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LDP Connect Blog

  • 10 Jun 2019 10:38 AM | Dan Beaudry (Administrator)

    LDP Connect’s annual LDP Award recognizes initiatives that bring innovation and transformation to early career talent development programs.

    It also recognizes the individuals behind these transformations. 2019’s award winner is Cardinal Health’s EMERGE program. We talked with Jill Spohn, who transformed her leadership development program’s cost-of-living adjustment process, reducing costs, increasing transparency and making additional rotations possible.

    It also recognizes the individuals behind these transformations. 2019’s award winner is Cardinal Health’s EMERGE program. We talked with Jill Spohn, who transformed her leadership development program’s cost-of-living adjustment process, reducing costs, increasing transparency and making additional rotations possible.

    The Problem the Early Career Program Faced

    Recent acquisitions have expanded Cardinal Health’s global footprint, so international fluidity and cultural fluency are more important than ever. EMERGE participants go through three 12-month rotations, and relocation is often required.

    When program participants rotate to more expensive locations, the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) gives them the financial assistance they need to transition to their new environment. In the past, however, the COLA process received consistent negative feedback. Lack of transparency and perceived unfairness were common complaints. 

    “This used to be one of the biggest pain points of our administrative responsibilities,” Jill says. “It was grueling. We had a lot of tough conversations, we were making a lot of exceptions, and things weren’t necessarily fair.”

    The relocation amounts participants received when moving to similar geographic locations were often different – which caused problems when participants started comparing notes.

    Jill and her team faced an immediate challenge. Cardinal’s relocation/COLA policy is enterprise-wide and not specific to her talent development program. With more than 50,000 global employees, every change to policy language and process had to be vetted through legal stakeholders. Jill and her team had to present their recommendations to each of nine functional steering committees. A lot of questions needed answers.

    Changing the Cost-of-Living Approach

    With the necessary approvals in place, Jill’s team collaborated with a relocation vendor to update policy language and mitigate risk. Changing the way COLA analyses were conducted was the next big step.

    Previously, the analyses factored participants’ job functions, their year in the program, and salary. Therefore, someone with a higher salary would receive a lower cost-of-living adjustment.

    “Ultimately, we determined that’s not the way we want to go about it,” Jill says. “Why should someone with a technical background not receive the same cost of living as someone with a marketing degree? We wanted to be more consistent.” Under the revised approach, everyone in a particular area would get the same relocation amount, regardless of the facility they were assigned and their base salary.

    “We decided to take an average salary and submit one request per location,” Jill explains. Running one COLA per geographic area means reducing the need (and the cost) for multiple analyses of the same region. Composite analyses of the surrounding areas of a metropolitan location gives a single, consistent COLA amount for that area. 

    “Being consistent about those processes allowed us to run one analysis for Boston, for example, and one analysis for Chicago. And once we had that number, that’s what everybody in that city was going to recieve.”

    Now, each analysis is based on demographic data. For example, most program participants are in their 20s, single and renting. This data is benchmarked against an area’s cost of living. The new approach is more transparent. Program participants know exactly how much assistance they would get before they commit to a role. Stakeholders know exact costs prior to budgeting season, as well.

    Implementation and Impact on the LDP

    The program management team and the enterprise-level relocation advisor rolled out the changes via trainings and dissemination of new tools and resources. Right away, participants who had previously received inconsistent relocation funds started requesting retroactive payments. Terminating participants tried to dispute the validity of their past repayment agreements, arguing the changes nullified their agreements.

    These reactions led to difficult conversations, first with legal council to determine if the program was obligated to provide retro-payment, and then to participants after it was decided to not offer retro-payments for past inconsistencies.

    These problems aside, how did the initiative perform? What measurable impact did it have on program participants and on the business?  

    “The most tangible piece always comes back to savings,” Jill says. “The administrative hours have been hugely impacted in a positive way.”

    Cardinal Health has taken a much more stringent approach on Selling, General & Administrative Expense (SG&A) costs in the last year. EMERGE started running analyses bi-annually rather than annually—unless a specific location has a volatile cost of living. Less frequent analyses reduced associated costs and administrative overhead. 

    Another success metric has been the consistency of COLA payment. Thoughtful program governance demands internal equity. Previously, program managers went to steering committees for exceptions fairly often. Now there are fewer complaints about inconsistencies between payments and about the number of exceptions made. 

    “We are quick to try to be as consistent as possible,” she says. “We are always mindful of fairness, even when it comes to the small things.”

    The Numbers Behind the COLA Revamp

    Take a look at the program’s “Metrics of Success” for 2017:

    • Complaints from participants – At least 1 per participant receiving assistance (approximately 40)
    • Number of analyses run – 40+
    • Cost of analyses – $10,000
    • Inconsistent payments received – 16
    • Exceptions made – 11
    • Administrative hours – 30 minutes per analysis, 3 hours per exception = 55 hours
    • Functional leader support – Inconsistent

    Compare those numbers to the same metrics from 2019:

    • Complaints from participants – 0
    • Number of analyses run – 8
    • Cost of analyses – $2,000
    • Inconsistent payments received – 0
    • Exceptions made – 0
    • Administrative hours – 30 minutes per analysis = 4 hours
    • Functional leader support – Full Support

    Negative feedback from participants and stakeholders, along with exceptions, were slashed to zero.

    EMERGE: Moving Forward

    Jill and her teammates expect the revamped process to provide a cost savings for years to come. They say the program management team can now focus on more strategic initiatives, such as seeking out impactful rotations for participants and re-evaluating developmental conference content. They’ll spend less time handling transactional procedures and exceptions. 

