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VF Corp.'s Ron Lawrence: Conduit Between Learning and Human Capital Management
Using that bottom-line thinking to power the learning function, Lawrence said he devotes a great deal of energy to leadership and managerial development and professional skills training. Programs in these areas are delivered via a variety of methods, including instructor-led, blended and self-paced learning materials. Stateside diversity training for awareness purposes, for instance, is delivered using an online prework module followed by a highly structured, instructor-facilitated half-day session. Lawrence said managers follow up again months later with conversations among their intact teams.
“[That’s] very much a hit over time, the same content delivered in different channels, in different ways,” he explained. “We try to emphasize learning by doing whenever possible, but we pay a lot of attention to getting people onto action-learning and project teams, giving them different job assignments. We try to track movement. We know who’s in a new job or needs to be in a new job, and we’d rather do that than just rely on a training class. Not that we don’t think training programs work, but we’ve seen tremendous value in putting people into experiences where they have to do the job.”
It makes sense that just seeing tremendous value isn’t always enough — learning leaders need metrics to help quantify that development contributes to business success as a whole. Lawrence said to illustrate the link between dollars and development, VF relies on many traditional HR measures, such as the company’s employee-engagement survey data around satisfaction and its productivity and engagement index.
The company also is consistently mindful of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation framework, uses qualitative assessments for key leaders at all levels and measures retention from multiple filters, including overall retention, high performer retention, top talent retention and voluntary retention.
“Our attrition’s been extremely low, and that’s a tribute to the culture that VF has,” Lawrence said. “We ask: ‘Do they think training and development is contributing to their bottom line?’ We pay attention to how the company is doing on earnings and productivity, but there’s still an opportunity for us to keep building those metrics and making them as robust as they can be. We struggle with it for the reasons that most companies do — you can say there’s a correlation [between development and dollars], but it’s really hard to establish causality.”
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