In October 2019, the Association for Talent Development will once again announce the winners of its BEST Awards, recognizing organizations that use talent development as a strategic business tool to attain results. While not every organization will submit an application for or win an ATD BEST Award, talent development professionals can still benchmark themselves against the best of the best by reviewing what award-winning companies have achieved.
In “Create an Exceptional Learning Culture,” Jacque Burandt guides TD practitioners through five steps to establish a culture of excellence at their organization. She writes, “Changing your company’s learning culture begins with a first step: Determining what you are striving for.” Is your goal to achieve excellence in a particular learning area such as onboarding or leadership development? Or are you looking to obtain a Best Place to Work designation or to win an award? Researching award winners can provide metrics that you may want to strive toward.
What does your organization need to do to improve in the area you have chosen? If you lead a talent development team, you can have individual members choose an area—for example, e-learning or compliance—to review. Using a shared drive is a good idea because it allows for a central gathering place for data, such as award requirements, metrics used, and so forth. When the TD team is reviewing award winners, it’s advantageous to visit or have award-winning organization representatives visit your company to share their best practices and other insights about their talent development initiative.
Celebrate small wins along the way to keep up morale and engagement. For example, if the talent development team finds that your organization already follows a best practice from an award winner, recognize it!
As you continue to plot your course, the second step is to align with internal and external strategic partners. Create an internal advisory committee of high-level stakeholders who can weigh in on strategic need around development initiatives. Advisory members can also serve as champions within the company to support the change initiative you’re undertaking.
External partners can include community colleges, workforce boards, grant-giving entities, and so forth. These partners can support your organization in filling skills gaps.
By this point, the talent development team has done a lot of leg work and can begin the third step—that is, building an anchor program. Burandt writes that this program “can serve as the springboard for significant culture change.” You may select management development as your anchor program based on strategic need, with metrics from award winners you researched. Having strong relationships with external stakeholders, you may then decide to work with a community college in tapping their business classes for your managers’ growth.
The next step in your exceptional culture growth will include measuring the success of your new program. For a management development program, you may want to measure employee engagement and satisfaction based on the adage that employees leave managers, not companies.
As was alluded to earlier, to keep up momentum it’s important to celebrate and share success, the final step in the process. Doing so will also get others interested in the program and perhaps allow you to expand your initial success companywide. It’ll bring you one step closer to an organizational culture of learning excellence.