AT&T is, by revenue, the largest communications holding company in the world. The company has had to make many changes over the years, reflecting advances in technology and communications, government policies regulating the telecommunications industry, mergers and acquisitions, and the rise of the global economy. The company's most recent merger occurred in 2006 between AT&T and BellSouth and the consolidated ownership of Cingular Wireless and YP.COM. The promise of that merger was that the integration of products, capabilities, networks, and operations into something the senior executives called One AT&T, which would deliver a unique customer experience and differentiate AT&T from its competitors, distinguishing the company in the marketplace.
To make that happen, the company needed to act swiftly to remove barriers, engage employees, develop leaders and promote a cultural change to encourage trust and collaboration across the organization. This cultural shift would not be easy; with a larger and more global workforce, leaders at all levels would need to be engaged and prepared to drive the organization toward One AT&T.
To ensure that One AT&T was accepted and understood throughout the company, AT&T University developed a strategic learning program called Leading with Distinction (LwD). The programs reach 8000 senior leaders and 105,000 front-line leaders. The senior leader's program was delivered primarily in person in 2-4 day formats. But that wouldn't work for the front-line leaders. Instead, AT&T University created, with the help of Harvard Business Publishing, an LwD Virtual Management Summit. Delivered in segments of two hours or less for a total experience of 16 hours delivered over eight months, this program drew on the concept of attending a conference, complete with keynotes, workshops, resources, and opportunities to collaborate with peers, leaders and experts. They also used their internal sharing site and other social media platforms to continue the dialogue after each session.
|Challenge||Address cultural shifts at all levels following a series of mergers.
|Solution||Develop a leadership development program that would reach 8,000 senior leaders in person and 105,000 front-line leaders in 60 countries, virtually.|
|Results||Reach and impact metrics met, in 8 months.|
|12th Annual Learning Excellence and Innovation Award||Excellence Award: Leadership Development|
Members of CorpU can read more detail about these award-winning efforts.
AT&T Case Study: Developing Leaders Virtually
AT&T is the largest communications holding company in the world by revenue, with $123 billion of consolidated revenue reported in 2009. AT&T has undergone numerous changes over the years, reflecting advances in technology and communications, government policies regulating the telecommunications industry, mergers and acquisitions, and the rise of the global economy. The company's most recent merger occurred in 2006 between AT&T and BellSouth and the consolidated ownership of Cingular Wireless and YP.COM. The promise of that merger was the integration of products, capabilities, networks, and operations — One AT&T — that would deliver a unique customer experience and differentiate AT&T from its competitors, distinguishing the company in the marketplace.
Maintaining and expanding AT&T's market leadership position requires continued innovation at unprecedented levels: even at the rate of two patents a day, competitive threats loom. People drive innovation. Following several major mergers and acquisitions, AT&T needed to act swiftly to remove barriers, engage employees, develop leaders and promote a cultural change required to integrate several distinct cultures and brands into one company with a collaborative workforce of more than 300,000 employees worldwide.
This would require making sure that leaders at all levels understood exactly what One AT&T meant and how they could contribute to its implementation. What needed to be taught, and to who needed to be asked and answered before AT&T University (see The AT&T Learning Organization) could develop any programs or curricula to address this critical need.
|The AT&T Learning Organization
In 2008, AT&T restructured its learning organization, placing more emphasis on strategic and core management development. The new organizational structure placed learning and development, talent management, organization development and diversity under one Senior Vice President of Workforce Development. This organization, led by Cindy Brinkley, has responsibility for learning and development across the enterprise. This includes AT&T University and the Learning Services training organization. AT&T University, led by Ken Fenoglio, was established in 2008 with the full support and sponsorship of AT&T's Chairman and CEO and his leadership team. The University's mission is to accelerate growth through the development of core and strategic leadership competencies aimed at bettering the performance of individuals and groups. A joint funding model of centrally funded and tuition-based options is used to budget and fund leadership development.
AT&T University conducted a detailed needs assessment to identify leadership skill gaps and provide data in the following four areas:
Data was gathered from leaders at all levels of the business including the CEO, his direct report officers, senior leaders from Human Resources, and business unit and frontline managers. The information was collected through face-to-face and telephone interviews, surveys, focus groups, brainstorming sessions, literature reviews, and formal and informal conversations. Data from AT&T's employee engagement survey was also used, as was information from external sources. AT&T visited and interviewed learning professionals from several Fortune 50 companies to learn how they develop their leaders and frontline managers.
This intense data collection process helped AT&T structure and shape its overall leadership development strategy. It also helped establish a spirit of collaboration among business leaders around leadership development. This ongoing collaboration, along with a 14-member advisory board made up of officers and senior business leaders, helps ensure that leadership development programs are relevant and tied directly to AT&T's overall business strategy and priorities.
The leadership development goal is to align with AT&T's vision and strategic imperatives through both core and strategic leadership development that drives an innovative culture. AT&T views leadership development as a continuous process where learning occurs in formal and informal settings. The programs are structured into two distinct learning experiences, Core development and Strategic development, that include action and experiential components to promote learning from each other and trying different approaches to solving problems and issues.
