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  • 18 Oct 2019 1:58 PM | Deleted user

    Think Outside the Box and Then Try It Again

    Written by Deanna Flanagan

    I spoke at length with Marlon Dean from the Marriott corporation. A year ago, Marlon created a new position and piloted a program aimed at reducing the time to fill open positions. He worked with eighteen smaller hotels in the Marriott brand, where two to three managers were working to fill open positions. Job requisitions were aging and applicants were scarce. During the pilot, Marlon turned over every stone to find new potential applicants. Through his efforts, he reduced the time to fill open positions from 50 days to 36 days.

    He came up with many unique and creative ways to locate and hire applicants. One of his approaches was to find customer service-focused retail businesses that were closing and reach out to the employees losing their jobs. He shared with them the many benefits of working with the Marriott corporation. Another approach was to walk around malls and hand out cards with his name on one side and the benefits of working for Marriott on the other side. When he gets an opportunity to have a conversation, he asks potential employees if they have considered a career in hospitality. Other approaches included working with local community colleges such as Collin, Richland, and Northlake where he teaches seminars on interviewing and how to prepare and feel confident for an interview.

    Community-based organizations and organizations supporting individuals with disabilities / special needs have recently come under Marlon’s microscope. Many back-of-the-house positions have been filled by partnering with these groups.  xplaining career pathways to Fort Worth ISD and Plano ISD is also part of thinking outside the box when sourcing talent.


    Reducing the time from application to hire has allowed Marriott to turn more applicants into employees. In addition, the ability to text from the HR software; and streamlining the interview, drug test, and cheek swab activities has allowed Marriott to more quickly extend offers and beat other companies in this tight job market.

    One special success story that Marlon shared was about the individual who Marriott hired to fill one of its hardest to fill positions, which is also a critical job role. Marlon found a young person from a disability organization that had the qualifications for the entry-level engineer position. The young man and the supervisor for the position were both hesitant about him taking the position. After working with a job coach, the young man was hired. To everyone’s surprise and delight, this employee has been one of the most dependable and reliable employees with the company. He was highlighted in the Q3 Marriott select brand as the “new hire of the quarter,” and his best practices were shared with the entire company. The pride in hires like this are a wonderful side benefit that Marlon did not expect when he created the functions of this position.

    The out-of-the box strategies Marlon implemented allowed this position to be more successful than anyone thought it could be. The new position was supposed to be a pilot project, but after only three months, Marriott decided to hire three additional employees to support other regions of the country.  Marlon has been instrumental in hiring over 300 employees this last year and plans to be just as successful next year. 

  • 29 Sep 2019 2:53 PM | Deleted user

    Written by Deanna Flanagan

    I interviewed Aubrey Johnson from Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) and learned some interesting things that talent development professionals can leverage. After almost two years of manually adding new hire information to a spreadsheet, the TMNA Onboarding Team used technology to automate roster management for attendees scheduled to appear at New Hire Orientation sessions.

    TMNA used the Salesforce platform to build an application called Session Manager. This application automatically populates a roster of scheduled new hires, based on their start date. It also contains details of each orientation session: from the agenda, to catering details, to subject matter expert (SME) and guest speaker information, and more.

    The application also allows audience metric tracking, such as number of new hires in the past quarter, new hires starting in each department, and summary counts of new hires by month (to capture trends). It has opened the door on many new ways to report and display performance data. The number of "one-off" telephone calls and emails have dropped. In contrast, where managing the roster using the manual spreadsheet method took 17 hours of work for a month; the Session Manager app reduced that work down to only five hours.

    What was the most challenging part of this project? and how did you overcome it?

    The most challenging part was gathering data from the “current condition” to present to leadership as a legitimate problem for the proposal, (and ultimately their approval) to launch the project. To present and visualize the current condition to Managers, data had to be captured from a multitude of places, from emails, instant messages, several different reports, and even post-it notes.

    Productivity time is also part of this data. All the required tasks (before the project) were performed by different people and going to each person to get a time estimate for each of their tasks was part of this challenge. Most people don’t run a stopwatch on their tasks; and some even perform tasks concurrent to others, or sporadically, which can add to the challenge. This challenge was overcome by running a “task-time study” with the team. To prevent creating new work, we did this leveraging an upcoming [existing] work cycle.

