Recognizing the direct correlation between account manager turnover and client retention, AlliedBarton Security Services's executives commissioned a team of senior leaders to address gaps in the leadership pipeline and focus on the strategic needs of the company, while also taking into account these organizational challenges:

  • employee population: doubled four times in 10 years
  • revenues: roughly tripled during that same time
  • turnover: account managers turned over at a rate that, while better than the industry norm, did not meet AlliedBarton's high expectations.

The solution they developed was Mission Possible: Leadership Boot Camp. The goal was to minimize the potential for turnover and leverage the opportunity for better relationships and engagement with employees. The boot camp was designed to help managers focus on increasing employee engagement. Consisting of three phases and conducted over a six month period, the boot camp also includes a 3.5 day retreat that focuses on:

  • understanding the enterprise
  • execution
  • full inclusion
  • employee engagement
  • situational leadership
  • extending length of service
  • accountability.

Mission Possible

The first cycle of the boot camp came to a close in 2006. The response to the program was overwhelming. AlliedBarton plans to implement modified versions for different audiences throughout the country. The program takes 24 weeks to complete and is divided into three distinct phases: the onramp preparation, the residential program, and the on-the-job application phase.

The boot camp is part of an enterprise-wide leadership development strategy. The majority of the program takes place in the employee's own work environment, with participation spanning across the country. However, the 3.5 day residential portion is held at a retreat facility near the corporate office, which gives all members of the senior executive council the opportunity to teach parts of the program. The first boot camp cycle included 160 employees. While the initiative was created to reduce account manager turnover, the program turned out to be a culture changing event.

Fifteen employees - from the administrative level to the CEO - were involved in assessing, designing, delivering, and evaluating the boot camp experience. A comprehensive metrics and measurement plan was created by a work group, and executives spent each night teaching a Leaders Teaching Leaders session.

The boot camp helped increase overall business impact from leadership development, improve leadership bench strength, increase leader engagement and retention, and improve overall employee retention.

Design

The design supported development in three ways: job experience, coaching, and learning activities. This strategy targets leaders at various stages of their development (first line, leader of leaders, and executive level).

"We work to segment our leader population and focus on delivering what leaders need when they are at their time of greatest need," says Jim Gillece, AlliedBarton Security Services, senior vice president of human capital management and chief people officer. "Our strategy ensures that educational activities are consistent across the enterprise. Leaders' learning activities focus on developing elements that are core to any leader role, common to every business unit, and critical to business imperatives."

The on-ramp preparation phase of the boot camps takes six weeks to complete. It includes registration and enrollment upon an employee's nomination by their division, a 360-degree leadership analysis, personal coaching, and a "virtual reality" leadership movie in which participants practice leadership principles and skills. Additional leadership assessments are also taken to gauge each employee's level of engagement. The multi-rater feedback survey establishes a baseline for performance.

The residential phase lasts 3.5 days. Participants engage with peers to build their personal execution plan. This plan is the foundation for successfully accelerating business results by engaging employees in a systematic process. To help make the program interactive, challenging, and cost effective, there is significant evening work - classes ended after 8 pm on a regular basis.

The on-the-job application phase, which lasts 16 weeks, involves implementing execution plans on-the-job. Key activities included follow-up meetings with direct reports, implementing a plan to engage employees, and completing the multi-rater survey a second time to measure progress and improvement.

The program continues to be successful. Account manager turnover dropped by 11 percent in the first year of the program, which resulted in a significant financial impact. At the same time customer retention increased almost 8 percent.

"Our company is proud to be training leaders in our industry as we reflect on five decades of providing high quality security services," Gillece adds. "We believe that employee engagement, learning and leadership development are critical to our success and the foundation of everything we do."