In today’s competitive environment, organizations must rapidly innovate and change to ensure they can keep their position in the marketplace. One of the biggest L&D challenges is delivering high-quality manager development programs that develop and empower managers across an enterprise to do just that. This was the primary challenge that Unum, the leading provider of financial protection benefits in the US and UK, faced in creating a manager development program for its 10,000 employees.
Unum needed a high-impact, scalable program that would lay the foundation for every Unum manager to be able to effectively lead the company forward. That meant creating a program that could be easily integrated into busy schedules, enabled peer-to-peer learning, could be updated in real-time in a rapidly changing business environment and created a habit of learning among participants.
“We needed a solution that could be more conveniently consumed during a busy day that is full of competing priorities,” says Kim Bolton, Program Director, Unum. “Creating a way to make those connections where new managers could benefit from the expertise of our experienced managers was really key to the success and scaling of the program.”
In designing and executing a learning program that focused on driving innovation and change as well as executing consistently, Unum leveraged Everwise’s leading edge software to build, deliver and scale a manager development program that integrates experts, facilitation and content.
Learning made social
Learning programs can range from being social to independent, personalized to standardized and intensive to continual. Unum created a program that was a combination of social and independent given their managers’ limited time and the need to be able to learn from each other; that was more standardized in order to eventually scale yet personalized to Unum’s unique values, brand promise and employee value proposition; and that was both intensive and continual in order to establish the habit of learning so that managers would acclimate to investing time in their own development.
Unum launched a 6-week pilot course on “Interpersonal Effectiveness” for 50 managers. The curriculum encouraged peer-to-peer interaction and could be consumed in approximately 1 hour per week, allowing for bite-sized but ongoing, social learning. The program incorporated a mix of individual and group assignments, internal and external resources and practical challenges to drive engagement.
The peer groups were critical to the success of the course, helping to foster connections and discussion between experienced and newer managers. Learners felt encouraged to share insights and learnings with each other, and benefited from the expertise of experienced managers. “One of my favorite parts about the curriculum was the layout of each interval and how the moderator followed up at the end,” says a program participant. “Having my facilitator respond with a story or personal experience that helped encourage me or showed me how to handle the situation was one of the best parts in my opinion.”
Measuring and encouraging engagement
The facilitation and reporting tools provided in the software enabled Unum to measure ongoing program engagement, keep discussions moving towards desired outcomes and guide the participant experience. An experienced Unum leader serves as moderator for the course. In that role of coach and facilitator, the manager asks questions, encourages the group to stay on track with learning and shares his or her own expertise.
The reporting dashboard enables the program director and facilitator to quickly measure engagement across all or by individual groups and offer support to those who are less engaged. While the virtual peer group space was designed for peer sharing and learning, the activity has also proved invaluable to L&D. “Watching activity in the peer group space is like an ongoing focus group to see what’s resonating, where learners might be struggling, and where you can improve resources – directs you to topics where deeper dives might be helpful,” says Kim.
The managers who went through the training program found great value in further developing their management skills and seeing their impact to the business. Here are just a few of the leadership lessons learned from participants.
- “I realized how to use my communication style to greater advantage to achieve business results and I’m seeing a difference already.
- “I am brand new to a leadership role, so having an outlet and resources for me to read and work through for my development was what I needed.”
- “It’s very difficult to find time in your day to focus on yourself when the needs of your people and business tend to take over. I hope there are more opportunities for leaders like this in the future.”
The results from the pilot are promising for new and experienced managers alike. There has been a 75% increase in participant confidence and usage of key concepts. With the success of this pilot, Unum is now rolling out 4 courses (Interpersonal Effectiveness, Elevating Performance, Strategic Decision-making and Leading through Change) to all managers in a phased approach. Unum will be building out more high-level competencies training throughout this year and will use the interactions observed in the peer groups and feedback from this program to inform that build.
To learn more, read our Unum Case Study here.