    What was the most impactful part of this project?

    The most impactful part was the time reduction, and the additional benefits that we discovered the solution/tool provides. The original objective for the solution was to cause a reduction in time (i.e. roster management). During the pilot phase, we uncovered the amazing potential to provide not only time reduction, but other features such as dashboard reporting, key performance metrics, and more.

    What has your team done with the extra hours?

    The time saved by the reduction has allowed the team to redirect their focus to other time critical tasks to meet our customers’ expectations.

    Are sprints new to your work group? Are you finding them effective? Any advice to others as they use sprints?

    Good question! It’s fairly new to our group, but there were two “stigmas” we had to work hard to shake: 1 – SCRUM, and working in sprints is only for IT or Tech Groups. 2 – Working in sprints isn’t restricted to project work but can also be applied to daily work. Our team sprints are in 2-week intervals, and the beauty in this for us, is the pattern of our work (with Onboarding and New Hire Orientation) has always been in 2-week intervals, which makes working in sprints more relatable when discussing with the team. As for the effectiveness, we are still in transition, but the team does see the early value of working in sprints and sprint planning. This has helped us not only organize our work, but VISUALIZE it, making it much more measurable for team performance.

    Is this being utilized by any other groups now that it is so successful?

    Well, other groups are indirectly using this – meaning that now we are also capturing additional data for these groups for reporting, etc. By and large, this tool was designed be used internally (within our group) to reduce time, increase efficiency, and better serve our customers.

    Any additional advice for others?

    Yes. Never diminish the size and success of your project, and the positive impact of its results. I feel some teams may hesitate at submitting their work for an AXIS nomination because they feel it may not be as significant as what people are looking for. There is a tremendous amount of talent and skill in our DFW ATD community, and everyone is making a big difference in the learning and development space. Also, you want to have a “sky is the limit” mindset when it comes to creativity and innovation. Go into a project shooting for the moon to determine the innovative “what”. The perseverance, skills, and hard work of the team will drive the “how”!

  • 15 Aug 2019 6:00 PM | Deleted user

    Written by Shaundra Williams-Hamilton

    Effective changes and ideas set successful organizations apart from the rest. The AXIS Award recognizes teams that have raised the bar of innovation within the Talent Development industry. Innovation is not judged by how much money was spent, or saved, or the size of the team, or the brand recognition. It is when the idea or concept makes a positive impact on the organization, moves the needle forward, and changes the way we do our job every day—that’s innovation at its finest.

    During a conversation with Laurie Lumston, VP and Manager of Training, PrimeLending, a two-time AXIS award winner, the idea of innovation was the foundation of everything we discussed. It was clear why the PrimeLending team was a two-time winner and why the team is so passionate about encouraging others to put their best ideas out there to be celebrated! Here is just a small portion of our conversation.  

    What do you believe was the key to you winning this prestigious award in 2016 and 2017?

    Laurie: Innovation. Innovative concepts and ideas were at the foundation of both projects. In 2016, we won in the Design and Delivery category and in 2017 for Performance Improvement. Both years, it was important for us to understand that submitting the application was not about the size and scope of my organization compared to others, but how effective was my project and did it produce results for my organization.

    What should applicants consider before applying?

    Laurie: If their program has shifted the way their company thinks about learning and/or developing others, they should apply. Focus on what moved the needle for their organization. It’s okay to brag on yourself. Don’t be afraid to put your successes out there for others to see.

    In considering what projects to submit, where should applicants begin?

    Laurie: If you are considering submitting an application for a project that was innovative in the approach and the team was able to implement and evaluate results, go for it. There are a lot of people out there that have developed great new concepts that yielded results within their organization. When you share these concepts with others, it gives hope and delivers the message that there is always room for good work. Good work and effort should be celebrated and this is what the AXIS award is all about.

    As a gala attendee, what was the highlight of the AXIS Awards event?

    Laurie: The mix of companies that are in the room. There are large and small employers and everyone is mixing and mingling with each other. The room is full of positive, supportive, and celebratory energy. creating a wonderful experience for everyone in attendance. The gala is where old colleagues reconnect, and new relationships are cultivated. Even as an introvert, I felt that it was easy to connect with other people in the room because we were all there to celebrate. We were all winners!