    With a better picture of costs, the EMERGE team can be more mindful about the locations that they choose. They can also manage expectations when participants coming from high-cost areas get lower base-plus-COLA offers after graduating from the program.

    “We’ve been able to open up to new and exciting field locations because we know that we have a consistent process. We don’t receive the pushback we used to get because there’s a lot more trust between us, the participants and the steering committees.”


  • 7 Apr 2019 11:53 AM | Dan Beaudry (Administrator)

    Early career talent development programs need structured, formal training, measurable benchmarks, program staff members that support one another, and meaningful executive buy-in.

    Take away any of these elements, and your program is likely to falter.

    A few years ago, Prudential Financial’s Actuarial Leadership Development Program (ALDP) was losing traction. The current manager, Michelle Vallier, turned things around, and today she has advice for program managers who need a few words of advice.

    The ALDP is a fast-track rotational program where 65-70 full-time associates get the technical, interpersonal, leadership and management skills required to become actuarial leaders. Michelle also oversees an internship program that feeds into the rotational program, and early awareness programs that expose high school students and college students to actuarial careers.

    “Our goal is to develop high-potential leaders that can be deployed to actuarial and non-actuarial functions in the organization once they graduate,” Michelle says.

    Meeting that goal has meant refurbishing ALDP’s reputation within the organization over the last several years.

    “Sometimes we hear from associates that there’s animosity toward (the program) on their team, or the way people talk about the program isn’t always positive,” Michelle explains. “Essentially it goes back to being really honest about our product. “

    The “product,” in this case is qualified leaders. Michelle admits that a few years ago there wasn’t a real difference between participants coming out of the program and new hires who didn’t go through leadership development. To put it another way, the ALDP wasn’t cultivating excellent leaders—and its reputation at Prudential reflected that.

    “It can be boiled down pretty simply,” Michelle says. “We weren’t selling a consistent product at the end of the day. That was a reality that we had to face. We had to look at restructuring the program to ensure there was consistency in our graduates, that there was a higher quality in our graduates.”

    Michelle says her program is “still on a path of recovery,” but she has seen a huge turnaround in manager engagement over the last couple of years.

    “They believe in the restructuring and they see the value that it’s going to have. They’re re-buying into the program.”

    Now, if others in the organization question why ALDP associates get access, benefits and training that may be seen as preferential treatment, Michelle knows that the C-suite has her back and will defend the program. This renewed confidence in the program comes from measuring the results.

    LDP Benchmarking

    So, how are these results measured?

    “On an annual basis, we revise the objectives that associates have to strive for during the course of the year,” Michelle explains. “These objectives are different from their general performance objective for their role. So they have a program-specific objective that they are measured against, plus their direct manager will provide separate objectives based on their project assignment.”

    At the end of the year, a talent review brings together Michelle’s team, the rotation managers, HR, and the ALDP management team to talk about how each individual met their program and individual objectives. 

    This 2-3 day talent review allows them to keep a pulse on associates in the program. It also gives managers insight into how other managers measure associate achievement. These achievements include many things; one of them is the rate of placement of the associates post-graduation or, sometimes, even before graduation.

    Other KPIs are related to recruiting targets—e.g., tracking how many associates are coming from core schools that Prudential has long-standing relationships with. 

    Michelle’s team is also working to better track alumni and the paths that they take after graduation, including what roles they’re in two, five, or eight years after graduation.

    “Are they moving up in the organization or are they moving laterally? That’s something that we haven’t reported on more than anecdotally, but on an anecdotal basis, the results are really powerful. Our last two chief actuaries were graduates of our program and many of the senior leaders in our organization are graduates of the program.

    Program Obstacles

    With measurable results, Michelle has the data she needs to win over anyone in the organization who isn’t working with the program associates to the extent needed. If managers aren’t cooperating, for example, getting executive intervention is a lever she can pull to get things done.

    “We talk to our most senior leaders about (obstacles). We know we have executive buy-in for the program. And since they see the value in the program, they can trickle down the message about the need for (corporation).”

    This cooperation might include, for example, placing associates in a specific rotation. What’s Michelle’s advice for program managers who find themselves without the roles needed for all the associates in a rotation?

    “We start by looking at the roles that our organization has open. Say we’ve been told by our senior leadership team that there are 50 open roles. If we need 20 roles filled (by ALDP associates), you might think those roles will be available to them.”

    But not necessarily. Hiring managers may choose to submit the role for a full-time permanent hire rather than submitting it for someone in the program. Sometimes they have good reasons for this. For example, the role may need someone who won’t be transferring out in 12 months.

    “But when we do need roles and we find ourselves in a deficit we try to dialogue with those managers about the give and take.” She helps them understand the benefits they gain by hosting a rotational associate.

    “If they haven’t had luck filling a role with someone internally or externally, a lot of times we are able to convert the role to a rotation and that helps us make up the difference.”

    Again, the program’s improved reputation has created opportunities,. Still, Michelle says she knows of one Prudential business are that remains “lukewarm” regarding her program’s mission.

    “Honestly, it hasn’t helped them,” she says. “Students talk to each other and have expressed that it wasn’t a great environment.” (The business unit) needs the resources from the program, “But now they can’t get any interest from the associates. So they themselves are trying to rebuild their reputation with us.”

    When middle-level management has reservations about a program, you have to address the reality of why they feel that way.

    “I make calls to the leaders in those areas where associates haven’t had a great experience. I address it straight-on and let them know that we may consider whether or not that’s a role I would fill in the future if the environment is going to be toxic for the high-potential associates in our program.”

