The company shows how to use key performance indicators to measure the impact of its learning strategy.
BY JUDY WHITCOMB
As a leading provider of five-star resort living and senior living for residents throughout the United States, Vi recognizes that it’s not enough to simply offer beautiful places to live. At the end of the day, the company knows how much its employees make a difference in the lives of its residents. Therefore, providing employees the opportunity to learn, grow and prosper not only contributes to offering residents quality care and exceptional service, but it also contributes to the enablement and growth of Vi team members and services as an employment differentiator.
Over the years, Vi has continued to refine and enhance the learning and development programs it offers. Whether it’s investing in its Management Development Program or Emerging Leaders Program for new and aspiring managers, the company knows that strong leadership contributes to a collaborative, high-performing and engaging work environment for its colleagues.
LEARNING PROGRAM EFFECTIVENESS
Vi has many learning programs that drive significant business and learner impact; however, the company’s oneyear Breakthrough Leadership Program (BLP) continues to be the best example of a key performance metric that Vi uses to measure the impact of its learning strategy. Development and retention of top talent remains a key performance indicator that is measured and reported across the organization monthly, as well as to the company’s board quarterly. Vi remains committed to making significant improvements to program metrics cohort after cohort.
What’s more, it has directly linked employee retention to other company key performance indicators, including quality care, resident service, productivity, financial metrics and employee engagement. Employee development contributes to high levels of employee retention, engagement and performance, as measured through Vi’s employee survey.
Completing its third annual cohort in 2018, Vi continues to leverage levels three and four evaluation data completed by its third-party partner, DePaul University, to drive higher level of learner and business outcomes each year. For instance, in 2018, leveraging its second cohort data, the team structured more participant leader learning activities to initiate immediate business application and reinforce learning. Additionally, supporting research that correlates peer involvement in learning programs to learner success, the team further expanded the use of former BLP participants to lead portions of classroom, virtual learning and study groups. To reinforce supervisor support, Vi created a participant/ leader commitment document, outlining learner/manager roles and responsibilities.
In addition, to ensure there was explicit leader support of the significant learner commitment time, the team formalized a program for learners to work from home to complete specific learning assignments. The significant results will be covered later. BLP has been constructed to include four major training events: 1) classroom training with Vi executives, and in partnership with DePaul University, focused on leader fundamentals; 2) Talent Smart emotional intelligence assessment and training; 3) Harvard Business Publishing series of cohort-based selfdirected online learning models; and 4) Talent Smart multi-source feedback emotional intelligence pre-post assessment.
Following are the major learning outcomes, including affective (attitudes and motivation), cognitive (knowledge acquisition and retention) and behavioral (skills and performance) from multiple sources — including objective tests, supervisor ratings and participant self-report. To provide some context, the following represent learning goals in Table #1 on page 42.
BLP DESIGN ELEMENTS
Four elements comprise the BLP: Preparation & Foundation, Classroom, Virtual and Post-Class, which enabled the team to assess employee engagement and content recall.
>> Preparation & Foundation – The objective is to establish participant commitment and expectations, and manager commitment and expectations. This also encompasses pre-class reading assignments, participant assessments, as well as manager assessment of participants.
>> Classroom – This includes one-week classroom learning taught by Vi senior executives and DePaul University faculty. It also establishes study groups and virtual learning sessions. Lastly, it enables post-class assessment.
>> Virtual – The purpose is to build and sustain knowledge acquired, leverage a six-month virtual learning platform with virtual learning instructor-led training, study group, online learning and blogs.
>> Post-Class – The goal is to acknowledge, recognize and celebrate program participant success; engage participants in supporting future learning programs; examine participant assessments; manage the assessment of participants and share program results.
The Vi team knows that effective assessment draws heavily from the existing evidence on the science of training and development. Research, among other factors, shows that several key factors improve the likelihood that learners will ultimately transfer their acquired knowledge and skills to their work roles:
Learner readiness. Learners must possess a unique blend of confidence, motivation and perceived value. These learner characteristics are quite malleable and can be influenced through pre-training interventions, such as clear communication regarding the objectives of the training and why they were selected to participate, as well as demonstrating a clear need or “gap” in their current capabilities compared against expectations for future capabilities.
Learner work environment. Learners are more likely to transfer their newly acquired capabilities to their own work environment when the environment is conducive to transfer.
Training design. The design of the training can significantly improve the likelihood of capability transfer. Most importantly, transfer increases as learners see a clear alignment between the learning content and their work-related needs.
Methodology – Critical components of Vi’s assessment included: Using multiple methods and sources of data (i.e., from sources, including, but not limited to, participants and supervisors); and to focus on outcomes known to be empirically associated with increased learning readiness, training motivation/performance, transfer of training and job performance.
Complete data were available for participants and their direct supervisors. Supervisors reported having an average of 25 direct reports, which participants reported having an average of 15.5 years managerial experience. In addition, 70% of participants were female.
Breakthrough Leadership is a program designed primarily for high-potential managers of emerging manager at Vi. Supervisors nominate participants from their department or communities. To confirm that the selection of participants was restricted to high-potential employees, supervisors were asked to rate the overall performance of the participant relative to all other employees he/she has managed at Vi.
There are multiple areas BLP was measured against desired learning outcomes. When it came to the strategic goal of retention, first and foremost — out of the three one-year cohorts Vi has delivered — nearly 93% of high-potential participants have been retained and have been retained with more than onethird of participants promoted. Harvard Business Publishing also noted that Vi’s Breakthrough Leadership cohorts are in their top 1% of their client learners with respect to program completion. The following represents additional findings:
The goal of any training and development effort is to spur growth in learners in terms of motivating personal change and equipping participants with the knowledge, skills and behaviors that are linked to effective on-the-job performance.
Knowledge Acquisition and Retention (Cognitive Outcomes). Knowledge was assessed via eight multiple-choice and situational-judgment items that broadly cover major concepts taught across the program. A participant’s score on the knowledge assessment represents the number correct out of the total.
Overall, the observed level of knowledge acquisition represents a large effect. It is important to note that the overall levels of knowledge acquisition were sustained over a yearlong period. Substantial research suggests that knowledge is likely to severely decline — by 92% on average after one year — following training (Arthur et al., 1998).
The chart shows no decline on average from the immediate post-test following formal training to the postprogram test one year later.
Changes in Learner Behavioral Outcomes. Supervisor ratings indicate an 8% gain in employee performance over one year, as measured by the following items:
>> Gets the job done
>> Meets formal performance requirements of the job
>> Neglects aspects of the job he/she is obligated to perform (reverse coded)
>> Regularly exceeds performance expectations
BLP PROGRAM REFINEMENT
Vi continues to enhance its BLP Program. The two graphs below depict how the company’s Learning & OD Team has leveraged third-party analysis completed by DePaul University to drive more effective learner outcomes.
FOSTERING A STRONG LEARNING CULTURE
High levels of executive and business partner engagement in employee development have been key in sustaining a strong learning culture. Through its BLP Program, Vi thoughtfully engages the company’s executive management team in emphasizing and communicating throughout the organization that employee development is a key leadership competency that contributes to the company’s overall success.
– Judy Whitcomb is SVP of HR and Learning at Vi.