    How can the AXIS Award be used as leverage in future endeavors?

    Laurie: You can say with confidence that you were a part of an award-winning team! There is so much goodwill attached to this award. It is recognized within the industry and places a spotlight on what we do. Training is not always thought of as a game changer; however, the Training Departments set the tone for the organization by teaching others how to do things the right way and that should be recognized and celebrated. It is a good feeling to know you are doing things the right way—it is an extreme confidence booster!

    If there was one piece of advice you would leave for future applicants, what would that be?

    Laurie: Don’t be afraid to apply. The application process is simple and easy. There are 5 questions and it’s free to apply. Don’t compare yourself to other companies. If your project was a big deal to you and it made a positive impact in your organization, tell that story! It is awesome to be able to say you applied for one of the most prestigious awards in this industry!

  • 02 Aug 2019 5:29 PM | Deleted user

    Dallas based BSN Sports, a Varsity Brands company, is the largest distributor of team sports apparel and equipment in the United States. With over 1,000 Sales Professionals regionally based who serve in communities in all 50 states, BSN Sports provides a broad array of solutions that support the needs of any athletic program, thus giving coaches more time to impact the lives of athletes. That’s why BSN Sports is committed to enabling its sales professionals – getting the information to the right person at the perfect time so they can perform at their best. For BSN Sports, a traditional LMS just wouldn’t meet the on-demand and just-in-time needs of its field-based sales pros. Therefore, BSN began searching for a next generation learning solution. It found the solution in Learner Mobile – a completely configurable and flexible platform accessible in any environment.


    I wanted to know more and was thankful that Eric Harper, Vice President of Talent and Learner for BSN Sports, agreed to sit down with me and answer a few of my questions.


    Question: I understand you’re a bit of a maverick – pushing the learning and talent development industry to innovate for the sake of faster and better progress. Completely changing direction on how your large organization uses and engages with an LMS solution is certainly a big challenge. Where did you begin?


    Answer: Thank you. You’re kind. I’m a giant fan of our industry and believe we are just barely touching our potential. We can certainly do more and be more for our business, our customers, employees and our communities. Regarding the LMS, the traditional solutions just seemed to move a bit too slow and were a bit too limiting for our dynamic business. We started by looking for a solution that was mobile optimized, focused on just-in-time microlearning, and allowed for us to push content to learners and allowed learners to pull the content they wanted. We also wanted a smart system; one that could predict the individual needs of the learner through algorithms. By being predictive, we could set up our sales pros for greater success. But we also needed this solution to do the fundamentals well – things like SCORM. We became even more excited when the solution we found provided rich analytics as well, so we could know what was working and what wasn’t from a content perspective.


    Question: How did you get the organizational buy-in behind such a big change initiative?


    Answer: It was a bit tricky because we wanted the influence of the business and the various business unit leaders. Our Talent and Learning (T&L) organization met with business unit leaders including those in sales and marketing to understand their unit strategies, goals, priorities, threats and opportunities. T&L also visited various markets around the country and talked to dozens of sales pros in the field to understand how learning and enablement happens best for them in their environment. We discovered that traditional technologies, such as eLearning, weren’t keeping pace with the frequently changing information. We needed a more flexible and dynamic way to get timely and updated content out more quickly. We learned that there was too much for our sales pros to know at any given time, so they needed content prioritized for them that was easily and quickly consumed. For our business … just like any business, time is money and we needed people to learn and apply the right behaviors quickly. Basically, it came down to a business decision – not just a learning one. 


    Question: What were the key drivers for ensuring your success as you transitioned to a next generation LMS?


    Answer: User adoption was key. We had to think like marketers – knowing what the learner’s “reason to buy” was. We had to really nail that value proposition and be clear about how it was going to help them perform and succeed. Within the first few weeks, we were delighted to see a 75% adoption rate among our sales pros. That was huge. That meant that content was good, the system was easy to access and navigate, the user experience was engaging, and that the solution helped their performance.


    It’s easy to see why BSN Sports is an AXIS Award winner in the category of Performance Improvement. Thanks to Eric Harper for giving us a helpful glimpse into the success of BSN Sports.

