L&D Best Practices: Strategies For Success (Sept./Oct. 2019)

Training magazine taps 2019 Training Top 125 winners and Top 10 Hall of Famers to provide their learning and development best practices in each issue. Here, we look at ADP’s best practices for building a retention strategy and how SE2 overcame the challenges of upgrading its learning and development offerings.


By Dr. Susan Hanold, Vice President Strategic Advisory Services, ADP 

Employee retention is one of the biggest challenges most organizations face right now. At every step of the working journey, employees must feel valued, empowered, and engaged. The focus on retention will only intensify as the war for talent rages on and Millennials, who are notorious for job hopping, become a bigger part of the workforce. Not just a talent or HR concern, retention is a broad-sweeping issue that touches all areas of an organization. Companies are adding and extending perks to stand out, so let’s look at the strategic questions you should ask when building a retention strategy.

How Well Do You Know Your Organization?

Labor shortages will persist for the foreseeable future, stemming from structural rather than economic reasons. A lack of younger workers coupled with high workforce debt will place pressure on hourly wages. In this business landscape, employers need compelling reasons for prospective hires to make the jump from their current employer. To successfully create and market those reasons, you must understand your employee value proposition:

  • Is your value proposition authentic? This is an important instance of walking the walk. If you’re describing a company culture that isn’t truly there or outlining a cookiecutter list of traditional perks without tying them into the fabric of your organization, you will fall short on retention.
  • Does your value proposition align with your mission? Be true to your organization’s mission and vision. Employees want to identify with their employer and feel part of the whole. Make sure there’s cohesion between what your company stands for and the culture it offers employees.
  • Does your value proposition impact specific generations? Employees of different generations value different perks and employer qualities. However, all generations place great value on training and development. Be mindful of the critical skills and experience of your future workforce. Cater to each and look for ways to bridge generational gaps between workers.
  • How is social transparency affecting the organization? Poor employee engagement often is reflected through negative reviews and low scores on social media and job-ranking Websites such as Glassdoor. It’s typically the first place people go to complain and conversely the first place prospective hires go to do their homework on your brand. Paying attention to social chatter can help shape your retention strategy. It’s also important to make sure your social sites are current and maintained.
  • Who are your key knowledge workers? In a constantly evolving world, innovators and problem solvers play a significant role in a company’s future. Who are those individuals within your organization? Retaining those employees who intimately know and understand the business is important. The ADP 2019 State of the Workforce Report revealed that companies are more likely to promote internal employees for management positions. With this insight, training is a critical component for their retention. Continue to keep your key knowledge workers up to speed on important business trends. Take time to understand the learning curriculum they need to enhance their skills and stay current in the field. Upscaling and retaining top talent drives future success.

How Does Turnover Impact Your Business?

It’s important to also recognize how turnover affects each facet of your business. When shaping a retention strategy, consider trends in turnover and identify the areas in your business with the highest turnover or where performance takes the biggest hit.

  • Are you able to link specific business outcomes with turnover? Do you see drops in productivity or quality? Maybe the most noticeable effect is poor morale and employee engagement. Pay attention to higher overtime that might be compensating for the loss in resources or shortcuts that might be leading to safety or compliance issues.
  • Are there specific areas of the business where turnover has greater significance? For example, does turnover in the sales department lead to client turnover, resulting in revenue loss? Or is turnover affecting the product development teams, leading to a delay in introducing new technology that could put you ahead of the curve?
  • Does your leadership team see turnover as a significant business issue? Check the pulse of senior leaders. Are they seeing the turnover within your organization and its effects on business performance? Making sure leaders are on board with retention efforts is important in introducing changes that will resonate throughout the organization.
  • What are your top three priorities and objectives for addressing turnover? Once you identify where turnover is having the biggest effect, start your strategy sessions by outlining your priorities.

Retention is only becoming a more critical component of an organization’s success. Labor shortages and generational changes are demanding that businesses reconsider their employee value propositions and create a culture that engages their unique workforce. These questions will help you tailor your retention strategy to your organization’s specific needs and help close that revolving door.


By Janet Dulohery, VP and Head of Human Resources, and Rich Maley, Director of Learning and Development, SE2

It’s no secret: Any type of major internal transformation doesn’t happen overnight, and it rarely goes according to plan. Companies must remain committed to their goals and map out clear paths to success early in order to not lose sight of what they’re trying to achieve. An organization’s level of commitment is the make-it or break-it factor in whether they’ll be successful in implementing new business processes.

