L&D Best Practices: Strategies For Success (May/June 2019)
Rosendin Electric’s Foreman Development Program: A Generational Transfer of Knowledge
By Stephen Lockie, Consultant, Learning Technologies; and Kayla Hart,Training Coordinator, Rosendin Electric
Rosendin Electric experienced significant growth over the last decade, consistently ranking as one of the top five specialty electrical contractors in the nation by portfolio values. At the same time, its most experienced sector of the workforce—typically represented by those in supervisory roles—entered retirement age in increasing numbers.
These two challenges were exacerbated by an industry that has focused on apprenticeship or technical skills programs, while largely ignoring much-needed supervisory skills. Companies typically have relied on apprenticeship programs to educate tradespeople but have not had access to supervisory programs that offer a hands-on, real-world focused curriculum that is designed for, and by, those who have worked in these roles for decades. As a result of these challenges, Rosendin dedicated a great deal of time to developing an immersive Foreman Development Program.
Rosendin faced a few challenges in the development of the program:
1. Rosendin already possessed a recently revamped Foreman’s Manual, complete with clear instructions and sample documents. But the target audience, the project supervisors, were already overwhelmed with paperwork and project documents. What they responded to best were hands-on workshops that enabled the discussion of ideas and the sharing of their experiences.
2. The company’s Training Department needed to identify respected supervisors and managers to help develop and promote the program.
3. As the program targeted unionized employees, it needed to project an investment in the future of these employees who, due to the cyclical nature of construction, may work for dozens of electrical companies during their career.
4. In contrast to the few existing programs available at that time, the Foreman Development Program must be focused on real-world, immediately applicable concepts that would improve the performance of the supervisor and the project. In other words, the content had to be viewed by the learner as a formula to success in his or her role.
The Foreman Development Program consisted of 12 modules that followed the path of a typical project, in addition to soft skills modules. Attendees began with an overview of the role of the foreman, then moved on to estimate reviews, project start-up, planning, man-loading and scheduling, managing production, and project documentation. As safety is a core focus within Rosendin, a dedicated module was created to help foremen to understand their role in project safety, to support existing programs, and how to work effectively with the safety team. Later modules focused on change management, quality assurance and quality control, and project closeout. Soft skills content was incorporated into some modules and was a significant part of the role of the foreman and the communication modules. Deployment of the modules included attendance by senior field leadership to help reinforce the content and to share real-world scenarios with the class.
The Foreman Development Program was successful in its mission to develop new electrical supervisors for the construction industry. The program also facilitated the transfer of knowledge from the more experienced supervisors to the next generation, to be strengthened by on-the-job experience and mentoring.
In 2008, the 7th District of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) reached out to Rosendin to assist with developing a Foreman’s Training program to help smaller contractors, typically lacking their own Training departments, to develop future leaders. Rosendin CEO Tom Sorley agreed to assign the Training Department to work with the IBEW, and in addition to sharing program content, the department was assigned to help facilitate a train-the-trainer program to develop trainers who could teach at their local unions. To date, more than 150 trainers have graduated from the train-the-trainer program, and the program is still going strong today.
Due to the success of the program, the Foreman’s Development Series has been adapted for use nationally by the IBEW. The result of this goodwill gesture has been the opportunity for thousands of electricians to receive high-quality training, improving the level of efficiency and safety in the construction industry.
By working collaboratively with others, Rosendin was able to incorporate the perspectives of others in the industry, and this further strengthened Rosendin’s programs. In 2009, Rosendin submitted its entire training program to the State of California in order to become an authorized training provider. This meant the Foreman Development Program and other content would qualify as continuing education hours that all electricians need to renew their licenses. In 2011, Rosendin became the first private company (that was not a college or full-time training company) to be accredited.
Becoming accredited produced added benefits to Rosendin electricians, simplifying the recertification process. The Foreman Development Program curriculum was approved by the State of California for 30 hours of continuing education, resulting in a two-fold increase in attendance to all training initiatives. Accreditation also showed employees that Rosendin was serious in investing in its employees’ continued growth and success.
Since the development of the program, Rosendin has achieved a 98.7 percent internal promotion rate for leadership positions and a turnover rate of 3 percent (18.4 percent below the national average for the construction industry). Through the development of project teams, Rosendin Electric was able to successfully increase project bookings from $500 million to more than $2 billion annually.
Developing Leaders When Expansion Is Rapid and Talent Is Tight
By Jamie Hinely, Director, Global Learning Solutions, Valvoline Inc.
The value of a highly skilled manager is recognized by most business leaders. It’s even more true in retail, where studies show that a highly skilled manager can outperform others by as much as 30 percent (https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/127520/retail-new-normal.aspx). It’s just as true that managers who are developed internally are likely to outperform outside hires, who rate lower on performance reviews and tend to exit the company at a higher rate (https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2012/04/05/why-promoting-from-within-usually-beats-hiring-from-outside/#2bb04e5236ce). There’s no doubt that internally developed, highly skilled managers give any company the best chance of success, and that many organizations have been successful promoting from within, especially in times of moderate growth.
