Whether it's through vertical development or lateral rotations, UPS is personalizing content for its leadership and talent development programs.
UPS is a global leader in logistics, offering a broad range of solutions such as the transportation of packages and freight, the facilitation of international trade, and the deployment of advanced technology to more efficiently manage the world of business. Founded in Seattle in 1907, our headquarters are in Atlanta. We serve more than 220 countries and territories worldwide and have 398,300 employees (324,000 U.S.; 74,300 International).
We also are one of the world's largest employers in the private sector. Our human resources strategy is to employ talented people and then substantially invest in training, educating, and developing them to increase their capabilities. Our workplace is as diverse as the world itself, and few of our employees work in a typical office setting.
Approximately 82 percent of our workers are involved in shipping freight and handling packages, driving vehicles, or piloting aircraft. Our workplace includes warehouses, complex air hubs, roads, and streets. Like many organizations, this makes for a complex learning and development strategy.
Promotion from within
We have a legacy and strong culture of promoting from within. For example, part-time workers move into full-time positions, nonmanagement staff move into management positions, and supervisors and managers move into positions of greater responsibility.
The UPS Policy Book contains our fundamental values and principles that have shaped our company culture. It states: "One of the most important responsibilities of our management team is the development of our people. We train our people in their overall job responsibilities by coaching and counseling. We expect our people to take advantage of internal and external training programs, courses, and resources. We also provide our people with job assignments to enhance career opportunities and broaden their work experience."
Development is not just vertical at UPS. We laterally assign and rotate our management through positions to help them gain greater understanding of our business, to better understand our customers, and to develop themselves at the same time. In fact, many UPSers would say that they have not had just one career with our company, but many. Personal and professional growth can be achieved because we offer diverse and broad career paths right here.
Many UPS leaders, including me, have been promoted from within and developed throughout their careers. I started with UPS in 1986 in Detroit, wearing the brown uniform, driving a truck (known as a package car in our business), and delivering packages—maybe even to your front door.
During my 25-year career, I have held a variety of positions in small package operations and human resources, as well as in nonpackage sectors of the business, both in the United States and Asia. Moving with the company through different positions and locations opened my eyes to culture, people, and business that I never dreamed possible. It gave me a better understanding of the complexity of logistics, our diverse workforce, and our customers' needs.
This knowledge is critical to the role I have today as the vice president of leadership and talent development. It has been an exciting opportunity to work with a very talented group of learning professionals to create and execute the global training strategy and talent planning for the enterprise.
I have been fortunate in my UPS career. It was a doorway to an opportunity of a lifetime by providing me the chance to learn, grow, and develop as a leader.
Developing future leaders through learning transformation
In 1945, our founder, Jim Casey, said, "One measure of your success—and I want to emphasize this—will be the degree to which you build up others who work with you. While building up others, you will build up yourself." Since the 1940s, when UPS formalized its leadership training program and formed the corporate schools, UPS has been committed to developing leadership excellence.
In 2009, we saw an opportunity to enhance our long-running leadership program and redesigned our corporate schools, which comprised largely traditional instructor-led classroom events. Like most businesses, we have a spread of generations in our workforce and realized that traditional instructor-led training was no longer the best fit to meet the needs of the business, both from a people perspective and a financial one.
We also realized that we had not kept up with the new learning media and modalities and that the several generations that represented our workforce had different learning styles. The bold move to transform our long-term training and development standard and move to a more innovative, global reach was a change management shift for us.
The first step to our approach to learning was to shift from individual programs to a framework of offerings that can be configured for an individual, linked to a group or business unit, and embedded in the overall company strategy.
The redesign still includes traditional classroom, instructor-led training, but also the use of virtual instructor-led classrooms and e-learning. We also use on-the-job training, coaching, and both formal and informal mentoring. Our new model:
- offers a more flexible and customized approach to individual development
- increases the number of students trained each year
- responds to the changing needs of our employee demographics
- creates training solutions targeted to specific skill gaps and strengths
- capitalizes on more cost-effective and progressive methods of training delivery.
One major strategy we implemented was the development of nine essential leadership competencies and the creation of associated learning plans for all leaders across the globe. The learning solutions that address the competencies are offered to employees based on their management levels and current proficiencies through a wide variety of delivery methods.
