The following story was told by Jennifer Whitbeck, a learning strategist for the training organization that supports her company's sales and marketing department.

Client: "Rotational" employees from the marketing and sales fields comprised 60 percent of the training department; these employees sought headquarter assignments for several years to develop managerial skills and leadership experience. With imminent transition on their minds, many of these employees were not motivated to build more challenging competencies like performance consulting as part of their learning and development positions. Additionally, many managers did not coach the employees for performance consulting or hold them accountable because neither the skill set nor the expectations were well-defined.

Problem: The department sought to better align its strategic goals with business objectives. Leaders identified performance consulting training as one of the department’s major strategic focuses for the year to specifically target the problems. Whitbeck took the lead on this initiative.

Diagnosis: The department sought to better align its strategic goals with business objectives. Leaders identified performance consulting training as one of the department’s major strategic focuses for the year to specifically target the problems. Whitbeck took the lead on this initiative.

Method/Tools: Whitbeck asked herself, "How do people really learn?" From her background in customer-facing consulting in other large industry sectors, she believed people learn best on the job and through mentoring, as they gradually gain experience and independence.

First, Whitbeck worked with her department to form a common definition of performance consulting using a capabilities model. The model identified each performance consulting capability—such as business acumen, partnering, and consulting—and then determined a measurable behavioral progression for these capabilities.

Using this definition, Whitbeck designed a 10-week training program, beginning with several weeks of orientation activities, self-study, and online work, followed by a one-day workshop for employees to practice what they learned. Participants then took 360-degree assessments and developed individual learning pathways using a menu of offerings.

The subsequent eight weeks consisted of action learning and mentorship. Employees implemented concepts in the field while meeting with mentors weekly. They participated in peer discussion forums where they shared what worked and what they would do differently. Each employee's manager participated in the program with him for extra accountability and support.

End Results/Solution: In 2009, the department implemented the first pilot program with six participants. While a recent merger delayed a department-wide rollout, the research and IT training departments, after observing the sales and marketing training department's success, adopted a similar program.