    Restructuring Early Career Programs

    So, why did Prudential’s actuarial LDP have such a lackluster track record when Michelle came on board? Part of the reason had to do with it being open-ended. Since the actuarial credentialing process requires a rigorous series of professional examinations, actuarial LDPs are often structured differently from other finance programs.

    “Associates can take any length of time to pass the exams, so whereas other programs have a defined start and end time and the structure can be relatively straightforward, the belief in actuarial programs for a long time was that you couldn’t structure them because of that exam component.

    “Before (the restructuring) it was a highly-curated, individualized experience. One person might have four rotations, plus a smattering of technical and non-technical rotations, and that would be okay.”

    Shortly after inheriting the program, Michelle put a defined duration on the program and identified the key experiences and skillsets that graduates were expected to have.

    “Today, there some key foundations that we’ve identified as requirements for the program. You can’t be considered a graduate unless you have your designation, you have checked off those requirements, and you have been performing adequately throughout the process.

    “That has given us more clout with our naysayers.  We’ve added more structure and we expect more of the people in the program.”

    What does this structure look like?

    For starters, program managers now have several connection points with all the stakeholders, including one-one-one discussions related to performance and promotions.

    There are also annual information sessions to disseminate information about how to effectively manage rotations.

    “Every time we have a rotation, we kick off the process with tactical updates. We connect with the managers a little more formally and less frequently, but around promotion time we connect with all managers to make sure our associates are being considered and so we know where everyone stands in their development.”

    For associates, there are four one-on-one connection points every year. On a quarterly basis, at a minimum, managers meet with associates individually to talk about their experiences, whether or not they’re getting what they expect from the program, and how the managers can help them navigate the program.

    “We also meet with them quarterly, as a group, to discuss program updates, give them the opportunity to hear from senior leaders across the organization, and do some fun things, like team-building exercises.”

    In the end, pulling the ALDP at Prudential away from its faltering course has meant a healthier leadership pipeline for the company.

    “We’re never in a position where we can not find roles for the people in the program,” Michelle says. “We put them through rigorous development and are appropriately selecting their rotational experience to ensure that the business is getting what they expect at the end of the day.”


  • 17 Mar 2019 11:52 AM | Dan Beaudry (Administrator)

    Executive sponsorship can make or break any leadership development program.

    For program participants, the sponsor is the one who can open doors. He or she champions the program, brings it visibility and credibility, and can help secure funding for its activities. He or she unlocks opportunities for participants needing rotations where their talents will be put to use, ensuring they get the career development they signed up for.

    Behind closed doors, the executive sponsor advocates on behalf of participants in talent review discussions, promotion considerations, pay reviews, cross-functional development moves and assignments.

    Ultimately, the executive sponsor is responsible for the health of the organization’s leadership pipeline. That’s why, when he or she leaves the company or transitions to another role and is no longer able to serve as the LDP’s chief liaison, managing the transition is critical. If handled poorly, the passing of the torch can throw the program into disarray, impairing morale and leaving participants without the direction they need.

    A rocky transition is often felt among program managers even more than participants, as it directly impacts their ability to do their job.

    A successful transition means making sure the participants get the guidance and attention they need without interruption. It means making sure program managers continue to get the support they depend on. Today we’ll discuss some things to keep in mind to make sure the loss of a program sponsor—and the transition to a new leader—is managed the best way possible.

    Plan For A Smooth Transition

    If you’re lucky, your program knows well in advance when an executive sponsor will be leaving. Some companies designate a tenure of a year or two for the role, rotating executives through the position to bring fresh blood to the program. Senior leaders get leadership development, too, and heading a rotational program is often considered an exposure point for executive development. In these cases, you will have plenty of time to prepare for the transition.

    In other cases, the changing of the guard comes as a surprise. Whichever situation your program faces, the key to program survival is communication.

    Before communicating to development program participants that the executive sponsor is leaving, program managers and the senior functional leadership team or executive team should identify who is best qualified to step in and backfill the role. Ideally, the new sponsor will be someone passionate about talent development. Someone who went through the program is often a great choice.

    Someone with a great resume but without the right level of passion, energy, drive and commitment can cause a successful program to falter.

    In Tammy Bohen’s 20-year career in business and human resources, she led global teams at several world-class organizations through these kinds of transitions. She founded Development by Design to provide customized talent development services. She makes sure that her clients know that it’s an honor and a privilege to lead these talent development programs, and finding the right leader means finding someone who understand that.

    “Who you select to be the next executive sponsor really does matter,” Tammy says. “You want someone with strong executive presence, someone with vocal passion for the program and its participants. Someone who can advocate to drive positive change.”

    Tammy says it’s important to be thoughtful about how you communicate the transition to program participants. In her experience, the leadership transfer should only be announced after a transition plan is in place. If you aren’t able to line up a sponsor right away, be sure to establish an interim leader and reassure participants that you’re searching for the best executive sponsor. You want to minimize that period of uncertainty for everyone.

    Consider a Steering Committee Approach

    Tammy says that an executive steering committee is generally better approach for LDPs than having a single executive sponsor. She cites numerous reasons for this—not the least of which is that transitions can be weathered more effectively.

    The team approach may mean having one executive sponsor heading the committee, a team of VPs or general managers working together to champion the program. This approach allows programs to closely calibrate the quality of talent and effectively measure performance. With executive committees, you can match different committee members with program participants. Managing assignments at this personal level will help deliver higher-quality outcomes.

    Tammy has worked with businesses that have taken the single executive sponsor approach and with others that take an executive committee approach.

