Quickly upscaling new leaders in advance of Baby Boomer retirements
Founded in 1923, ArcBest delivers integrated logistics solutions for a variety of supply chain challenges, including less-than-truckload and truckload freight shipping, expedite, household moving, and vehicle maintenance and repair.
While ArcBest is well-known for its commitment to customer success, the logistics company is equally committed to the success of its employees. “We’re very passionate about making ArcBest a great place to work,” said Kellie Black, manager of organizational effectiveness at ArcBest. “As a result, we have very little turnover. Many people have been with us for their entire careers.”
Yet this low turnover has also had a downside: With the bulk of the leadership teams reaching retirement age, ArcBest was on the verge of losing a significant number of managers. “Our existing leaders have years and years of experience. We would be replacing them with newer employees who simply don’t have that tenure,” said Black. “We knew we didn’t have years to train them, which meant we needed a way to get new leaders up to speed very, very quickly.”
For ArcBest, establishing a competency-driven learning framework that not only codifies necessary skills but enables more career-specific development proved to be the most efficient and effective way for the company to quickly upscale hundreds of new leaders.
Yet establishing thousands of competencies requires significant time—time ArcBest didn’t have in light of increasing retirements. Fortunately, in 2012, ArcBest’s HR team had replaced their outdated, manual talent management processes with Cornerstone OnDemand’s unified talent management platform.
While Cornerstone enabled HR to manage every phase of the employee lifecycle from one system, the platform also offered seamless integration with IBM’s Watson Talent Frameworks. A library of thousands of industry-specific job profiles, Watson Talent Frameworks would give ArcBest a significant head-start on creating and using competencies, responsibilities and skills.
“What was exciting for us is that creating a system around competencies connected the dots,” said Black. “By using the Cornerstone platform and IBM’s library together, we knew we could connect learning objectives to development plans to performance management. Everything would be linked, and there would be a feedback loop between learning, performance and succession.”
Quickly developed new leaders. The new competency framework provides ArcBest employees with a clear path to improvement and career development. “Employees truly understand what’s required to be successful in their roles, as well as what they can do if they want to change roles,” said Black. “With Cornerstone and IBM, we’ve defined the role-specific culture and competencies that leaders need to thrive at ArcBest.”
Increased ownership of learning. ArcBest employees can now access learning and development opportunities in one single location. “Employees know where to go for all things training,” said Black. “We’ve created a great learning experience for employees and increased a sense of ownership. Employees feel like they own their learning now, from the second they start their journey through retirement.”
Standardized coaching. While formalizing competencies has standardized learning and performance management across the organization, it has also standardized the coaching process. With Cornerstone and IBM Talent Frameworks, every employee is coached on the same tool in the same language. “Cornerstone ensures we can coach consistently across the entire organization. Employees have the same coaching experience throughout their career, even if they move into a new or role or department,” said Black. “This helps us set—and keep—a higher bar for performance standards, as well as provide clear feedback to each and every employee.”
Increased engagement with the review process. Today, not only do ArcBest managers have access to powerful coaching tools, but employees know exactly what skills they need for current and future roles—and how to develop them. As a result, Black is seeing more active participation and engagement with the review process. “Employees like having meaningful conversations with their managers,” said Black. “There’s more engagement overall, which is cool because engagement drives results. It’s a win-win.”
Established stronger relationships with leaders. Launching a formalized competency leadership training program has had an additional—and unexpected—benefit. “Designing a performance process for our business leaders requires us to really dig in and discover what exactly each business does, determine their needs and understand their processes,” said Black. “There’s now a much stronger partnership between our talent management team and ArcBest’s business leaders.”
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