Fast growth is only a virtue if a company has the infrastructure to keep pace with that growth. A key part of that infrastructure is corporate learning and development. United Shore, which describes itself as “one of the fastest-growing companies in America,” has proven it has the training strength to develop a workforce that can stoke and sustain long-term growth. Indeed, the company earned a spot in the Top 5 of the Training Top 125 for the first time.
In 2019, the company noticed room for even more improvement in the nurturing of information technology (IT) team members. In response, it developed a robust training program to attract and extract the maximum potential from these professionals. As the new IT team members grow in their roles, they find ample leadership development opportunities—as yet another recent achievement at United Shore has been the enhancement of its leadership development curriculum. The addition of technology to aid self-directed learning, along with the continuing strengthening of retention and corporate culture initiatives, has set the stage for a promising next decade.
Finding and Developing the Best IT Team
“I’m so proud of all of our training programs that it’s hard to pick just one. However, I probably would have to choose our Introduction to Development (DEV-I) Program offered by our Information Technology Training team,” says Vice President of Training Matt Boschi. The program, which Boschi says has had a significant impact on United Shore, uses the opportunity of “Learn I.T. for Free” as a means to attract more IT developers to the company. The results of the program have been impressive. “Since we’ve rolled out the six-week DEV-I program, we’ve increased the number of software developers at our company by 46 percent,” says Boschi. “Plus, we’re teaching people how to code for free—something many companies charge a lot of money for nowadays. Being able to cultivate our own high-demand talent with this program and others has provided United Shore with a true competitive advantage in our industry.”
Leadership Development that Goes Further
A workforce that is increasing in size requires development of higher-level team members who can provide thoughtful, steady leadership. In 2019, Boschi and his colleagues needed to find ways to make the company’s leadership development go further in its reach. “We literally doubled the size of our workforce and our sales volume this last year (from $41 billion to $106 billion). When that happens, you have to hire more trainers and instructional designers, allocate additional resources, find more space for training, and then have the ability to find and develop new talent fast,” says Boschi. “We were ready to handle the training volume for our core roles in sales and underwriting. However, developing new leaders for a workforce that doubled in size and developing new, highly skilled software developers to meet our technological demands was a major challenge. Fortunately, our leadership development programs helped us overcome those challenges. Whenever a company’s 503 leaders receive nearly 15,000 hours of skill-based leadership training and coaching (nearly three hours a month) in a year, it is hard to find challenges we can’t overcome together.”
Technology that Allows More Self-Directed Learning
Supporting the growing workforce also was made easier with the addition of technology to enable more self-directed learning. Incorporating WalkMe, a technology tutorial software, to augment the company’s computer-based training platforms has made a huge difference to United Shore’s training capacity, Boschi notes. “Having the ability to create and deploy guided technology tutorials has greatly improved how fast both our team members and clients can master our core systems. WalkMe has been a huge help, boosting team member technology skills by having users walk through system functions step-by-step and providing team members and clients with the ability to take as much self-directed training as possible,” he says. “We have incorporated guided tutorials into nearly all of our training programs this year because internal team members and clients love them. We use WalkMe for initial skills training, remedial training, and to boost the training team members and clients receive during instructorled technology courses. Since incorporating WalkMe, we have increased the number of computer-based trainings offered to our team members and clients by 235 percent. We also have seen a significant decrease in the number of technology-related help calls we receive from our clients each day as they simply use the tutorial on our Website instead.”
Cultivating a Long-Term Workforce
United Shore retains more than 90 percent of its team members, and 65-plus percent of all new team members come from referrals by other team members, says Boschi, who notes there is a simple reason team members want to come to work for United Shore and why they stay so long. The company offers incentive programs with the ability to earn gifts such as Cadillacs and cruises to the Bahamas, but Boschi says that’s not the secret to the company’s retention success. “People who come to work at United Shore stay here because they know how much we genuinely care about them, their development, and their success,” he says. “From daily team huddles and an onsite escape room to teambuilding activities, daily continuous improvement trainings, and monthly one-on-one coaching sessions, our team members are constantly engaging with, and being engaged by, trainers and leaders every day at United Shore.”
Perhaps the most important part of this engagement is the training the company provides. “Last year, our 5,000-plus team members averaged 236 hours of training and coaching from their trainers and leaders. That is a lot of engagement,” says Boschi. “I am a firm believer that team members stay when they know their company is invested in their development and provides them the means to progress in their careers. Last year alone, we had almost 1,200 promotions. People stay when they are being trained and moving up.”
United Shore sets steep goals for the development of its team members—but regardless of how steep, the goals seem to be consistently met. “Last year alone, we had a goal for our team members to receive 500,000 hours of training. They ended up receiving more than 700,000 hours of training, a 165 percent increase over the previous year. That does not happen without a ton of collaboration from our leaders or without a culture that is heavily invested in team member development,” Boschi says.
Culture of Collaboration
The caring, engaged culture at United Shore has resulted in a company that highly values collaboration. “We have even gone so far as to make collaboration and reaching out to a fellow team member part of our advancement process for all team members at the company, regardless of role or business area,” says Boschi. “All core roles (account executives, underwriters, etc.) at United Shore have mentoring programs. Our Underwriter Mentoring Program begins immediately after underwriter training, and in just three weeks, participants (mentees) must demonstrate proficiency with 35 on-the-job skill competencies while also underwriting six loans a week to graduate. Nearly 800 team members completed underwriting mentoring in 2019.” One of the values of a collaborative culture that includes comprehensive mentoring is a steady stream of new talent flowing to the top. Alongside mentoring at United Shore is a strong one-on-one coaching program featuring a monthly meeting in which all team members in the company meet with their direct leader and discuss topics the team member wants to focus on. “As you can imagine, their development, career progression, and becoming a leader at United Shore are popular topics,” Boschi says. “The great news is that once a team member expresses interest in becoming a leader, we have options to help him or her get there. We have self-directed training for future leaders through our internal learning management system.”
For example, team members can participate in the company’s Emerge leadership development program, a 12-week training program specifically designed for aspiring leaders. “This program provides team members with access to the key elements of what it takes to become a leader at United Shore, including the most soughtafter qualities and characteristics of leaders,” Boschi says. “The class has been successful with team members (166 graduates in 2019), and it has complete buy-in from leadership as company leaders co-facilitate the program with our Leadership Development Training team.”
Greater Achievements Ahead for 2020 and Beyond
The gains made by United Shore’s Learning and Development team in 2019 is only the start of a much longer story in which both customers and team members win. “We have a number of opportunities to enhance what we’re already doing and to elevate some of the training we already offer our team members and clients,” Boschi says. “In terms of new programs, I think 2020 and 2021 will have a ton of focus on improving the training our broker clients offer to their team members and providing them with tools and free training programs that can help them take their businesses to the next level. That includes more and more self-directed training options for our team members. As continuous improvement is a staple of our culture, we are always looking to improve on what we have already done. We want training to be social and driven by our team member and client needs and curiosities. The goal in 2020 is to focus on creating self-directed training people want to take on their own.”