The economic downturn has affected our organization a bit differently than many other companies. We have experienced record revenues as of late, but being a performance-driven organization, we continually evaluate methods to reduce costs while increasing value.
An internationally accredited food testing and consulting network, Silliker has facilities across North America, with human resources and organizational development teams based at the corporate headquarters in Chicago. Our facilitated classroom workshops, in which leaders from across North America participate at a central location, give leaders an uninterrupted opportunity to learn new skills and discuss issues with others in similar situations. But the costs for travel, lodging, and meeting rooms are difficult to justify in this economy.
During the early phases of the downturn, we sought practical methods to optimize learning while maximizing return-on-investment. We exchanged part of our annual classroom schedule for "development visits" with individual leaders at their locations. We take the learning to the leaders instead of sending our leaders to the learning, and by doing this, we only incur travel and lodging expenses for one, rather than many.
Guided by a strategic initiative to improve performance and individual and leader accountability, a representative from our learning department visits each of our facilities annually to engage in individual coaching with each of our leaders. This also serves as a way to improve compliance with HR and organizational development practices and procedures.
These visits do not take the place of valuable classroom instruction, but along with webinars and online training, they reinforce important learning principles and put Silliker's leadership development concepts into action. For three hours, the learning professional and local leader work on issues important to leaders, their employees, and Silliker. These include identifying goals and expectations for direct reports; creating learning objectives and development plans for high-potential employees; and reviewing prior performance appraisals, with a focus on developing effective criteria.
These annual development visits have proven to be a very effective way of making sure leaders value, understand, and use the tools and processes available to them. Silliker enjoys strong support for this program from individual leaders and executives. Leaders value the individualized attention to their personal leadership development and effectiveness, and executives value the cost-effective solution that creates sustainable leadership within the company.