  • 17 Aug 2018 3:34 PM | Lewis Martinez (Administrator)


    You’ve been asked to deliver a learning program for a new system - the catch is that you only have a short time to do it and if the learners aren’t 100% competent, a patient’s life could be in danger. You need to not only train but validate competency.

    Those are pretty high stakes. In L&D | Talent Development we often talk about the importance of job transfer; in healthcare there is patient safety on the line so it’s no wonder that Children’s Health won an ATD Axis Award last year for their training for their new Epic Beaker Lab System for more than 3,000 employees. As project lead Melissa Liu said, “We’re a hospital. We can’t afford to make mistakes.”

    Preparation: Training Needs Analysis

    To prepare for this important program, Melissa and team conducted a very thorough training needs analysis that included:

    1. Organizational Assessment - defining knowledge, skills competency the organization required to meet its strategic goal - efficiency.
    2. Workflow Assessment - This phase looked at new workflows, skills, knowledge, competency required to perform jobs. They grouped those with similar workflows to consolidate training efforts in those areas.
    3. Job Role Assessment - This phase focused on performance of individual job roles and determination of what training they needed.

    Delivery: Four Training Tracks

    The TNA resulted in 4 training tracks for different user groups. The training was different for each group and all included a blend of content to meet multiple learning modalities – read, watch, practice, touch, test. Implementing a blended learning program is challenging; a typical format is eLearning + Assessment + Classroom yet Children’s took it further by including “Learning Labs” that functioned as practice plus summative assessment.

    • eLearning for each workflow
    • Instructor-Led Classroom Training
    • ILT Learning Labs
    • Self-Guided Practice / Exercises
    • Assessments – Knowledge Checks, Completion Assessment, Competency Check Sheets
    • Job Aids
    • Reference Guides

    They team supported learners throughout the entire process with different types of content and measured progress throughout the entire journey.


    “We differentiate between assessment and competency,” said Melissa (as I silently said ‘amen’ in my head.) To ensure the learning transferred to the job, learners were provided with lab activities. The learners completed the activities then submitted to a trainer to assess.

    As a result, they were able to evaluate the program on Kirkpatrick Levels 1 - 4. Four is not easy to get to; it’s essential to involve the organization to point where you measure business results, and they did so with a productivity analysis.

    The Children’s Health learning team partnered with the business in ways that led to success in just a few short months.

    Congratulations to Children’s Health for a developing such a robust and effective learning program that demonstrates the true value of learning as a strategic business enabler. You’re an example for us in L&D to follow.

    Apply for the 2018 AXIS Award! Had a great program this year? It doesn’t have to be on the scale of Children’s; if you had a breakthrough moment this year others can learn from you.

  • 18 Jul 2018 7:41 PM | Ruchika Setia

    If you worked to develop the talent in your organization this year, then you should consider applying for an ATD Dallas Axis Award. It’s not only for large organizations with big budgets or cutting-edge technology – it’s the results that count. Ask yourself if the solution was innovative for your company and If the answer is yes, then apply today! If your efforts made a difference then others can learn from your story!

    Reason 1 – Others can learn from you.

    Our field can be challenging in this everchanging environment we are in. if you made a difference then you should share your story so others can learn from your efforts. Our WHY is to see more effective talent development which ultimately helps employees as well as companies. Pay it forward!

    Reason 2 – It’s great for your talent brand.

    Candidates top reason for choosing an employer is career growth and the AXIS Awards are a great way for you to get that word out.

    Daniel Grey, Corporate Trainer at 2016 and 2017 winner PrimeLending, encourages DFW companies to apply, stating:

    “Tell your story – it’s doesn’t have to be a total earth-shattering change of business. What seems really straightforward for you may be very valuable for another company or another trainer.”

    One of the greatest benefits of ATD membership is learning from what others are doing. Many training/talent industry awards often go to the largest companies, but in Dallas we love diversity and want to hear from all size organizations and industries because that’s who our members are.

    Reason 3 – It’s easy, and free!

    The AXIS Award application is only 7 questions. If you’ve ever applied for a training (or other industry) award then you have faced the daunting challenge of answering page after page of detailed questions that sometimes don’t seem relevant to the award itself!  

