Excellence in Employee Development Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

Last Friday (June 5, 2009), I was honored as one of the judges in the 3rd annual Apollo Awards ceremony celebrating excellence in employee development programs in companies from the smallest to largest in the Washington, DC, area. The event was the brainchild of Kathy Albarado, CEO of Helios HR. This year, my association chapter (Metro DC ASTD) was invited to be one of the sponsoring organizations and I was invited to be one of six judges. (Below: photo from the Washington Business Journal)

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Benefits of Employee Development - for Employees AND the Organization

The Apollo Awards celebrate these businesses' recognition of the importance of employee development programs not just in terms of creating a competitive advantage but also in growing employee retention. Employee development programs create strong managers. They provide meaningful projects for employees that further their marketable skills and work satisfaction. And a focus on employee development is a succession planning tool through the promotional opportunities it builds.

Nominating Organizations Employee Development Trends

Here are some employee development trends noted within the nominated organizations:

  • 53% have a formal succession plan
  • 95% have a documented career path
  • 66% document specific competencies for each position within the career path
  • 81% use employee survey results as a formal feedback mechanism, along with peer evaluations and 360(o) reviews
  • 9 out of 10 prepare supervisors through coaching and OJT training
  • 89% align employee goals to company's strategic goals
  • Over 90% offer instructor-led, peer-to-peer, and web-based training to employees 

Winners' Tools and Tricks

Winners spanned in organizational size across four size categories: 'Emerging' (very small), 'Small', 'Mid-Size', and Large. Here are just some highlights of the winning companies' employee development ideas:

  • Emerging company winner, Arc Aspicio LLC, built a core development program called Homeland Security Mission Training which combines self-study, interviews, research, formal training, Capitol Hill hearings, and thought leadership which form the basis for employees' annual professional development plans.
  • Small company winner, Métier, Ltd., offers a comprehensive new hire process including a two-week 'Boot Camp' that helps new employees understand the industry, company culture, and elements for success at the firm. They've also created a Knowledge Management Department that manages training and other knowledge identification and distribution processes throughout the organization.
  • Mid-Size winner, Beers + Cutler, offers a competency-based curriculum delivered primarily by internal subject matter experts as well as programs such as Career Pathways, coaching, mentoring and stretch assignments. Their performance management program includes semi-annual reviews, project reviews, upward feedback to leaders from staff, individual development plans (IDPs) and monthly meetings between an employee and his or her supervisor to discuss goals.
  • Large winner, Edelman (Washington, DC office), offer Edelman University, comprehensive in-house learning and development programs including weekly industry trends classes, an annual Leadership Academy program for top employees (facilitated by the firm's executives), and separate Bootcamp programs for employees and for managers. Edelman also offers a 24-7 learning opportunity online via an interactive intranet site.
  • Two special awards -- Phoebus and Hercules -- were also given to deserving companies for specialized approaches and programs.

Congratulations to all the finalists and the winners for championing employee learning and development! I look forward to our chapter's involvement in next year's Apollo Awards.