Organic Valley: Building a sustainable unified talent management program
1. November 2021
Founded in 1988 and the nation’s leading producer of organic dairy, Organic Valley is a cooperative of farmers producing award-winning organic milk, cheese, butter, produce, healthy snacks, and more.
In 2016, Mark Schroeder, HR/L&OD technology strategist at Organic Valley, had an “aha” moment that Organic Valley was going to use as few HR platforms as possible.
He committed to purchasing technology that was integrated, scalable, and customizable at no additional cost. “Cornerstone aligned with everything I had written in my HR manifesto. Cornerstone also passed our four-month security review with flying colors.”
So Organic Valley implemented both Cornerstone Learning and Recruiting and then in 2020 rolled out Performance with Succession. “Cornerstone can do just about anything. I like to say, ‘I’m not in the food industry. I’m in the L&D industry.’ And Cornerstone is a platform where I get to leverage everything I know about L&D to make our organization better.”
Increased applications by 42%. Since implementing Cornerstone Recruiting, Organic Valley has seen a significant increase in applications. “As the talent market continued to constrict, we sensed we were losing applicants due to a lengthy online application process,” said Ashley Dahlen, employment manager at Organic Valley. “With Cornerstone, we’ve seen an increase of 42% in applications. Candidates comment on how simple it is to apply. That’s the feedback we love to hear!”
Increased training completion rates. Previously, employees had little visibility into training. “We’ve seen an increase in completions because opportunities and records are in front of people,” said Schroeder. “We have almost 100% user adoption. With Cornerstone, I also have 100% confidence in the fact that training has been assigned.”
Supported effortless customization. The team can align Cornerstone’s functionality with Organic Valley’s unique processes at no additional cost. “The ability to customize so many aspects of the platform has been key. There aren’t many platforms that can do what Cornerstone does. Of all those platforms, Cornerstone is the easiest for the end-user and for the administrator to get what they want without feeling they’ve invested a tremendous amount of customization.”
Created a one-stop-shop for learning. To engage new users, the team held a contest for branding Cornerstone Learning. “An employee suggested we call it ‘The Tool Shed,’ which is genius because it’s the place you go to get the tools you need to do your work,” said Schroeder. “Everybody knows that for anything learning, they visit The Tool Shed.”
Reinforced learning with mini-lessons. Organic Valley uses Cornerstone to manage the Continuum of Learning Program. Designed by Carrie Bero, senior learning and organizational development specialist, the program increases learning retention and engages managers. “We use Cornerstone to deliver 7-, 14-, and 30- day interval lessons and ‘engagement guides’ to managers before and after employee learning,” said Bero.
Enabled manager training. For any company, especially those undergoing rapid growth, ensuring that managers have the skills to lead effective, high-performing teams is critical. “Our development focus for leadership has shifted to influence current and future leadership capability, style, and execution, while also creating unity at all levels of leadership,” says Kimberly Frederickson, director of learning & organizational development.
Automated performance management. “Performance management used to be a very manual process for us. We wanted to breathe new life into it to give it a greater sense of quality, meaning, consistency, and accountability,” commented Amy Ryan, senior learning and organizational development manager. During the 2020 performance review cycle, Organic Valley took the first step towards removing the “emotion” from these conversations, instead relying on real data to inform their evaluation decisions. “It was less of a question of whether we had categorized employees correctly (in the 9-box format) and more a matter of identifying the right plan of attack for how to address the needs of employees based on where they sat on that spectrum,” said Schroeder.