logo image

TD Magazine Article

Playing by the Rules

Company playbooks serve as invaluable resources to standardize processes and drive accountability.


Fri Jun 14 2024

Playing by the Rules

The BEST Awards recognize organizations that demonstrate enterprise-wide success as a result of employee talent development. The winners use learning as a strategic business tool to get results. View the entire list of 2024 BEST Award winners.

Company playbooks serve as invaluable resources to standardize processes and drive accountability.


How should companies convey key information to employees in a central, concise, and easy-to-understand manner? Businesses across the world find it beneficial to document processes, policies, and standard operating procedures for various aspects of their business in playbooks.

Utility and success

Gilbane Building Company's Baseline Operations Playbook originated from the organization's need to standardize processes so that employees, clients, and partners could experience consistent, disciplined, world-class project delivery and execution. Gilbane, a 3,000-employee global construction management firm, developed a collaborative peer group comprising executive leaders, internal stakeholders, and the learning and talent management team (L&TM) to design and implement the playbook.

"This endeavor required an incredible amount of information gathering to leverage best practices and identify standardized processes to include in the playbook," says Christy Lock, senior talent management specialist. "L&TM had to assess and overhaul our learning and resource content libraries to ensure that all our learning assets were updated to align with the implementation."

The team reviewed best practices across the business to determine whether it could apply recommendations across the organization. "Once general content was identified, L&TM worked with internal partners to develop learning objectives and nonnegotiables for each section of the playbook," Lock states. The final product includes details regarding job-site culture, business development, and stages of the project cycle, as well as administrative forms and templates that streamline documentation and reporting practices.

To ensure easy access and user-friendliness, "we created 15 short videos to summarize the key information from each chapter," Lock adds. "These microlearning assets are part of the baseline curriculum assigned to new hires and available to all employees."


After going live with the playbook, which is available on the company's intranet, Gilbane "saw immediate improvements in culture and accountability, as employees were able to quickly access information and forms in one place," Lock says. "We are also seeing positive impacts related to safety, financial performance, and risk management across our projects."

Herc Rentals, a full-service equipment rental company with 370 locations and 7,100 employees, has likewise found value in having a playbook. After the sales leader noted variability in sales leadership capability across the company, the L&D team launched the innovative Sales Leader Playbook, featuring best practices for leading sales teams and designed to elevate team performance.

"Herc also saw variability in sales-related practices," explains Eve Drinis, senior director of learning and integrated talent management. "The L&D team, in partnership with our sales leadership, launched a project to collect best practices from our district sales managers while simultaneously driving standardization across the company."

L&D organized meetings to work with district sales managers as they described and discussed their practices and created documents to capture the consensus version of the guidance. The playbook includes details such as onboarding sales representatives; number of customers, prospects, and construction projects sales leaders should have in their portfolio; data on cold calls and related metrics; and the company's pricing philosophy.

Sales leadership launched the resource during Herc's annual meeting, and the L&D team implemented monthly calls so contributing district sales managers could review chapters of the playbook with other sales leaders—"like a book club," Drinis points out. "Many of the metrics and practices were further codified and made visible on dashboards in our \[customer relationship management\] system, reinforcing their importance and making progress clearly visible."


Since the playbook's launch, Herc has experienced double-digit growth, Drinis says, noting that the playbook and associated training are significant contributors to the company's success.

Personalized and accessible

Although customer satisfaction is important to any business, delivering a superior customer experience is crucial in the financial sector. "As the banking industry becomes increasingly regulated and standardized, a premier service experience continues to be a prime differentiator between financial institutions," says Amy Randolph, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Busey. "Retaining and serving our loyal customers while exceeding expectations for new customers is the best way to support organic growth."

In 2023, the financial institution, which is headquartered in Champaign, Illinois, created and launched the Client Experience & Survey Playbook, a guide for all associates to understand the interconnected nature of customer satisfaction and sustainable organic growth—as well as their role in delivering personalized service excellence to customers and fellow associates.

"The playbook gives associates tools to understand what service excellence means and visual guides to discern how their individual actions contribute to Busey's overall success," says Kent Penicook, assistant vice president and customer engagement program manager. "Tactically, it provides clear, required expectations for frontline relationship managers to follow when supporting client follow-up, defining a standard experience and promoting accountability."

In building the playbook, the marketing and communications team—which leads the Customer Engagement Program—partnered with the executive team, frontline and operational leaders, and the talent development team, among others, to create and apply content that "focuses on reinforcing the role every associate plays in fulfilling Busey's promise of service excellence," Penicook states.

In conjunction with launching a campaign to educate associates about the direct correlation between the Net Promoter Score and customer experience, Busey integrated the playbook into onboarding and training for all associates, regardless of role or tenure. As a result, the company set a record-high corporate Net Promoter Score of 56.5 in 2023, a 14.4-point improvement from 2022 and well above the industry average of 23.5.

"This is a remarkable improvement that points to much stronger customer loyalty," Penicook remarks. "Adoption of the playbook by Busey associates and the corresponding score increase are direct reflections of the outstanding service provided by associates."

Fisher Investments in Plano, Texas, rolled out a series of Talent Planning Playbooks as a key component of its leader development strategy. Geared specifically toward leaders at the 5,000-employee financial firm, the playbooks feature guidance on topics such as using development plans to strengthen areas of opportunity, performance coaching through goal setting, as well as how to spot and address retention risk.

"One of the biggest challenges most teams face is capacity constraints and time to dedicate to training," explains Erica Hurst, evaluation program manager. "Delivering effective, impactful content while keeping in mind time commitment is key," rendering the playbooks an efficient and effective tool for leaders.

The Talent Planning Playbooks establish a common language around talent planning, enhancing leader capability and building support for a consistent firmwide approach. The resources define the talent planning process and articulate positive leader behaviors, share common pitfalls, reinforce the company's Develops Talent competency behaviors, introduce talent designations, provide tips for developing people based on their designation, and help leaders mitigate retention risk.

"Building breadth and depth in employees through internal promotions is a key aspect of our human capital strategy and a cornerstone of our culture," Hurst says. "Our approach to talent planning, assessment, and development is focused on skill and competency growth rather than exclusively focusing on prior experience. This allows us to bring in talent at various stages of their careers and encourage growth within the company."

The playbooks represent an integral aspect of Fisher Investments' leadership development program, which "is thoughtfully designed to develop management skills and competencies," Hurst concludes.

You've Reached ATD Member-only Content

Become an ATD member to continue

Already a member?Sign In



2024 Awards Issue - TD Magazine

View Articles

Copyright © 2024 ATD

ASTD changed its name to ATD to meet the growing needs of a dynamic, global profession.

Terms of UsePrivacy NoticeCookie Policy