The Friedkin Group embraces a proactive and empowering approach to learning and career development
The Friedkin Group (TFG) is a privately-held consortium of diverse businesses and investments across the automotive, hospitality, and entertainment industries. And each is unified under a powerful shared mission: To provide best-in-class experiences that inspire joy and purpose. They implemented Cornerstone to support TFG’s automotive business, which provides financial and insurance services, marketing, auto transport, and vehicle parts distribution to more than 150 dealerships in the southern United States.
A dynamic workforce requires a dynamic approach to learning
TFG first came to Cornerstone because, as a company, it was growing fast and needed to put a best-in-class strategy in place around learning and development. They needed a plan that propelled the success and growth of their associates (employees) across the entire automotive organization. But as you can imagine, finding a solution dynamic enough to meet the varying needs of their diverse and ever-growing workforce was no easy task. Fortunately, the powerful combination of Cornerstone Learning and Cornerstone Content Anytime (CCA) subscriptions — cleverly branded as “Develop U” with its own collegiate-like logo — was precisely the solution they were looking for.
Implementing Cornerstone was also an opportunity to move away from highly manual processes. For example, their training courses were predominantly instructor-led and tracked course completions via multiple spreadsheets. Consolidating all learning resources into one central (and trackable) place immediately made the entire process more efficient.
The importance of learning without any limits
When it comes to the company’s associates, a good chunk does not work in front of a computer throughout the day — such as drivers in TFG’s automotive transport business. So it was important for TFG that their learning, training, and compliance content was easily accessible on the go. “In the past, if a driver on the road had to complete a training, they had to stop at a terminal and sit down at a computer to take it,” explained Rob Denton, TFG’s learning & development manager. “Thanks to Cornerstone, we now just send them push notifications about assigned training, and they can complete it using the tablet in their trucks.”
Similarly, in an effort to cater to diverse learning styles, TFG configured “Develop U” to give leaders within the organization the ability to create their own learning playlists and post relevant content for the associates in their business units to subscribe to. As a result, associates can now stay updated on the latest learning trends by opting into automatic notifications whenever new course content in those playlists becomes available.
“Our workforce is constantly growing, and we’ve got the added benefit of low turnover,” mentioned Denton. “But retaining talent requires giving our associates non-stop opportunities to learn and grow. With Cornerstone Content Anytime, the content is never stale.” With a rotating library of 3,500+ online courses (including short, snackable content) and 30 instructor-led courses (which associates can take online), learning new skills is virtually endless for their associates.
On-Demand learning comes to the rescue during times of crisis
Little did TFG know that the 2017 events surrounding Hurricane Harvey — when their offices flooded — were just a dress rehearsal for what would soon come a few years later when the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the entire world. “This time around, our corporate offices were closed for nearly two years,” added Denton. “Thanks to our experience with Hurricane Harvey, we knew we could continue developing our associates and engage them with useful and supportive content regardless of their location. Cornerstone made this seamless for us.”
TFG’s learning and development team's success metric at this time wasn’t simply course completions. “We knew this was a tough situation for everyone,” explained Denton. “So we leaned into promoting content around health, wellness, safety, mental well-being, remote work, and beyond to help our associates cope.” Part of this included leveraging the free Cornerstone Cares content, as it was filled with useful and timely resources around staying resilient and productive in a purely remote work environment.
But that was just a starting point.
TFG harnessed every opportunity to help its associates feel connected once again. So they hosted virtual happy hours and concerts — both huge successes — and sent out a weekly newsletter called “The Banner” to shine a spotlight on new content focused on the topics people really cared about at the time, like stress management and remote team communications.
And you know what happened? Elective course completions kept on growing. “Our team got more calls and questions about online learning during the pandemic than we had in the prior five years of making this content available to them,” reiterated Denton. “It was like a grassroots movement around learning, one where our associates even started using playlists organically without being prompted to do so!”