But what happens in times of rapid expansion, when new management positions are created quickly, and the organization’s ability to create new managers internally is taxed? Valvoline Instant Oil Change experienced just that when the company began to focus on expanding its retail network of U.S. oil change service centers. Across company-owned and franchised locations, the system grew by 38 percent in just three years. The company plans to continue that expansion with 50 new stores per year and is actively seeking acquisitions. The need to develop internal talent is paramount. Despite these challenges, Valvoline has been able to continue producing managers internally. In fact, in the last seven years, the company has filled 100 percent of store manager positions with internal promotions. Numerous other positions—including multi-unit managers, training, and customer experience—are filled internally, as well. The quality of these new managers is obvious, with same-store sales increasing for 12 consecutive years.
What are keys to developing managers internally in a period of rapid expansion?
1. Hire team members with potential. Valvoline recognizes that promoting from within starts with hiring employees who have the fundamental skills and attitudes necessary to support future promotions. The company looks for individuals with energy and enthusiasm, and places a high value on cultural fit. New hires share its core values, including being fair and honest with employees and customers, and making self-improvement and learning a way of life. New employees learn the basic procedures necessary to be productive team members within 60 days, so they can turn their attention to higher-level skills.
2. Teach leadership early and often. At Valvoline, every employee receives leadership training within six months of being hired. A blended training program starts with the skills to lead a shift, but more importantly, it lays the foundations for future skill development in areas such as delegating, coaching, financials, and problem solving. Employees who complete the program and associated in-store training get a promotion, keys to the store, and initial leadership responsibilities.
Leadership development continues through the assistant manager and manager programs, where team members attend three classroom or virtual classroom courses taught by a member of Valvoline’s professional Training team. The focus turns to higher-level skills such as communication, developing a team, and holding team members accountable.
Leadership training happens early and often. As soon as employees master the skills of an individual contributor, every employee is steadily developed as a potential manager.
3. Make your capstone management class a big deal. Leadership training comes to a head with a capstone course taught at Valvoline headquarters. Team members are selected based on their completion of a series of in-store and field activities, an intensive interview by a panel of multi-unit managers, and a thorough evaluation of past performance. Being selected to attend the capstone management course is treated as an honor and celebrated by store teams.
The class itself involves three days of intense training and gives new managers the opportunity to meet senior leaders, including Valvoline Instant Oil Change’s president and vice president of Operations, both of whom speak extensively during the class. Practical items such as policies and federal regulations are a necessary part of the course, but they do not dominate the time. Instead the atmosphere is exciting, with opportunities to talk with headquarters team members and to visit the lab where Valvoline motor oil is formulated. Classroom time is spent on items such as establishing leadership in the service center, setting expectations, coaching, and situational leadership.
Activities outside of class are an important part of the learner experience, as well. Lunches are all-you-can-eat, dinners are held at nicer establishments; and learners are added to social networking groups where they keep up with new friends, share best practices, and celebrate career promotions.
This celebratory environment spills over into each service center and heightens the anticipation for others who are preparing for leadership positions.
4. Don’t stop. Leaders don’t have every skill fully developed before promotion. In fact, the context for developing many skills doesn’t exist until leaders are well established in their new role. Skills that would have been considered irrelevant a few months earlier suddenly become crucial.
After managers have been in their role six to 12 months, they return to headquarters for a second course. The celebratory and fun environment still exists with an added intensity and seriousness. Learners are introduced to differences in personalities and their impact on training, and a more fully developed coaching model with integrated material from the earlier capstone course. Time is dedicated to personal finance, as well, stressing the importance of developing the team member both inside and outside of the workplace.
Managers continue to develop their leadership skills with regular meetings, coaching from field leadership, and annual workshops that every service center manager attends. High-potential managers attend a three-day talent summit led by Operations directors. The interactive sessions allow senior leaders who “came up through the ranks” to share their experiences. In turn, they can evaluate top talent company-wide.
5. Measure, measure, measure. It can be difficult to measure leadership skills because there is seldom one metric the training seeks to impact. Instead, training seeks to impact many measures, creating a well-rounded leader, with an understanding that even the best managers will not excel in all areas. As a result, many organizations stop at Kirkpatrick Level 1 or 2.
Valvoline has found Robert Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method helpful in overcoming these issues (Brinkerhoff, Robert O. Telling Training’s Story: Evaluation Made Simple, Credible, and Effective = Using the Success Case Method to Improve Learning and Performance. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2006). Learners are surveyed about their success in applying training on the job, followed by in-depth interviews with learners who experienced the most and least success. The method allows Training organizations to determine what helped and hindered the learning, and what areas of impact it is having—including those that are unanticipated. The method provides the data necessary for continuous improvement, but also offers stories from learners that give life and meaning to raw data.