    “You get a much richer outcome when you have a broader executive team working together,” she says. “It creates more accountability and much broader organizational support. You can really amplify thought leadership when you’ve got a team of highly intelligent, capable, thoughtful leaders working together to strengthen the development of all participants.”

    Collective decision-making also means evaluating early-career talent and matching them to the business needs they’re best equipped to address.

    “You have more advocates and sponsors for the participants, and you also make better talent decisions.”

    You also buffer your program against setbacks and frustrations that can arise when a single leader (in whose hands much of the decision-making power has been invested) is no longer available to fulfill that function.


  • 18 Feb 2019 1:30 PM | Dan Beaudry (Administrator)

    Retention is a key part of ROI for LDPs given the significant investment they make. But even leading corporations have a tough time retaining top talent. For young professionals rising through the leadership ranks, the career ladder is likely to include rungs at several internal organizations.

    World-class leadership development programs offer intensive career enrichment and professional growth. Still, the siren song of other opportunities can lure participants away. Complicating things are:

    • Participants not getting their first-choice location assignment
    • Generational view of job hopping and expectations for work-life integration
    • LPDs not delivering on program promises
    • Poaching of development talent pools
    • Participants’ restlessness with the pace at which their careers are progressing
    • Personality conflicts between managers and program participants

    Fresh MBAs in their late twenties and early thirties may change their minds about where they want to be in the near-term and long-term. Or the optimal next role for them may not be in the city where they want to buy a house or enroll their child in school. In other words, someone wanting to settle down stateside may have to come up with a Plan B if he or she is needed in the Dubai office.

    Danaher, the Fortune 500 science and technology powerhouse comprised of more than two dozen operating companies, faces issues like these in its enterprise-wide General Manager Development Program and Human Resources Development Program. (Danaher also has an undergrad program called the Operations Leadership Program). The globally diversified conglomerate is headquartered in Washington, D.C., but its industrial, healthcare and consumer products units are all over the world.

    Since it began in 2014, Danaher’s Human Resources Development Program has lost only one associate. The GM program—which is much larger, with 182 associates—saw 14 voluntary losses in 2018. Historically, the GM program onboarded 5-15 associates per year and had a retention rate near 60 percent. Over the past two years the program has grown significantly, onboarding more than 50 people per year, with an annual retention rate over 90 percent in 2018.

    Leadership Development Program Manager Angela Benjamin says keeping the leadership pipeline intact is her top priority. As the the first person to assume an enterprise-wide program manager role for GMDP (she started at end of 2015), Angela credits an emphasis on structure, oversight and partnerships for decreasing turnover within her programs.

    Danaher associates commit to six years of hands-on leadership experience, and each associate’s development track is highly customized. The program structure offers accelerated growth through “stretch roles,” where employees learn various aspects of the business. It also offers greater consistency of experiences facilitated by program governance, clear roles and responsibilities, and close collaboration between Angela and business leaders on individual development plans.

    Angela says her retention strategy starts with setting clear expectations early on to make sure associates know what to expect at every milestone. Her team conducts an initial orientation to outline the program and give associates an overview of the types of experiences, mindsets and values it takes to successfully navigate the LDPs. There’s also an annual evaluation where associates and their leaders reassess their progress and determine what their next role should be to maximize their development.

    Community and communication are also huge components of Danaher’s retention strategy. For example, an annual conference gives Danaher’s globally dispersed associates three days of learning and networking. The conference also gives them an opportunity to discuss their wins and challenges, and exchange best practices.

    “The Danaher GMDP and HRDP associates are spread across 23 countries and 77 sites, so they look forward to getting together with their peers,” Angela says. Most LDPs at other companies are managed across 1-5 sites, allowing more frequent cohort touchpoints among program participants. Danaher’s international footprint means Angela has to be creative in finding ways to foster peer-to-peer networking. There’s a dedicated LinkedIn group, for example, where associates  share career updates and interesting articles and find ways to progress towards their goals together.

    “If anyone is struggling with anything, I connect them with a current associate who may have overcome a similar challenge or a program alumni or executive champion who is an SME on the issue at hand,” Angela says.

    Because her program participants are all over the world, this personal touch can be a challenge. As a mom to three small children, she can’t always travel to meet face-to-face with associates working in Shanghai, Mumbai or Melbourne, for example. That’s why her team relies on virtual communications and regional liaisons to keep associates engaged and progressing along their leadership track.

    Angela’s team, along with Danaher’s HR and other managers, use Workday enterprise resource planning (ERP) to track job satisfaction, career aspirations, and retention risks, a combination of self-reported information and perceptions from the employee’s managers.

    What about retaining participants after they complete the program?

    Companies often find that the critical time frame for retention is about three years after completing the leadership development program. At this stage, it is especially important for companies to engage program alumni and make them feel valued.

    Danaher hasn’t had any associates decline an offboarding role. Today, eight Danaher operating company presidents are program alumni; 14 other alumni and 11 program associates who are close to being offboarded have achieved “senior leader” status—the targeted offboarding role for Danaher’s LDPs.

    Because Danaher’s leadership development is considered among the best, there will always be some program graduates who end up with other companies. For example, Yeti CEO Matt Reintjes is a Danaher General Management program alumnus who also served in several leadership roles (including president) at Danaher companies.  

    Paradoxically, Danaher’s reputation as an organization that excels at grooming future leaders can actually work against retention efforts. Management consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates calls Danaher a “CEO Academy.” As such, the “best and brightest” Danaher executives and program participants will always be targets for attractive recruiting offers from other corporations.

    Whatever your organization’s approach to talent development, it will inevitably lose participants along the way. But involving the right leaders in coaching and development and making sure they know their talent, their motivations, their priorities and their problems, will decrease the rate of attrition.

