these metrics, we looked at program satisfaction from both a participant or intern perspective, and a manager and mentor perspective. From an intern perspective, 100 percent of interns felt:

  • Their manager and mentor provided appropriate support during their internship.
  • They had a clear understanding of HD Supply’s culture.
  • Our culture aligned with their own values and career goals.
  • They would recommend HD Supply as a place to intern to their peers.

From a leader perspective:

  • Some 93 percent of managers/mentors felt their intern was able to successfully complete their project during their internship.
  • Some 96 percent of managers/mentors felt their intern performed well during their final presentation.
  • All managers/mentors felt their intern was a positive addition to their team.

They also felt their intern represented HD Supply’s Core Values during their internship, and most importantly, would recommend the internship program to other departments.

Our internship program preparation runs continuously throughout the year, with recruiting in the fall, preparation in the winter and spring, and execution in the summer. A lot of hours, energy, and support goes into ensuring the program runs smoothly. But given the success of the program, especially in its inaugural year, this is one program that is already showing its return on investment.

EXPANDING A SUCCESSFUL REGIONAL PROGRAM TO CREATE GLOBAL IMPACT

By Jeannie Sullivan, Learning Experience Designer, Veeam Sales Acceleration

In the dynamic world of business, one constant remains: the value of a skilled and motivated workforce. For companies seeking to thrive in a competitive landscape, investing in the development of their employees is paramount. Advance Pathway is a bespoke enablement program tailored to the unique needs of Veeam’s Inside Sales employees in the EMEA region, specifically the Inside Sales associate role. This article will explore this regional approach, its evolution, the challenges we encountered and conquered, the Level 3 (behavior change) and 4 (business outcomes) results we achieved, and our best tips for securing executive leadership support to expand a regional program for global impact.

The Regional Approach

The Advance Pathway strategy was meticulously crafted to meet the specific needs of our EMEA Inside Sales team. This initiative was brought to us by executive leaders within the business who recognized a need for increased retention and career progression for our Inside Sales associates. To begin this endeavor, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of skill gaps within the team. The outcome? A program tailored exclusively for Inside Sales associates, providing them with a structured path for professional growth and skill enhancement. As we celebrate four years of success, we now are preparing for global implementation in 2023, extending our approach to teams worldwide.

Overcoming Challenges

Implementing the Advance Pathway brought forth a unique challenge: an abundance of stakeholders and experts eager to participate in program development. This challenge emerged as a testament to the program’s appeal and potential impact. Managing a multitude of perspectives and interests while maintaining program integrity required a delicate balance.

Initially, the influx of ideas and contributions from various stakeholders and subject matter experts posed a formidable task. While their enthusiasm was commendable, it necessitated a structured approach to incorporate their insights effectively. It became evident that to harness this wealth of knowledge, we needed a comprehensive strategy for collaboration and decision-making.

Our solution lay in fostering an inclusive environment for idea exchange and contribution. We organized structured brainstorming sessions and feedback loops that encouraged open dialogue. This collaborative approach allowed us to tap into the collective wisdom of our stakeholders and experts, ensuring that their valuable insights were incorporated into the program without compromising its core objectives.

Through careful facilitation and strategic alignment, we turned this challenge into an opportunity for innovation and collaboration. In doing so, we not only strengthened the Advance Pathway but also created a sense of ownership and enthusiasm among our stakeholders, which further fueled the program’s success.

Measuring Impact

The success of the Advance Pathway is not anecdotal; it’s measurable. Our Net Promoter Score (NPS) stands at 92, a testament to the program’s effectiveness. Beyond numbers, we witnessed an increase in skill sets and productivity across the board. Perhaps most significantly, 56 percent of our program attendees received promotions, illustrating tangible career growth directly linked to their participation. Completion of the program is now a prerequisite for promotion, solidifying its importance.

Tips for Global Expansion

As we embark on the path to global implementation in 2023, we’ve distilled our experiences into practical tips for other companies seeking to replicate similar success:

1. Start with a solid foundation. Establish the unique needs of your employees and tailor your programs to meet them; gathering data to support the program’s value will underpin the success metrics you measure throughout the program.

2. Foster continuous feedback. Engage participants in the evolution of your program, adapting to changing business realities to stay relevant and effective.

3. Communicate success effectively. Showcase program metrics and impact to leadership and share success stories both internally and externally to build support.

Key Takeaways

Even if you’re under tight timelines, take 90 minutes to discuss these five questions with your key stakeholders— the answers will be invaluable:

1. What are our core objectives? Clearly define the specific goals and objectives of your program. Are you aiming to improve employee skills, boost productivity, or achieve something else? Having a well-defined purpose is essential.

2. How will we measure success? Determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you measure the success of your program. Whether it’s NPS, promotion rates, or productivity metrics, having quantifiable measures agreed to prior to program launch is crucial.

3. What data will we collect? Identify the data points you need to gather to assess the program’s impact. This could include participant feedback, preand post-training assessments, or other relevant data sources.

4. How will we analyze and interpret the data? Discuss the methods and tools you’ll use to analyze the collected data effectively. Will you need specialized software or data analysts to derive meaningful insights?

5. How will we iterate and improve? Plan for continuous improvement. After analyzing the data, how will you use the insights to refine your program? Establish a feedback loop that ensures your program evolves to meet changing needs.

These five questions, when thoroughly explored with your key stakeholders, can pave the way for a robust measurement strategy, even in the tightest of timelines. It’s not just about gathering data; it’s about leveraging that data to drive meaningful change and success within your organization.

Special Mention

Jasmine Miller is a Global Program manager at Veeam supporting the Advanced Pathway program. Jasmine’s passion is learning and development (L&D); she has significant experience in working with adult learners in a corporate L&D setting, creating and managing industry award-winning curriculum experiences. Jasmine worked for five years as a secondary school practitioner after gaining a first-class degree in education from the University of Glasgow.

She is an experienced project manager, using skills from the PMI PMP qualification to support a range of enablement initiatives, such as onboarding, professional development and coaching.

Alanna Dingler is manager, Learning, at 2023 Training APEX Award winner HD Supply, Inc. Jeannie Sullivan is a Learning Experience Designer at 2023 Training APEX Award winner Veeam Sales Acceleration.