Today, TFG continues to operate in a hybrid work environment, with associates gradually transitioning back into 100% in-office work. CCA has played a central role in this office re-opening effort. “After two years of working from home, returning to the office has been a major transition for many,” offered Carla Blackwell, TFG’s learning consultant. “We’re leaning into our Cornerstone Content Anytime subscription to help associates learn how to harness the skills they acquired while working remotely and now apply it to their day-to-day office life.”
A culture of non-stop learning, growth, and enrichment
Since returning to the office (post-COVID-19), there’s been a significant uptick in elective courses taken by associates, especially around topics like decision making, critical thinking, strategic problem solving, and, funny enough, Excel mastery. “There’s a real desire among associates to constantly learn and grow,” said Denton. “A big part of this is because TFG’s leadership wants us to be a true learning organization — and they’ve made an important investment in it.”
In fact, to make learning engaging and fun across the entire organization, TFG recently hosted the “Learning Olympics: Winter Games.” It was a smashing success. Associates were given learning challenges, earned points for completing courses, and got awarded badges for reaching certain milestones. And although the awards were modest — the top three winners in each business unit received $25 gift cards — the competitive spirit was fierce. The breadth and depth of CCA content made it possible for TFG to make learning fun within the organization.
Preparing the next generation of leaders today
“It’s no longer enough to just tell someone they need to know something and then have them learn it,” remarked Denton. “With Cornerstone, we can be strategic in helping our associates understand why they are being assigned new learning while also delivering it to them at the moment they need it most.” A great example of this is TFG’s leadership development program, which includes customized training for the following segments: Leadership Ascent (emerging leaders), Leadership Foundations (frontline leaders), and Leadership Summit (senior leaders).
Each program consists of 40 hours of learning content covering different focus areas — with the end goal of boosting retention, mapping core competencies to company values, and supporting associates at all levels of the organization with long-term career pathing. “In the past, we based leadership development off of feeling; there was no science behind it,” explained Denton. “And in conjunction with Cornerstone Performance and succession solutions, we now have more of a data-driven and personalized way to connect development actions with leadership growth.”
Streamlining the performance management process
Businesses like TFG must always be prepared to navigate the next big challengeBefore implementing Cornerstone Performance, TFG conducted annual performance reviews via a very long Word doc that asked questions about alignment to six core competencies and seven company values before landing on a final rating. This process frustrated both managers and associates alike. And on top of that, there was no reporting functionality whatsoever.
Fast forward to the present day. With this cumbersome “paper trail” now in the rear-view mirror, TFG has moved to a 100% online performance-management workflow comprised of three quarterly check-ins leading to a final performance review. And because this information is all captured online, anything related to an associate’s tenure at the company follows them wherever they go within the organization. This cohesion was never possible before Cornerstone.
“Not only does this enable greater flexibility with goal setting throughout the year — especially when there are changes to high-level business strategy — but it also allows us to gain a more holistic view of performance across the organization to understand which business units indexed higher or lower on certain core competencies,” stated Denton. “Cornerstone gave us the tools to build rigor around the end-to-end performance management process, making it possible for us to detect blind spots, identify gaps in the leadership pipeline, assess potential flight risk, and calculate the impact of loss early.”
A proactive strategy for succession planning
One of the biggest perks of aligning performance management and succession planning under one roof with Cornerstone was its virtually limitless customizability. Cornerstone Performance and Cornerstone Learning are easy to configure by admins without requiring them to reach outside TFG for help. But of course, if any help is ever needed, Cornerstone’s team is on hand to provide training and support.
More importantly, TFG now has a powerful way to understand what succession looks like at all organizational levels. “We’ve recently implemented ‘readiness levels’ to assess when certain associates will be ready to tackle the next step in their career journey,” described Denton. “Cornerstone provides us with a visual way to understand and also take action on the succession path for every associate within a given business unit. This is a true game-changer for us — we now have a roadmap for seamless growth.”
This new clarity has made it possible for leaders within each business unit to have a greater line of sight into where their key talent is, how associates are progressing along their development plans, where there are critical resource gaps, and what they must do to retain existing talent.
While this is only the first year TFG has officially brought all of these pieces together, they’ll be the first to tell you that it’s the start of many more great things to come.
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