    So what advice does Angela offer other program managers?

    “In terms of retaining people, everyone wants to feel valued and supported,” she says.

    “Hiring (externally) sometimes seems like the easier answer because you mainly see the best of what a candidate has to offer … “But being willing to take a risk on internal talent is very rewarding and for some, it’s a risk something that takes getting used to. … Even after that six year period, they’re still growing and learning, and we’ve accelerated their path, so there may be gaps in their learning.

    “So we, as program managers, have to be flexible, too.”

    One more thing about LDPs and retention rates: Not surprisingly, whether or not an organization has an LDP seems to impact company-wide retention rates.

    According to Amy A. Titus’s book “Maximizing Rotational Assignments: A Handbook for Human Resources Executives,” Employers that offer rotational programs for leadership development have 70.9 percent retention at the five-year mark, versus 59.8 percent retention for employers with no such programs.


  • 7 Dec 2018 2:36 PM | Dan Beaudry (Administrator)

    Any employer who doesn’t pay enough risks losing good workers.

    Any employer who pays too much risks keeping bad workers and inflating operating costs.

    The same is true for rotational programs. Offering a competitive compensation package means remembering the market factors that attract—or lure away—good candidates.

    If you’re managing a multinational rotational program, this means figuring out how to manage salaries for participants spread across different economic regions.

    Should you think about location when structuring compensation? If the answer is “yes,” a few more questions are raised:

    • Will salary adjustments be automatic (and immediate) when a trainee relocates?
    • Will moving to a lower-cost region trigger an automatic pay decrease?
    • Will a participant’s negotiated, non-standard salary change if they are relocated to a higher-cost (or lower-cost) area?

    John Sweney has spent a lot of time thinking about these questions. He directs the rotational programs that develop GlaxoSmithKline’s future leaders. With operations in more than 115 countries, many GSK program participants can expect to be rotated through different regional headquarters. Most of them move within their home country; others (where their development track calls for it) can expect a 6-12 month international rotation.

    “A commercial graduate, for example, will probably have at least one significant relocation, because they’re going have to take a field-based role,” John says. “They might be from Philadelphia, but they might end up in Raleigh, Wichita or San Diego. But a tech graduate might be able to join in Philadelphia and do all three of those rotations without even leaving the building.”

    Can program participants expect to be paid differently based on where they live?

    “Geography has to play into what you pay,” John says. “I’ll give the most obvious example: Cost of living. Look at an established market and compare it to an emerging market, say Switzerland and Thailand. The cost of living in those two places is very different, from what you have to pay for rent to what you have to pay for a gallon of milk. Salary and compensation strategy has to align with that. Obviously you can’t pay a Swiss salary in Thailand and you can’t pay a Thailand salary to someone living in Switzerland.”

    According to compensation consultants Culpepper and Associates, location is the dominant factor influencing market pay rates for most jobs. A company with geographic pay differentials must regularly re-validate cost of living and other factors, because huge differences can rapidly disappear or suddenly emerge.

    Jim Brennan, former senior associate of the salary analysis group ERI Economic Research Institute, says organizations should base geography-based compensation on their assessment of competitive pay, not personal spending. Put another way: An individual’s cost of labor should be considered—his or her cost of living shouldn’t be a factor.

    Is there any perception of inequity among the program participants? If so, how do you address it?

    “If I’m in Vietnam getting paid X, and another person is in Singapore getting paid Y and doing the same work, I may not like that.” John says. “That’s when you have to have a conversation about cost of living and the current economy.”

    John often has to explain to participants that while GSK is operating in a global economy, each country has its own economy.

    “As a philosophy, we try to keep (program participants’) salaries within one region as close as possible, to avoid any equity issues. Once people understand the rationale, they think it makes sense.

    “Ultimately, the philosophy has to be: the employee is no better off or no worse off for having taken (or not taken) the assignment. In some cases, somebody might end up with a little extra money in their pocket. And others might feel disadvantaged slightly, but that’s not the intent. It’s the result of following good policies.”

    John says participants are more likely to have an issue when they see colleagues getting better compensation or access to projects not because of where they’re working—but because they’re excelling at a faster rate.

    How are these pay adjustments structured? Are they automatic when a trainee moves from one region to another?

    Temporary “uplifts” in payment compensation take effect as soon as a participant relocates to a region that has been designated as a higher-cost rotation. They don’t continue when the participant moves somewhere with a lower cost of living.

    Should these pay differentials take individual’s career and life goals into account?

    Some young professionals are eager to accept international rotations; others are more driven to find the right place to settle down long-term. The most important thing is that they’re honest about what they want going into a program. If they prefer to stay in one area, that is usually possible—but in some fields it may negatively impact their opportunities with the company.

    Perhaps surprisingly, some LDP participants in higher-cost/higher-pay areas (think the Bay area or New York City) find it harder to save money than their peers in lower-cost/lower pay areas. But for many young professionals in their 20s, the sacrifice is worth it to be in a fast-paced, urban center with all the opportunities it affords.

    How does geographic differentiation affect onboarding into permanent roles?

    Simply put, it doesn’t.

    Despite keeping incoming trainees on a level playing field at the start of the program, GSK doesn’t have have a standard target salary that all participants reach after three years.

    “It’s very differentiated, and program graduates may receive multiple offers (at multiple salary levels ) in various business units within GSK,” John explains. “Where they had done their most recent rotation (whether in a low-cost/low-pay area or a relative high-cost/high-pay area) doesn’t influence those offers at all.”


  • 4 Dec 2018 4:51 PM | Dan Beaudry (Administrator)
    Needs assessments. Bench strength. Skills gaps. Leadership competency models. To what end?