    The ATD Dallas AXIS Awards questions are easy and it’s free to apply. Who doesn’t like simple and free?

    Reason 4 – It’s good for Dallas! (And our neighbor cities.)

    The AXIS Awards are a way for us to show that Dallas is a great place for talent. Dallas is one of the most competitive talent markets in the country and it’s good for our area to show that companies here invest in their Talent.

    Reason 5 – The AXIS Awards Gala is one of the best events of the year!

    So even if you don’t win you should attend the December event. I love the AXIS Awards – there is always a fun pair of emcees and a house packed with people who love what you do – developing their talent.


    About the AXIS Awards

    The AXIS Awards honor local organizations that are risk takers, innovators, game changers and amplifiers; trailblazers who carve paths and move mountains all in the name of talent development. The awards are in the following categories:

    • Talent Management
    • Organizational Development
    • Learning Solutions
    • Managing Learning Programs and Teams

    PrimeLending won last year in the Organization Development-Performance Improvement category for their Loan Processor learning program. It is an effective program that not only onboards loan processors to the job but integrates them into the culture as well and establishes an immediate network for their new employees. They didn’t use mind-blowing technology to make this happen but used the tools of our trade in a very focused and innovative way to tackle a tangible business problem.

    Apply today!

  • 14 Nov 2017 8:06 AM | Ruchika Setia

    I recently managed to capture President Mike Thompson for a brief chat about our most special members – our chapter volunteers – who we will be recognizing at the AXIS AWARDS gala on December 5.


    What’s the role of the volunteer at ATD Dallas?

    We’re a BIG chapter with more than 500 members! Because of our size, we offer many different areas for contribution, from programming to special events to marketing/communication and much more. A volunteer with almost any area of interest can make a strong contribution to ATD Dallas.


    What’s unique about the volunteer role in ATD Dallas?

    In addition to the number and variety of opportunities, there’s the chance for volunteers to stretch their own skills and abilities, especially if their work life isn’t providing that chance. We get to work alongside so many extraordinary people in our industry, but the real relationships are built when we lock arms toward a common goal.  That is the biggest payoff.


    How do we recognize them?

    We recognize them both formally and informally. Of course, big events and chapter meetings provide an opportunity and we take advantage of it! But possibly more important, we’re a chapter that loves to tell stories about the great things our members are doing. We want to recognize those accomplishments more and more often and celebrate them, until ATD Dallas becomes the benchmark for the rest of the industry.


    How have volunteers made an impact on the success of our Chapter’s value proposition?

    In every way, shape and form! Our volunteers build programs that engage everyone. Their networking connects us with thought leaders who are willing to share. We’re quick to celebrate and broadcast others’ success stories. And finally, our volunteers’ own expertise helps the group to elevate our collective thinking.


    If you’re not volunteering, you’re missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime! Check out volunteer opportunities on this site, and be sure to join us at the AXIS AWARDS on Tuesday, December 5 to celebrate ATD Dallas and the Talent Development Industry as a whole.

  • 18 Oct 2017 3:49 PM | Ruchika Setia

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." – George Eliot.  Our workplaces are full of employees who think it is ‘too late’ for them.  The result is a significantly high number of disengaged workers, almost 69% according recent Gallup research.  So I was particularly interested to chat with Julie Moore at HMS, a 2017 ATD Dallas AXIS winner, to learn more about what they’ve been doing to turn those numbers upside down.

    Q: In 2014 your team noticed a drop in the number of employees participating in learning events, yet your engagement scores reflected that employees didn’t feel the company was providing them with development opportunities.  To what did you attribute this disconnect?

    A: Our team spent some time batting this around and eventually concluded that we were primarily dealing with a lack of awareness among our key leaders on the existing resources that could be used to build careers.  Supervisors were not encouraging employees to take the time to invest in their own development so learning just wasn’t top of mind.  We had a strong suspicion that we didn’t have a training content problem, but rather a marketing problem.

    Q: So it sounds like your solution, the Career Development Initiative, was really about creating a stronger learning culture. How have things changed over the last couple of years?

