Training Top 125 Best Practice: The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America’s Emerging Leader Development Program (ELDP)

Participants are placed on teams, within which they select real industry and market-focused business challenges and propose innovative solutions. These Action Challenge projects ask colleagues to step away from their regular responsibilities and select a challenge far removed from their area of expertise.

The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America’s Emerging Leader Development Program (ELDP) is an engaging, enterprise-wide opportunity for select individuals. It is designed to support the strategic priority of “developing our people and culture to embrace innovation and community to enable our future success.” 

Program Details

The seven-month program includes in-person sessions on human-centered design thinking; data analytics; succeeding in a matrix environment; communication and presentation skills; virtual sessions on generational awareness, how the company makes money and how it manages risk, as well as sessions with senior leaders to discuss careers and mentorship. In addition, participants build personal action plans with their HR business partner coach. Participants are placed on teams, within which they select real industry and business challenges and propose solutions. The challenges range from how Guardian can leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to meet its clients how, when, and where they choose to engage with the company to exploring new product offerings for a digital age and conducting extensive expense studies to identify ways to more accurately measure profitability and price Guardian products. All of the challenges are market focused and are business issues in need of creative solutions.

In addition to providing a development opportunity, the Action Challenges ask colleagues to step away from their regular responsibilities and select a challenge far removed from their area of expertise, to ensure an “outside-of-the-box” approach to the problem at hand. Leaders within the company propose and sponsor Action Challenges; there is great engagement from the sponsors to see their challenge accepted as part of the program. Sponsors have included Guardian’s vice president of Client Engagement, head of Innovation, CEO of one of its subsidiaries, and the vice president of its Disability Product. Sponsors pitch their project to the participants, who vote on which ones they want to work on. Sponsors stay with their team throughout the entire program, ensuring access to individuals and data needed to propose a solution. Action Challenge teams have full authority and accountability to the project. Teams then present their solutions to senior leaders, such as the EVP of Commercial and Government Markets (CGM), EVP of Individual Markets, and EVP of Strategy, within the enterprise. 

Results

Since 2016, 12 Action Challenge projects have been launched, and 10 of them have been invested in. Most recently, Guardian’s Commercial and Government Markets organization invested $350,000 to pilot one team’s customer-facing idea, which leverages artificial intelligence to create a delightful, engaging client experience. This solution is rooted in human-centered design, represents Guardian’s commitment to being client obsessed, and delivers on its clients’ expectation for technology-assisted solutions. It is also is designed to drive wellness within Guardian’s communities, encouraging clients to regularly use their benefits for preventative care. 

The ELDP is part of Guardian’s leadership strategy. The company has retained 100 percent of its program graduates, and 50 percent of graduates have moved into new roles with greater scope or a higher level within the organization.

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