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The Secret Ingredient
Larry Israelite, Liberty Mutual’s top learning steward, has the company’s management training values down to a science.
A few days after Michael Glass joined insurance provider Liberty Mutual Group nearly two years ago, his boss told him he would attend a weeklong management training session in Boston, where the company is based.
As a corporate training veteran and longtime manager, he was skeptical. “I actually talked to [my boss] and said, ‘Do you really think that I need to do this? I mean, not only am I responsible for the management development in the business, but I’ve been doing this forever,” Glass said. He was hired to be assistant vice president, workforce management and learning services.
His boss’ response: Absolutely.
That scenario is common at Liberty Mutual, where employee development is at the forefront of the company’s culture, even for learning industry vets. The company believes management training is the secret ingredient that will pave the way for a competitive advantage in the highly aggressive insurance business. No employee or potential manager is given a free pass.
“From day one there is a discussion about this company, who we are and how we operate,” said Glass, who previously ran training programs at Fidelity Investments. “It’s ingrained not by a professional training program at the front of the room with a nice slide that says that, but in the behaviors of the executives in the classroom who talk about it.”
The first Liberty Mutual executive to greet Glass with this message was Larry Israelite, vice president and manager of human resources development. Israelite, a 59-year-old Pennsylvania native who’s been leading Liberty Mutual’s employee development organization for more than five years, traditionally kicks off the mandatory management training session, which is given to as many as 5,000 managers annually — all either new hires or internal promotions — and features a number of high-ranking executives, including an appearance from the CEO.
Liberty Mutual doesn’t necessarily do anything unheard of in its management training: traditional classroom, e-learning, case studies, on-the-job and stretch assignments all run their course. Technical training in the skill areas required for the company’s core business groups is also plentiful. In the end, Israelite said it’s the company’s belief in managers behaving according to a certain standard that sets it apart.
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