    A: Before we launched the Career Development Initiative, we didn’t focus on helping our employees build careers.  Learning was primarily concentrated around new hire orientation, courses related to the day-to-day job, and regulatory compliance.  Employees were not encouraged to develop skills beyond their current job.  We knew if we were going to stimulate interest and motivation in learning, employees would have to own their development, with their manager’s support alongside the tools we could provide. 

    One of the central elements of our Career Development Initiative has been a focus on strengths.  Rather than focusing only on weaknesses or performance issues, we want employees to also consider how they could build on their natural talents so they could really soar in their career.  So, for example, if an employee is strong with financial numbers, we want them to consider ways they can develop that skill in training and then use it in their day-to-day role to grow their core strength.

    The focus on career development has now been integrated into our talent review process so that leaders are constantly evaluating their teams and identifying ways to keep our high potential talent challenged.  It also helps ensure that managers have the tools they need to create strong development plans. 

    Q: You mentioned earlier that you suspected one of your biggest problems was marketing.  How did you showcase this new approach to Career Development?

    A:  Our launch in 2015 involved a big kick-off event we called the Learning Lounge, hosted at our corporate headquarters in Irving.  It was a great way for our team to connect with employees in the company and talk about learning.  We were able to show them real time the opportunities available in our learning portal and find out more about what they needed, which gave us a pathway to continue improving our offerings.  That event stimulated a great deal of excitement around learning and career development.  This year we took the Learning Lounge on the road to our Las Vegas office and we are looking to expand it even further next year to allow us to connect with more employees across the company.

    Q: You've seen a huge increase in course completion and received lots of positive feedback from your course evaluations.  How has the initiative impacted your engagement scores?

    A: The primary question we were addressing through this initiative was “The company provides me with the opportunity for learning and development.”  In 2014 our percent favorable for this question was 60.8% .  A year after implementing the Career Development initiative, we increased that score to 66.4% and at the end of last year we were at 71.7%.  Today, across many of our engagement questions, we are at the benchmark or higher, and are still looking for ways to improve. 

    Q: Have you seen other outcomes you didn't anticipate?

    A: This initiative has led us to be more efficient and effective with the training programs we are offering and delivering.  As we began to understand the employees’ needs we were able to help them navigate our learning portal better. We’ve put together a learning path for our front-line leaders that helps prepare new leaders for success in their role.  That has led to an uptick in the number of courses our employees have been taking.  In addition, our department has been overwhelmed by the growth in requests and activity.  We have really had to stay focused on the priorities of the organization and get creative on how we can expand our reach.

    Q: And how have you done that?

    A: One of the things we’ve done is recruited Learning Champions across our departments.  These are people who work with us on putting together learning paths for the common roles in their group so that new employees are onboarded well.  They are also our ‘ears on the ground,’ providing us with feedback on what people are needing.  We’ve also partner with the Learning Champions to develop Mastery Skill checklists that new employees can use to provide a more structured approach to on-the-job training.

    Q: What was your biggest challenge in implementing this initiative?

    A: Probably like most learning organizations, our biggest challenge was simply the ‘busyness’ of our culture.  Our company recently implemented the Clutter Tool in Outlook, which essentially pulls routine emails that you don’t open into a Clutter folder.  This means if our associates ignore our training announcements, they stop receiving them.   So, we have had to look for new ways to nudge people, such as personal emails to key leaders about what offerings are coming up and how they can benefit their teams, more posters and flyers about what is coming up, etc.

    Q: What advice do you have for others who are trying to move the needle on employee engagement relative to learning?

    A:  The circumstances are different for every organization, but I think what really made the difference for us was finding a creative way to market the opportunities that were already available and shifting the perspective of learning from a ‘have to’ to a ‘want to’ mentality.  We’ve done this by helping our employee focus on developing their strengths for career success and advancement and it has made a big difference in how our employees view career opportunities at HMS.

    This is just one more example of how local DFW companies are making Dallas the Talent Capital of the World.  In December, ATD Dallas will introduce the 2018 winners of the AXIS Award.  We hope you will plan to join us to celebrate those who are leading the way in Talent Development.

  • 04 Aug 2017 1:13 PM | Ruchika Setia
    GIRL Scouts

    While scouting for more best practices in Talent Development, I had the pleasure of chatting with Donna Tharp and Jean Butts from the Northeast Texas Council of Girl Scouts of America. Their Knowledge Management initiative – with almost 100% volunteers! – garnered them an Axis Award last year. Here are some of their thoughts.