    Before you build a fancy new leadership development program from scratch you must understand exactly what problems need to be solved today and in the future.

    We spoke with Susan Cook, Manager of Leader Effectiveness at Cardinal Health, and Tracy Schatzel, Head of Specialty Programs at Vanguard; and we’re convinced they are among the most talented clairvoyants in corporate America. As managers of rotational programs, their jobs require that they see the future for the business units they support.

    They say that deciding whether or not to start a new program depends on clearing up some misconceptions. One of those misconceptions is that an LDP is tantamount to having a supplemental workforce—a contracted inventory of labor that can be deployed at any time. Susan and Tracy agree that stakeholders must understand that LDPs don’t take the place of traditional talent acquisition or third-party contract resources.

    “If you have a talent gap at a more entry or mid-level, a rotational program may not be the right fit,” Tracy explains. “And if you have an immediate talent need, that should be addressed through talent acquisition and not through a rotational program.”

    Susan adds that a traditional direct hire is usually the best option when a department needs someone fresh from college to serve as a subject matter expert.  

    “But if they want early career people who are well-rounded utility players with technical skills and differentiated development in communications, problem resolution and strategic thinking—things that prepare them to be a leader in the organization—then an LDP may be what they need.”

    Susan has built out successful programs in analytics, customer support, engineering, finance and other business areas. She says once everyone is on the same page about the kind of talent that an LDP can produce for an organization, the next step in starting a new program is to evaluate the business metrics and future needs. That’s where the clairvoyance comes in.

    “We look at the strategic initiatives and at existing talent within each of those organizations,” Susan says. “We look at things like retirement readiness, existing skills and skills gaps.”

    At Vanguard, Tracy’s team starts the process by identifying the future talent needs within a particular division. If a business line is growing or if there’s a skills deficit, a talent gap must be addressed. For example, Vanguard is increasing its personal advisor services. To meet the need for more advisors created by this strategic shift, Tracy’s team recommends hiring externally to meet short-term needs and building out an LDP as a long-term complement to that approach.

    “Sometimes it feels like an LDP is being used to build skills within an existing group,” Tracy says. “We try to provide a broader approach, because sometimes what’s needed is more of a learning and development solution.”

    It’s important to anticipate the opportunities for growth within the division. Predicting the future means working with data analytics teams, performing a skills analysis, and assembling talent plans in conjunction with HR stakeholders to address the talent gaps of tomorrow.

    Vanguard’s two-year rotational programs in finance, investment management, technology, and more are a pipeline to future leadership roles—not a good way to address current needs.

    “You very quickly build a strong bench of talent when you build a program,” Tracy says. “So if [managers] don’t anticipate that they aren’t going to have a lot of senior-level and mid-level roles available in the future, we would absolutely not recommend a rotational program. Because high-potential talent will be ready to move up at a quicker pace than the average hire. And if you don’t have opportunities for them to grow into, they will very quickly leave.”

    “As you’re building a program, there’s got to be continuity,” Susan adds. “Can you support bringing in participants year over year? You’ve got to make sure that you can carve out opportunities for participants not only for the years that they are in the program, but also after they graduate so you can retain the talent you’ve developed.”

    Is there enough money to ensure the program’s long-term success? From the workshops and additional training to travel costs, relocation costs and even cost-of-living increase participants might face if they’re rotated somewhere more expensive, the diverse experiences that LDP participants enjoy require substantial investment.

    Getting funding for LDP hires versus full-time equivalent (FTE) or supplemental workforce hires takes some persuading, especially since the business unit may have to forfeit a head count to get the program funded.

    Cardinal Health’s HR department (where Susan operates) administers the programs, but the funding, direction and strategy comes from the business units themselves. Tracy says Vanguard has also found that it makes more sense for the programs to live within HR rather than within the functional area being served.

    “This gives the programs stronger alignment with broader talent initiatives such as talent management processes and leadership development training,” she says. Keeping the programs under the direction of HR also keeps the programs’ activities in lockstep with the partners and processes that deliver the people skills for the overall business.

    Originally, Cardinal Health’s training programs were siloed within their respective departments and not managed by HR. Around eight years ago, Cardinal Health brought the different development programs under one umbrella, which was called EMERGE. Having EMERGE streamlined through HR allows them to capture  economy of scale, Susan says.

    “So if we were offering content, workshops or conferences, we could pool those resources and put the necessary governance and parameters around it. We can share best practices.”

    The next step in planning a new program is to get support from the senior levels of the department. Alignment at all levels is crucial. For EMERGE, this means finding an executive sponsor and creating a steering committee composed of leaders from the business unit.

    “These are folks who have influence. They are strategic. They can be advocates for the program and help rally the support needed within the organization,” Susan says. “Our steering committee members can influence the decision and say ‘this program will give us talent that will bring a different perspective and inject innovation into your team’.”

    As another litmus test, Cardinal Health tests its training program initiatives on interns. If those “ideal experiences” test out well with the intern group, that’s a solid indication that the business unit is suitable for building out an LDP. In fact, over half of the current EMERGE participants started out as interns.

    How long does it take to build an LDP? From the decision to build until they’re ready to start recruiting, it usually takes Cardinal Health about 18 months from start to finish.

    “We have to identify our needs a full year in advance so we can meet those needs,” Susan says. “So part of that build time is getting alignment on everything from where these rotations are going to be, what we’re going to pay, what experiences are going to be a part of the program, and be able to articulate that offering on campus to meet those recruiting cycles.”

