Empowering Employees to Take Charge of their Development – By Ritu Hudson
At Navy Federal Credit Union, we frequently receive these questions in learning and development. You probably do too. People look to us, the training department, to support their development. But most team members aren’t aware of all the training department offers, or even where they should start. Enter Pathfinder at the Navy Federal Credit Union.
Pathfinder is a tool that provides employees awareness of the variety of resources that Learning & Development offers. It makes development planning easier by providing resources based on a career path or competency. It facilitates developmental conversations between leaders and staff by providing a common language. Overall, the tool provides the resources for our employees to own their development and their future.
To assure success, we created a process to effectively develop and launch the solution. We relied on a process that is familiar to learning and development professionals: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation (ADDIE). Our approach included:
>> Obtaining upper leadership buyin;
>> Spending time up front to complete a needs analysis, organizing the content, and planning the project;
>> Determining whether to develop inhouse or find a vendor;
>> Utilizing a phased design-and-development approach to minimize the need for rushing to completion;
>> Launching the Pathfinder tool and creating awareness around it through branding and marketing; and
>> Continuously gathering feedback, revising, and reinventing the tool.
CHALLENGES AND NEEDS
Before creating the solution, we went through a thorough discovery process that included talking to employees and identifying needs. We discovered three main challenges:
- Employees had difficulty identifying what skills they needed for specific positions. They wanted to know, “What do I need to do to become a ____?’ They also wanted a “path” created for them to achieve the necessary skills and experiences to prepare for that role.
- Despite developing a process, a work- sheet template, and even a workshop to help employees create their competency-based individual development plans (IDPs), they were not being used as widely across the organization. Our IDP pro-cess stressed that development is driven by the employee and that the employee should take the initiative to meet with his or her leader on a regular basis to discuss progress. While employees and leaders were open to having these conversations, there was confusion regarding what developmental activities could go in the IDP, especially around the organization-wide competency framework.
- Many employees were not taking charge of their own development and waited until their leaders initiated a developmental conversation.
To overcome these challenges, we needed to:
>> Support employees by guiding their learning along career paths. We were consistently hearing, “How do I become a business analyst?” or “How do I become a project manager?” We needed to guide, not prescribe, learning resources based on career paths.
>> Encourage the use of IDPs across the organization. Leaders and employees had the resources needed to create their plans, and the suggested developmental activities associated to competencies.
>> Encourage employees to self-initiate their development by giving them the resources to do so.
Based on the identified challenges and associated needs, we determined that the overall goal was to improve employee performance and engagement by empowering our employees to take charge of their development. This goal directly aligned with the organization’s strategic plan, which included an initiative to “…have highly skilled, engaged team members empowered to execute our strategy.” With this alignment, we were able to gain visibility for this project, obtain an executive level champion, and also make it a priority for our team.
DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT
Armed with the organization’s needs and strategic plan, we were ready to begin development. We decided to develop the tool in- house instead of using a vendor. This allowed us to keep the tool current as we developed new learning resources. As with any design project, we went through multiple iterations to get it to where it is today.
Before beginning development, we reorganized our learning resources to help our employees understand the developmental categories involved. We created eight developmental tracks:
>> Career Development
>> Financial Management
>> Member Experience
>> Self Enrichment
Our employees would be able to more easily identify developmental resources, such as workshops and e-learning courses. In an effort to identify guided paths for employees developing for a specific role, we organized our learning resources into career paths. Despite having hundreds of positions across the organization, we utilized 10 areas of subject-matter expertise:
>> Administrative Assistants
>> Business Analysts
>> HR Professionals
>> IT Specialists
>> Loan Officers
>> Project Managers
>> Training Specialists
Last, we created an “All Employees” path for general employee development. Now, we were ready to build the tool.
The first iteration of the tool was an interactive Adobe Acrobat PDF document. It allowed users to click on a Career Path at the top of the document, which highlighted the courses applicable to development for that path. This version of the tool was easy to send over email, but it was limited by scope and physical space. It only included selected learning resources, and no information beyond the resource’s title was available.
Iterations 2 & 3
After deploying the first version of the tool, we saw what worked and didn’t work for our audience. The second iteration produced a standalone, wizard-style tool. This tool was hosted on the organization’s intranet, making it easily accessible to employees. The focus of this version was to enable our learners to pick the type of development that they needed.
The second version allowed us to take a more holistic approach. We added additional career paths and learning resources- e-learning courses, workshops (physical and virtual classroom), career development advice, and competencies. Furthermore, the tool allowed the resources to be organized in a manner that effectively provided learners with the ability to obtain learning to develop specific competency and to develop in a current or future position.
With Iteration 2’s focus on functionality, we were able to fine-tune the tool in Iteration 3. We added additional paths and fully integrated the tool into our intranet. Instead of a link, it was now embedded within the site, allowing users to leverage the intranet’s search functionality.
Throughout the development periods, we worked diligently to market the tool across the organization. We created a logo and tagline for the tool, and used it everywhere. We aligned the tool with our annual Catalog of Services (outlining our offerings, categorized into the same development tracks) and integrated the tool into our workshops, including our New Employee Orientation. We went on road shows and demonstrated the tools at various business unit meetings. We sent targeted emails and advertised it on the intranet. We even created 3-D posters advertising Pathfinder and posted them everywhere. We communicated to employees that we listened, developed a tool to support them, and simplified the “how to” of development.
EVALUATION & IMPACT
Between our marketing and word-of- mouth, the tool became an integral part of employee development within our organization. We received positive feedback that the tool was user-friendly, accessible and interactive. Employees and leaders began using the tool in the development of IDPs. Pathfinder reinforced the competency language/framework that we utilize throughout our organization in behavioral interviews and annual performance reviews, and it further provided a common language for our employees and leaders to have developmental and performance conversations.
We continue to review and modify Pathfinder on an annual basis. Based on learner input, we have continued to add career paths. We also review the tool for functionality and to improve the user experience. We have linked Pathfinder to the learning management system (LMS), providing employees with the ability to review course descriptions in Pathfinder and quickly link directly to our LMS to open the e-learning course or register for the workshop.
Not only did Pathfinder support a more developmentally-focused culture and provide awareness of our department’s offerings, it was a steppingstone to new and different employee-initiated development programs. We recently linked Pathfinder’s Career Development section to an extensive job shadowing program in which employees make requests to shadow positions in other business units. We have also implemented self-paced certificate programs that put the learning in the hands of our employees. They register for and work through a curriculum of workshops and e-learning courses to obtain the certificate, some of which are based on development tracks. Further, when we get a development inquiry, we introduce them to a tool and other self- initiated programs that puts their devel- opment in their hands.
The Navy Federal Credit Union is a five-time Learning! 100 Award winner, recognized for innovation and high performance.