One of the first systematic moves CLOs can make is to establish a way to help people interested in using learning to advance their career determine the best place to begin development. Whether they’re the new guy on the job or an experienced worker considering a more senior position, it can be tough for managers to find their way around the corporate university and make the right learning choices.
Most CLOs are no stranger to this type of prescriptive learning. The underlying idea is one of the linchpins on which enterprise education is built: Tailor and prioritize developmental interventions so they meet an organization’s need to build and promote identified critical skills and competencies. The individual or group development plans that result from this type of activity usually become the road map for targeted instruction and ensure learning is tied firmly to those critical competencies that will advance the business where it needs help the most.
Ace Hardware recently employed an assessment called the System for Testing and Evaluation of Potential (LH-STEP) from Pearson Performance Solutions for 278 members of its regional business managers (RBM) in the field organization.
As the direct contact with Ace retailers, RBMs needed to shift their focus in the wake of the company’s emerging growth strategy, which grew RBMs into a new role, district manager, that had two main objectives: retail execution and inventory management.
“Inventory management is very costly,” said Ray Narducy, Ace Hardware Corp. manager of organizational development. “It’s at the heart of the success of our business. If it’s kept as close to ‘just in time’ as possible, our costs go down, and we provide better service for our retailers. But to do that, we have to know what is selling in the stores and what isn’t.”
To execute this shift effectively, the field organization had to have performance feedback, and it was determined this feedback should be seen as a developmental opportunity to grow into the new district manager position. Two instruments, the predictive index and the LH-STEP, were employed.
“This was somewhat fraught with peril because anytime you do assessments while change is going on, people are very concerned about their job. ‘Are these assessments going to be used to judge my value to the organization as a way to terminate me?'” Narducy said. “We tried to deflate that issue by emphasizing the developmental process and the results that would come from taking the LH-STEP.”
To enable the field organization to easily assess its current and potential skill level, as well as create learning development plans, the assessments were deployed online. The two- to three-hour process has a range of sections, and once the assessments were taken, it took a few weeks to compile results.
During that time, Ace prepared its regional managers, who manage the district managers, to use the data, walking them through the LH-STEP. Each regional manager then met with district managers to go over three data points.
The first data point came from the job analysis survey, which was deployed online to create a benchmark for the RBM position. The 15-minute survey creates a master performer profile, a benchmark for key stakeholders and managers, etc., and from that information some standards of higher level performance might emerge.
The second data point came from the actual LH-STEP results, which look at 22 potential measures, 16 skill measures, bio data, motivation, mental ability, leadership aptitude and work values.
The third data point in the assessment process came from a performance rating survey, in which managers rate existing skill performance.
Using all those data points, Ace quickly and effectively pinpointed required development areas for which interventions were needed at both the individual and group level.
The entire assessment process took about eight weeks for the RBM field population to complete. It hasn’t been a year since implementation, but Narducy said having the assessments done by an outside organization added significant validity to the learning analysis process.
“It’s objective,” Narducy explained. “People can look and say, ‘If Ace wants me to do these things, and I’m here, here’s what I need to do to prepare.’ It gave a real solid way for the manager to sit down and say, ‘Here’s how we look versus national norms, considering personality traits and skill levels.'”