Our training is designed as an end-to-end process with defined initiatives, goals, and development plans. Traditional onboarding processes are done for all job levels, from part-time warehouse worker to delivery driver to a manager. In addition, we have specialized leadership assessments that are required annually by all full-time managers—career development and performance evaluations that we call the quality performance review.
Key indicators from these two distinct programs help us to determine
- compensation and management incentive awards
- individual development plans that could include workshops, courses, rotations and special assignments, projects, self-development, and executive leadership or coaching.
To personalize content to support our employees, we have developed leveled curriculum aligned to our employee bands and mapped to competency proficiency levels. Using the leveled curriculum, we can offer targeted learning and better meet the unique development needs of our employees. It is designed for all levels of management and mapped by three levels, depending on where people are in their careers or their competency analyses based on annual performance reviews.
The approach is a self-directed process in which each person selects the learning that best aligns with competency gaps, career plans, and overall improvement. Leaders create customized development plans and can choose from a variety of solutions that are mapped to their personal competency assessment. Learning is continuous throughout everyone's careers, and our intent is to ensure that members of our leadership team have new, relevant, and engaging opportunities to help them reach their personal and business performance goals.
We also offer workshops and simulations that target specific business processes and management levels. For example, the Strategic Leadership Conference (SLC) for executives is the latest enhancement to the leadership development training. It is part of an ongoing annual series that addresses the current pressing needs of our company for our district and senior staff managers.
Through a series of events, our senior leaders complete a case study that immerses them in executing the strategy, managing their teams through the required changes in how they do business, and coaching their teams for high-level performance. This case study is followed by a collaborative team effort to use these skills to solve a real UPS challenge. We measure how well the leaders are applying what they have learned and how effective they are in meeting the strategic goals of the organization.
The SLC is an example of using the leadership model to make strategic investments in key talent and provide targeted development for those leaders. We also are able to further identify high-potential employees and develop them as succession candidates.
Succession planning starts with the identification of candidates through the review of objective data, recommendations from senior leaders, and assessment results. The foundation of the executive development framework is based on four components:
- Open enrollment programs are designed to be prescriptive to the individual's development plan.
- The Community Internship Program is a unique training experience for managers to become exposed to situations they would rarely encounter in a corporate setting or learn about in the classroom. Managers leave their jobs and families to spend three weeks living and working at one of three program sites run by local not-for-profit agencies.
- Executive coaching helps a newly promoted executive or senior executive tranisiton to a new role.
- Targeted or strategic assignments are developmental in nature and may include working on a project team and making recommendations to senior leadership on a business need or challenge.
Global Learning Network
Because our organization is so large and includes many business units, we knew we needed to provide a more formalized approach to support learning departments. As a result, we have put in place the Global Learning Network (GLN), a group of learning professionals who are responsible for ensuring that our training is collaborative across geographies and business units. They are essential to communicating the value that learning contributes to the organization.
The GLN also has implemented and lauched UPS University, an enterprise-wide learning management system accessible to all 40,000 UPS full-time management employees. It systematically addresses gaps by identifying and tying together leadership competency assessment scores and mapping appropriate training. By using this personalized and customizable approach, we are able to deliver the right training to the right person at the right time in his or her career.
Since the launch of the GLN, we have embarked on many collaborative initiatives that are addressing challenges and leading to a better learning experience for UPSers around the globe. We have reviewed and aligned all appropriate learning solutions with our competencies, our needs assessment processes have been standardized, and we have piloted learning paths for more dynamic and organized learning along career paths. Technology solutions have been implemented, and we have revamped training to meet cultural needs, provided translations for many of our courses, and made them available on demand, 24 hours a day, across the globe.
An undertaking of this size does not happen overnight and it will be ever-changing as we continue our journey into the future of learning at UPS. As our founder said in 1947, "Within each of us there is a mysterious innate force that drives us onward. It wants us to do better and be better. Call that force conscience, ambition, determination, power of will, or whatever you choose, it constantly whispers in our ears words of advice, stimulation, and encouragement."
I hope he is proud of what we have accomplished with our continuing change and transformation in leadership and talent development. We will always strive to encourage new ideas and embrace innovation when it comes to ensuring that our employees are properly trained to meet our customer promise and deliver on time, every time.