This was key for SE2, which was committed to providing the best opportunities for employees’ self-improvement, career growth, and professional development. Along with concerted efforts to align training and development offerings with specific, role-based competencies and skill matrices, SE2 is implementing change and providing role-ready training to create scalable consistency in supporting business functions.

The Journey: SE2’s Evolution

One of SE2’s best workforce development practices centers around the idea of training employees to “empathetically listen” to the customer, which for them, can be both internal stakeholders and external stakeholders, depending on the role. A consultative mindset is a key competency the company looks for when hiring into its Learning and Development (L&D) team. This type of mindset is founded on good listening and quality collaboration skills. At SE2, it’s believed that the company wouldn’t be able to be a true innovator in the L&D space without first understanding how to listen to its “customers.”

Another key practice for the organization is ensuring it keeps a clear end goal in mind. Before any training development commences, a solid understanding of the expected outcomes of an effort, how they align with corporate goals, and key performance indicators is required for success.

The goal is to have a learning and development approach that is strategically aligned with organizational skill matrices and models, giving every associate an equal opportunity to grow within the organization. The company hopes to achieve this in several ways, including partnering with individual associates to support their specific career growth needs and professional aspirations.

When the company first began building out its L&D function, it attempted to tackle the organization as a whole. It soon discovered it was more effective to address each function as its own entity and focus on the core issues of specific roles. Even though it was able to create cross-functional learning opportunities, the manner in which the learning was consumed was unique to every function.

A main area the company continues to focus on is key learning metrics and how those measurements evolve. Throughout their evolution, SE2 noticed causation measurements proved difficult to collect and justify. However, the company realized if it focused on collecting these metrics, it could utilize data resources to support L&D’s efforts. As an example, SE2 could utilize the talent assessment process to help identify the top 20 percent of high performers. It then could assess their L&D journey and compare it to those in the lower 80 percent. It’s here the company may find that the top 20 percent spend more time focused on specific learning programs that were key in making them “top performers.” SE2 also could see trends such as in-classroom versus on-demand attendance.

The Challenges: SE2’s Obstacles and How It Overcame Them

From the beginning, SE2 faced various challenges as it was forced to build a program as the company ran it. Although SE2 had a strategic approach in place, the L&D team was a new, growing function integrating with an established organization—an organization starving for more learning and development direction.

The first major obstacle SE2 faced was the cultural challenges. Managers were accustomed to having their own specific mandates, so adding another element created a learning curve that required more time and training. Traditionally, if training was needed, it was either purchased or an impromptu program was built and delivered by an internal subject matter expert. This method lacked the necessary follow-up of continued learning after the program, as well as measuring the impact or effectiveness of the learning program. One of the biggest factors SE2 overcame was changing the overall culture around this and having employees value and embrace internal training.

Based on associate and manager feedback, SE2 noted behavioral change with the introduction of its new cultural initiative. The company has seen call center associates progress from taking 10 to 15 calls to more than 50 calls per day after the new onboarding program. This has a significant impact on the number of associates required to support a specific client.

Like most other companies, SE2 needed to convince employees to take the time to train and benchmark where they stand in regard to competency expectations, as well as how training should be prioritized.

Rather than making a project unnecessarily difficult, SE2 created a strong foundation for key roles within the organization. This foundation entailed working with the functional leadership to develop competency models and a skills matrix. Once certain curricula and roadmaps were established, the company was better able to benchmark individuals within their specific role.

It was also key for SE2 to educate some of its newly promoted front-line managers on people management. SE2 addressed this by creating a specific front-line manager program that runs for the first two years of a manager’s tenure at the company.

Tips for Other Companies

Implementing and continuously managing L&D strategies takes a lot of effort, but keeping the following tips in mind can help ease the process to better cater to an organization and personalize the approach:

  • Be patient. It takes time to change a culture, and it takes time and diligence to understand the competencies and competency indicators associated with a role and the unique levels of the role.
  • Work with the end-goal in mind. It’s important to understand what is being achieved as a company, and to keep that in mind when working toward that goal. Any distractions or challenges that are not in direct relation to that end goal need to be deprioritized.
  • Enlist executive leadership support. When the L&D team and executive leadership are not aligned, then associates may hear mixed directions coming from both sides. To avoid this confusion, it’s crucial to have direct mandates from the top.
  • Create strategic roadmaps. Determining a path to success makes it easy for companies to get to where they want to go.

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