    Q: What led you to move from a more traditional training approach to a micro-learning approach?

    A: Watching trends evolve in learning, we discovered that our learners are less willing to give up hours and travel to attend training. They are volunteers, and it’s about the balance of value vs. time, so it becomes very important to deliver value in an expedient way. We also observed the pendulum swinging too far in “the make it fast / make it easy” direction, with the result that we lost some of our value. The GSNETX Learning Channel was created to restore and build value.

    Q: Why did you select Facebook as your delivery mechanism for your micro-learning initiative (vs. Linked In, Twitter, blogs, etc.?)

    A: Why did we select Facebook vs Linked In vs Twitter?

    • Because our learners are already there, no additional username / passwords required.
    • Facebook is 24/7 – it’s not once and done.
    • Facebook makes use of hashtags, which means that everything that we publish can be curated and retrieved.

    Now, about crowd sourcing answers: if it’s an important question, then the answers should be accurate and clear, free from emotions. It was in that intersection that the seed for the GSNETX Learning Channel (GLC) was born. We observed many online community interactions full of questions, partial answers, misdirection - and frequently found golden nuggets of wisdom. That’s when we knew that we had potential to create something easily consumable that held real value and make a difference.

    Q: You relied heavily on volunteers to develop and publish this curriculum. How did you engage them and work with them to deliver quality content?

    A: We were blessed that we already had an existing team of volunteer facilitators for in-person macro learning courses. Within that group we found 10 volunteers to get us started with one post per day the first year. Once we were successful, we mined our community interest group for folks who could write well and asked them to begin writing for us.

    We provided the GLC Authors with a “How to write a GLC Post” Memo and the list of hashtags and ask them to write 4 or 5 posts per month, read/edit when necessary, and curate the photos. We developed a work plan to get ahead of the posts by 4-6 weeks so that we can edit, prepare and schedule posts for publishing at one time, freeing up the next 3 to 4 weeks, freeing us to work on other projects.

    We found with volunteers, it is crucial to build strong relationships, ask directly, be specific about what you need, and describe the benefits to them. Then praise, feedback, and more praise – frequent and consistent!

    Q: How did you market the program and get buy-in from your troop leaders to complete it?

    A: 1) First, we have volunteers take out their phones and connect to the Learning Channel at our new leader onboarding welcome session. We’ve also added it to the training page on our website, and integrated it into our official volunteer publications.

    2) We announced our launch in an existing GS Community of Interest for local leaders with a jump to our page pinned at the top of the group.

    3) We also shared information about our page with administrative volunteers who are influencers in the organization and asked them to help us connect people to the page.

    4) Finally, we crowd source ideas and pictures from the volunteer community group to use in our learning posts. As people see that “they” could be highlighted, they are more likely to engage and enjoy and participate.

    Q: How has the shift to micro-learning impacted your troop leaders’ ability to perform their role well?

    A: Questions of desperation in community groups have decreased, AND we notice volunteers who are not authors using information we published to answer questions, as well. We now have dozens of experienced volunteers who can answer questions with accuracy! Additionally, new volunteers have liked our page and the support we gave them so much that they, in their 2nd year, are joining the learning channel as authors. Leaders building leaders more quickly through micro-learning!

    Q: What other resources have you put in place to reinforce adoption of the content and ensure its application?

    A: For longer content, we introduced “mini-macros” this year by creating “Events” in Facebook. Event promotions are seen by our followers on their walls, giving them the chance to RSVP. The content of each event, however, has its own URL, which keeps all posts inside the event collected together. Each Learning Event is focused on a single topic and features a series of 10 posts to tell a more in-depth story.

    We have also piloted an “official” Community of Practice (CoP) called “New Leader Academy”. This differs slightly from the Community of Interest mentioned above in that it is limited specifically to Year 1 Leaders only; has planned interactions and engagement opportunities; and has dedicated mentors to catch questions and point members to answers and resources.

    Q: What advice would you give to an organization considering a similar type of initiative?

