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Embed Brand Into Leadership Development

 -  10/26/12

From its peak in 2006 until 2009, Harley-Davidson retail motorcycle sales volume dropped almost 40 percent. In May 2009 new CEO Keith Wandell developed a plan focused on leadership development, growth, continuous improvement and sustainability.

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When Keith Wandell was appointed CEO of Harley-Davidson in May 2009, the organization’s learning and development arm, Harley-Davidson University (HDU), was not being fully utilized. That changed immediately because Wandell views leadership development as the foundation for the company’s ability to compete and win in the marketplace. “To fulfill our brand and business potential, we must prepare strong, committed leaders who live our values and deliver every day,” he said.

With that in mind, Tonit Calaway, vice president of human resources for Harley-Davidson, who also oversees HDU, and Julie Anding, senior director of employee learning, worked with Duke Corporate Education on a learning intervention for the company’s top 75 leaders called the Executive Leadership Program (ELP). A pilot program was delivered in June 2010. Calaway and Anding said they knew for the pilot to succeed they had to deliver compelling content and make sure it fit with Harley’s culture.

Part of the Bricks
“Getting it in the bricks” is a phrase often heard at the company’s Milwaukee headquarters. When something is in the bricks it means it’s a part of Harley-Davidson’s culture. The values the brand represents are captured in its vision statement:

“We fulfill dreams inspired by the many roads of the world by providing remarkable motorcycles and extraordinary customer experiences. We fuel the passion for freedom in our customers to express their own individuality.”

The goal was to integrate those values into the ELP experience.

“Obviously anytime you deliver a learning and development program you want it to be meaningful, memorable and impactful,” Calaway said. “That was even more imperative considering the state of the economy in 2010. We wanted our leaders to experience in the program the same boldness, freedom and inspiration that our brand stands for — that our customers experience.”

The primary purpose of the ELP was to help drive Harley-Davidson’s strategic priorities: growth, continuous improvement, sustainability and leadership. The 75 pilot executives were split into two cohorts, each group going through the same program separately. The format was three face-to-face sessions with each session consisting of two days. The result was a total of six learning days delivered across four months. Content areas included global strategy, executive decision making, emerging markets, consumer insight and personal leadership.

Article Keywords:   leadership development   growth  


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