    As useful as development programs can be, launching one under the wrong circumstances can be costly.  Even under the best circumstances, flexibility, coordination, testing and cooperation are all crucial. And, as the best LDP managers have shown us, being able to read the tea leaves doesn’t hurt, either.

  • 28 Sep 2018 2:34 PM | Dan Beaudry (Administrator)

    LDP Connect spoke with three career development experts from three universities and found some variation. Here, they offer some helpful advice for companies and on-campus recruiters to make students aware of their leadership development programs and make them stand out from other early-career options.

    • Jennie Marchal is Associate Director at the Vanderbilt University Career Center.
    • Cheri Paulson is the Senior Director for the Graduate Center for Career Development at Babson College.
    • Brian Frenette is Senior Associate Director with Yale University’s Office of Career Strategy.

    Our panel offered a range of insights into students’ perceptions of LDPs, as well as some actionable advice for campus recruiters looking to make their programs more appealing. Here is some of what they had to say.

    Make Sure Students Know About You

    At Babson, graduate students talk to one another about the issues that impact them and the opportunities they have; and the positive word about LDPs is out. In fact, Cheri says “LDPs are at the top of most of our students’ lists” when they’re evaluating their options.

    At Vanderbilt, on the other hand, Jennie says says her students aren’t always aware of LDPs as an early-career option—though her team is working to change that. Vandy’s new Employer Relations office is reaching out to corporate recruiting departments that have traditionally engaged directly with faculty and student groups.

    “We want to encourage companies to work with our career center,” she says. “We can talk them through timelines, competitor standpoints, let them know what we’re hearing from students … Plus we can help with their on-campus marketing. I think companies that use career centers as a partner really see the most success.”

    Showing an interest in students early on also benefits companies’ on-campus recruiting efforts. Engaging first- and second-year students should be seen as a long-term investment in building their talent pipeline.

    “If they wait until senior year, it’s going to be too late,” Jennie says. “It’s going to take about 18 months to build your brand on campus. If you come one time and expect it to give you great returns, it’s probably not going to work out well.”

    Highlight Opportunities for Leadership

    At Yale, Brian connects students and alums of Yale College, Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and postdoctoral scholars with a wide range of corporate partners—many of them looking for the leaders of tomorrow. He says program recruiters should emphasize the “leadership development” component of their programs to entice the right candidates.

    “LDPs are popular among Yale undergraduates looking to develop into management roles,” Brian says. For those aspiring to C-suite positions, he calls LDPs a “straight shot.”

    “I think many of our students see themselves as leaders,” adds Jennie at Vanderbilt. “They are leaders on campus, and they’ve been leaders their whole life.” She says recruiters should share success stories about leaders who have gone through their programs in years past.

    Cheri says Babson’s MBAs are attracted by the opportunity to work directly with executives and present ideas to upper management. Brian agrees; he thinks this access to leadership shows the prospective employee that an employer is invested in the program, and recruits respond well to that.

    “They [students]need to be seen and taken seriously,” he says.

    Showcase Versatility

    In addition to leadership opportunities, the most successful recruiters showcase programs that expose employees to a wide range of experiences. The versatility of a rotational program is attractive to those who may have some apprehension about what they want to do with their lives.

    As a private business school that attracts “entrepreneurial spirits,” Cheri says Babson’s students are also excited by the prospect of pivoting through multiple roles in operations, marketing and leadership, for example. It gives them the opportunity to understand the broad organizational structure of a successful company.

    Whereas with a traditional direct hire, Cheri says, “you’re marrying the job. They hired you to do something, and you’re going to dig deep into that one thing.”

    Cheri likens rotational programs, on the other hand, to “dating around” within the organization.

    “Students love choice, they love changes,” she says. “It broadens their horizons.”

    Re-think Traditional Interviews

    Traditional recruiting pitches consistings of PowerPoint presentations and interviews are not fun for anybody.

    So what else is there? Cheri says her grad students respond well to corporate “design thinking” exercises when recruiters are on campus. Design thinking is a collaborative exercise approach that helps companies understand and develop creative ways to solve a specific issue. The exercises let recruiters see how prospective employees interact and learn together while allowing students to show off what they know.

    Typically, design thinking means grouping students into teams to solve specific problems. This gives employers fresh perspectives on a real-world problem and rewards the students with instantaneous feedback on their ideas.

    Make Your Program Transparent

    Career-minded students want to know what’s ahead for them. That’s why recruiters need to lay out a clear path through the application and interview process that is all-too-often chaotic.

    LDPs that are structured to reflect the ebb and flow of the academic semester can be appealing. For example, Brain says Yale grads do well in programs that last two years and rotate employees into new tracks every three months, punctuated by brief breaks in between. This cadence is familiar to anyone from the academic world, where semesters get more intense as they progress and are broken up with short breaks in between.

    “If they’re adept in an academic environment, why not have that professional environment emulate the environment where they’re already adept?” Brian says.

    Another important part of a recruiter’s pitch should be clearly laying out how a student will move through the organization during the course of the program. This includes job responsibilities, the duration of each rotation, and details about how performance will be evaluated.

    “Understandably, students will be wary of applying to a two-year program that does not provide clarity regarding the role itself,” Brian says.

    Emphasize Soft Skills and Networking

    Through regular feedback from employers over the years (such as through Babson’s  Employer Advisory Board), Babson students have learned the importance of developing  soft skills such as conflict resolution, working without supervision, teamwork and dealing with the ambiguity of new situations.

    Showing candidates how your program can benefit them means emphasizing the ways LDPs develop these soft skills.

    “The more they can exercise those muscles, the more successful they’re going to be in the long term,” Cheri says.