    A: 1) Find someone with strong left-brain capacity who thinks like an engineer, can break the big picture down into the details, organize and manage those details in project format and then gently but effectively bug people to set and meet deadlines.

    2) Think about what the Big Buckets are in your organization and assign those – with hashtags - to the days of the week, like programming a television guide.

    3) Create a guiding codex or library of hashtags organized by your topical daily theme, which will give you a publishing structure to adhere to.

    4) Remember that a post is generally only 2 to 3 sentences with a picture. Think also of related content that fits within the larger topic and assign hashtags to those as well.

  • 29 Jun 2017 11:59 PM | Ruchika Setia

    Your company is growing! That’s the good news…but…it’s growing faster than you can effectively onboard new employees.  That is the situation Conifer Health faces every day, challenging its HR team to implement a brand new strategy to manage the organization’s talent in supporting the business’ goals.  The results?  An effective HR strategy that not only reinvents the company’s talent initiatives, but the progress so far has also earned it an Axis Award for Strategic Planning.

    Curious to learn how Conifer aligns its HR/Talent strategy to the Company’s vision of providing “the foundation for better health,” I connected with Cole Brown to learn more about their story.  What I found was a multi-faceted approach that is singularly focused on creating and reinforcing Conifer’s brand promise “We are Better Together as we live the Conifer life.” 

    Q:  Why was creating an employee “brand promise” so important to Conifer?

    A:  To drive consistency and excitement and build trust quickly. We had to learn what differentiated Conifer as an employer. We had to understand our team member value proposition, and answer the question: why would someone want to work here? That’s where the brand promise came in. We can promise more than just a paycheck. We can now promise career growth and almost unlimited opportunity because we are doing amazing things as a healthcare services firm – better together. We promise that we are better because of our new team members, and they will be better because of us. That’s our promise and our commitment.

    Q:  How do you go about developing an HR Strategy that tangibly supports and promotes the brand?

    A: We must listen to our team members, and did so, through focus groups and interviews with all levels from multiple locations around the country. We asked three questions:

    1.     What differentiates us as an employer?

    2.     What can we own in the marketplace as an employer?

    3.     What promise can we make to our team members and deliver on every time?

    From there, we developed a team member value proposition that connects with, and is relevant to, our business purpose and strategy. If our business purpose is to be the foundation for better health, then our value proposition must support it and our team members. That’s why Better Together makes a great connection. Better Health means we have to be Better Together as a team. From there, we analyzed our organization to identify gaps and barriers – what was keeping us from being Better Together? Once we identified those gaps, we started to build out our new talent strategy. That work continues today – getting Better Together and honing our talent strategy as we grow.

    Q:  How did you roll it out to ensure the new strategy would be adopted by team members?

    A:  We started by hosting a number of Town Halls to keep team members informed about the transition each step of the way.  We then hosted special Orientation events followed by thank you notes and a formal welcome letter.  Finally, we rolled out bi-weekly videos to support the transition of new team members and leaders, and provided a half-day leadership workshop for the new management team. But more than that – everything we did was to create a compelling new hire experience that connects people emotionally to our purpose, to other team members, and to the exciting possibilities ahead.

    Q:  There is a lot of talk these days about the impact of ‘story telling.’  How did you use stories to make sure the brand promise really resonated with employees?

    A:  We didn’t want to communicate with typical “business speak,” which can often be void of emotion. We needed buy- in and excitement from team members. Storytelling is the way to drive emotion. It helps our approach get beyond the pure logical connection to what we’re doing, and it engages the heart. Change can be hard, and our team members will deal with it better when their hearts are in it.

    Q:  What one or two pieces of advice would you give to other HR/Talent functions who really want to connect employees to the organization’s goals/vision?

    A:  First, this doesn’t start in the board room; it starts in the field. Talk to your team members. Listen a lot to what they are saying – and then be prepared to do something about it. Second, adopt some marketing principles. Don’t just be informative with your communications, be engaging. Capture their hearts as well as their heads. Finally, make sure it connects to the business in a way that drives the business forward. Our work in HR/Talent Management has to be of strategic value. We’re only of strategic value when we move the needle of real business metrics. 

    To learn more about Conifer's Award Winning initiative, visit the 2016 AXIS Awards Winners Webpage.

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