Developing a Learning Organization

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Developing a Learning Organization

Developing a Learning Organization

Fortis Leadership Interview with VBH Retirement Communities

We are so grateful for our clients who allow us to journey alongside them, providing solutions to help individuals reach their potential. Many of our clients have made the strategic choice to design a workplace culture that fosters learning, develops talent, and accountability.

Fortis Leadership has had the opportunity to provide organizational development solutions such as workplace culture assessment and design; executive team development; successor management development; customized onsite universities; executive coaching; performance management design, and other customized solutions for our clients.

This month, we would like to highlight one very special client, VBH Retirement Communities, who has indeed made the strategic choice to develop a learning organization. VBH is an organization that is intentional about living a shared vision, cultivating personal mastery, and team learning. We interviewed VBH’s Corporate Director of Human Resources. Here is what she said about creating a learning organization in partnership with Fortis Leadership:

Fortis Leadership: How did you go about making the intentional choice to develop a learning organization?

VBH: We began conducting annual employee opinion surveys a couple of years ago. While we received some great news in the areas of employees enjoying their work and feeling proud to work for us and loving the residents they serve, as expected, we also discovered areas that we needed to work on.  The areas of communication and talent development were big ones.  We were not completely caught off guard. Our CEO shared his vision of offering more development and perhaps even a “university” for VBH.  We also had, like many other companies, been in situations where we promoted employees to positions of management, without really giving them the tools to perform successfully and effectively.  That was a disservice to them and to the employees who reported to them. Only by truly developing our future leaders and enhancing the communication throughout the organization, could we promote a more stable, qualified, and accountable workforce that provides excellent service to those we care for.

Fortis Leadership: How did you begin the process of cultivating a learning organization?

VBH: We knew it couldn’t be a one-time fix. We didn’t want to offer a class about leadership and say that we now value talent development. We knew that to really influence positive changes, we needed to evaluate our culture and determine what we valued in our leaders. We also knew that in order to have any credibility throughout the organization, we, as senior leaders, needed to go through the process ourselves to develop our leadership point of view. We did that and then put into words those behaviors that we all, no matter what our positions, will strive to practice every day. We created a customized behavior model entitled: The VBH Way. The behaviors were then integrated into our selection, orientation, and performance evaluation processes.

Fortis Leadership: What changes have you seen in individuals, teams and in your organization overall?

VBH: For me, I have learned to be patient. Developing a learning organization is not a quick fix. Quick fixes usually become perceived as the flavor of the month and tend to cultivate a spirit of cynicism. We are trying to be intentional about changing our culture which takes time. What I have seen early on in the process is the narrative changing across the organization. What you hear now in and among our organization is let’s find a way, I see it differently, let’s disagree and commit, etc. This narrative comes from a shift in the mindset of both leaders and those we lead. This has been our experience, and we are seeing positive changes in our workplace culture.

We now have on going professional development workshops for all levels of employees to participate in, and offer ongoing management training. I have many people approach me and tell me they are seeing positive changes. I see employees and managers develop not only skills but a different and effective perspective on leadership that they never had before. People are holding each other accountable and not afraid to speak the truth with good-will on behalf of the greater whole of the organization.

Fortis Leadership: What can you share with those that are contemplating the journey of developing a learning organization?

VBH: Be patient. Change will not happen overnight, but it will happen. You will build leadership credibility across the organization by recognizing the need and doing something about it, and going first, so to speak as senior leaders. As a senior leadership team, we made a strategic choice to model the way, before we invited others on the journey. If your senior leaders model the way, the likelihood of the investment in your culture and your people will have lasting impact on your organization, those you serve, and will ideally set you a part from your competition.

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