Cheif Learning Officer Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

A Network of Learning Solutions

 -  5/23/11

AT&T consistently encourages employees to improve themselves through job-based training, tuition aid and learning and re-skilling programs — just a few of the reasons it is the No. 1 ranked company in Chief Learning Officer magazine’s LearningElite.

From left: Ken Fenoglio, vice president, AT&T University; Cindy Brinkley, senior vice president, talent development and chief diversity officer; Lew Walker, vice president, learning services.

In 2010 Chief Learning Officer magazine’s inaugural LearningElite benchmarking and recognition program evaluated organizations to determine which one did learning best, and in March 2011 judges awarded AT&T the top spot.

AT&T’s elite learning status has been a long time in the making, however. The company has always placed a high premium on learning. While economies worldwide were slowing down at the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, and other organizations were cutting learning and development budgets, AT&T’s learning and development activities sped up.

At that time a merger with BellSouth made AT&T the nation’s dominant phone company, controlling more than half of the telephone and Internet access lines in the U.S. The two companies had a history of working together when they built Cingular Wireless and YellowPages.com, but with an influx of additional talent, AT&T executives saw a need for company-wide learning to solidify its status as a strong national and global competitor.

“In 2008 we recognized that what got us here is not going to get us there,” said Cynthia Brinkley, senior vice president of talent development and chief diversity officer of AT&T. “We knew the only way to really succeed is through investment in our people and through their learning and development.”

Brinkley’s position was created in 2008 to integrate four primary responsibilities — leadership and talent development, AT&T University, learning services and workforce development, and diversity. In 2009 the company put its money where its mouth is and invested $244 million in employee learning and development programs and an additional $27 million in tuition reimbursement for 9,800 employees — 49 percent were women and 54 percent were persons of color.

Support for Learning

Leading with Distinction (LwD) is the umbrella program under which all of the company’s leadership and strategic alignments take place. In the past year the program has been delivered globally to more than 105,000 managers at all levels of the organization through AT&T’s Virtual Management Summit, a conference with keynotes, workshops and opportunities for employees to network and collaborate with peers, leaders and experts. At the executive and senior leader levels, the leadership development emphasis is on strategy. At the mid- and front-line management levels, the focus is strategic and operational.

Article Keywords:   LearningElite  


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