    The opportunity to build a professional network is another benefit that sets LDPs apart from traditional early-career options. Be sure to show recruits how they’ll be able to network with other recent graduates in supportive communities that encourage collaboration.

    “Fostering camaraderie is a vital component for any organization,” Brian says. “You’re encouraging your employees help one another out. Establishing a cohort mentality helps them foster support amongst themselves, and it also helps the employer foster support amongst that particular cohort.”

    Development programs clearly represent an employer’s effort to invest in a recent graduate, which often speaks for itself on campus.


  • 18 Jun 2018 2:32 PM | Dan Beaudry (Administrator)

    Once upon a time, it wasn’t unusual for workers to stay with one employer for their entire career.

    Crazy, right?

    In those days, it made sense for the employer to invest in the professional development of its employees. This investment built loyalty and prepared new employees for future leadership roles. It also strengthened recruitment efforts with the promise of new skills and higher job satisfaction, which in turn gave organizations access to the “best and brightest” talent.

    But as we head into 2019, the idea of a worker remaining loyal to a single employer seems… quaint. We can’t blame companies if they aren’t sure whether they should invest in early career development programs. After all, why spend the resources if program participants are simply going to take their newfound skills elsewhere?

    Leading companies build leadership or technical development programs that will justify the expense and risk. They need to know their program will deliver the ROI that makes it all worthwhile.

    Success Starts With Goals

    A McKinsey leadership-development survey revealed that barely one-tenth of all executives believe their leadership development initiatives deliver the results they sought.

    We suspect this may be because those results weren’t clearly articulated from the beginning.

    RJ Wronski Associates is a Boston-based talent development organization that has worked for 25 years to help companies clearly articulate the end-goals of their programs. They partner with companies that have a “learning mindset,” according to Stephan Wronski, who helms the company.

    “Learning isn’t an afterthought for these organizations; it becomes a way of life. You’ll find that everyone from the top executives on down share that commitment,” Wronski says.

    Too many companies fail to translate their guiding strategy into a training program specific to their needs. A company’s size, culture, business goals and a myriad of other factors will shape their approach. The best early career development programs should meet the highest-priority needs of the business.

    “If this program is considered successful, what will change? What objective will be met? If you don’t know those answers going in, then you’ll have a difficult time measuring if it’s successful or not,” Wronski says.

    For some, the goal may be to create a cohesive culture change in the wake of an organizational shakeup. For others, the goal may be to create a more diverse workforce. Retaining employees or preparing to fill the leadership roles of tomorrow are other common targets. Ultimately, the direction your program takes – and your ROI yardstick – will depend on your core business goals.

    Monitoring Outcomes to Measure ROI

    The investment required to build a leadership development program is substantial. Therefore, measuring the short-term and long-term impact of your program is key.. Short-term outcomes might include enhancing participants’ technical and leadership skills or their satisfaction with the initial phase of the program. Long-term outcomes might include making a positive  impact on recruiting and retention. Naturally, it takes time to gauge the acceptance rate of job offers and promotions; that’s why these long-term outcomes can take five years or more to fully appreciate.

    “We can help our clients perform an ROI comparison,” Wronski says. “Say there is a two-year IT training program, and its graduates are supposed to be able to come out of this program and take on roles as team leaders or project managers.

    “We look at the total investment per participant in the leadership development program and compare it to the cost of the direct hire from the IT program. If you compare the program participants against that control group of direct hires (over time), you can compare the costs. Then you can take it one step further and look at performance ratings between the groups.”

    For most organizations, Wronski says the long-term ROI is clearly higher with the group that has undergone leadership development. Over time, participants get better performance ratings, they’re more likely to take on mission-critical challenges and they are more upwardly mobile through the ranks of the organizations.

    Knowing What Risks to Guard Against

    The return on investment in a well-planned, well-run leadership development program is clear. But what about the risks?

    There’s always the risk of training employees only to have them defect to competitors. There’s also the potential of alienating non-program employees who don’t feel like they’re getting the attention that program participants get. For example, let’s say you have an employee who has been with the company for years. He or she sees a cohort of new hires meeting regularly with the C-suite, getting constant feedback and being assigned career coaches. This employee may think, “Hey, what about me?”

    Your program shouldn’t create an “us-versus-them” mentality where the participants feel at odds with the rest of the company. Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. That’s why program managers have to take these tenured employees into account and include them where possible.  Give them mentorship roles and other stakeholder roles and you’ll see better results company-wide.

    “Think about what role they can play and how they can get excited about what’s happening,” Wronski says. “When we launch a program, we spend a lot of time thinking about the assignment leaders in a rotational program. Is there any benefit or reward for them for all the time and energy they’re putting into developing the program participants?”

    What this reward might look like will depend on your organization. Some companies leverage financial compensation. Others incorporate mentorship evaluations on employees’ performance appraisals, making 10 or 20 percent of their score based on people development, for example.

    “Other times the assignment leaders themselves get training. Or they’ll get more visibility in senior leadership as a result of being an assignment leader for the early career folks. This is a huge benefit in some of these larger organizations.”

    Aside from the effort it takes to make employees feel included in development efforts, there’s another risk—one that most organizations never consider when building out a rotational program. This is the risk of pushing away potential new hires if there’s a perception that your development program leaves something to be desired.

    “If you try to deliver a program and you don’t do it well, word gets out,” Wronski says. “Recruiting is expensive. If you’re competing for top talent and your program isn’t fine-tuned, word gets around quickly. It will leave you settling for talent that may not be as good as you want.”

    Like any other large initiative, building a successful leadership development program requires a close look at investments and a careful measure of results.



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