AT&T's Core leadership development enhances leaders' and managers' ability to lead in ways that engage employees, promote alignment and produce results that achieve AT&T's vision. Managers are exposed to learning and development opportunities that include:
The target audience for Core development initiatives is AT&T's global management workforce, including senior leaders and frontline managers. The Core curriculum is mapped to AT&T's strengths-based Leadership Competency Model. In the curriculum, learning and development resources are organized under six categories: Business Acumen, Communication, Leadership, Organization and Individual Effectiveness, People Selection and Performance Management. The curriculum consists of a blend of both formal and informal learning and development resources delivered using e-learning (web-based courses and webinars), instructor-led learning (traditional and virtual classroom) and self-study. The ratio is approximately 40% e-learning to 60 % instructor-led traditional and virtual classroom learning. Officer and senior leader Core development is conducted primarily via instructor-led classroom sessions.
Instructor-led classroom training is held at the AT&T University main campus at the company's worldwide headquarters in Dallas, Texas, and at regional campuses. Participation in Core development opportunities is based on individual and business unit needs. The AT&T University Self Development Resource Center is available to help managers assess and manage their career development. The Resource Center also provides always-available self-study resources for individual skill development.
AT&T's strategic learning program, Leading with Distinction (LwD) directly drives alignment to One AT&T (see Figure 1). LwD programs are 8-18 months in length, focused on key business priorities, and customized for each management level. AT&T's CEO and senior leadership team provide direct input and influence into the design of each LwD program. Leading with Distinction programs begin at the officer level, with all managers receiving the same content directly from AT&T's CEO and his leadership team.
AT&T University's Leading with Distinction is a broad-scale leadership development program focused on enhancing leadership capabilities to achieve alignment in support of One AT&T. The Leading with Distinction (LwD) program was launched with goals to:
Figure 1. The alignment to One AT&T embodied in the Leading with Distinction Programs.
The target audience for LwD is AT&T's entire global management workforce that includes approximately 8,000 officers and senior leaders and 105,000 frontline managers from 60 countries. Participation is by invitation. While there is an expectation of 100% participation, the program is not considered "required" or "mandatory" training.
LwD provides development in two categories, Executive Programs and a Frontline Management program. The Executive Program is an in-person 2-4 day experience. Delivered first to officers, then executives, LwD has been successfully rolled out to all senior leadership. Participation in the Executive program is by invitation from the CEO and business unit officer.
The remainder of this case study will focus on the LwD Frontline Manager Program, the LwD Virtual Management Summit. The Summit is delivered on-line in segments of two hours or less, for a total experience of 16 hours delivered over eight months. The target audience for the program is AT&T's largest management population — the 105,000 frontline managers. All frontline managers are invited by their business unit officer to participate and invitees for each Live Summit event are screened to ensure cross-business and cross-function participation. Consideration is also made to invitees' gender and ethnicity to ensure diversity. Networking opportunities with local officers and senior leaders provide opportunities to build relationships across the business.
When designing the Summit, the AT&T University Management Development team drew on the concept of attending and participating in a conference with keynotes, workshops, resources and opportunities to network and collaborate with peers, leaders and experts (see Figure 2).
The team worked closely with Harvard Business Publishing to develop and deliver this innovative program. The Summit features officer keynotes and workshops facilitated by Harvard Business School faculty and other industry experts to build knowledge and skill. Designed to be an interactive, engaging, and fun experience, managers can learn new concepts, collaborate with their peers, and apply their learning on the job. The Leading with Distinction Summit began in January 2010 and ended September 30, 2010.
The Leading with Distinction Virtual Management Summit drives peer-to-peer learning with Executive Insight and Peer-to-Peer videos, "Mentoring Moments" and "Learning from our Leaders." The senior leadership team is actively involved in the delivery of each LwD program through participation in workshops, question and answer sessions, keynotes and networking receptions. AT&T University also uses tSpace, an internal social networking tool that houses wikis, blogs, communities and more to facilitate informal learning. During the 2010 LwD Virtual Management Summit, post session blogging events were used to continue the learning. tSpace and Facebook were used for workshops and Manager Challenge events. More than 10,000 responses were posted with an even higher number of managers reading those posts.
Marketing and Launch
A program that is designed to reach as many participants as the LwD Virtual Management Summit requires an aggressive launch campaign. The AT&T team used a variety of marketing and communication methods to create excitement and drive participation:
• Targeted email to drive registration and create awareness and "buzz". A December 2009 "letter" from corporate officers delivered electronically to all frontline managers announced the Summit, describing its importance and expectations for participation. The Summit opened for registration on January 4, 2010.
• Overview sessions. AT&T University continually hosted informational sessions in the months prior to launching the Summit to ensure clarity of understanding and expectation for summit participants.
• Email campaigns to encourage participation. Throughout the Summit, additional email reminders were sent to the frontline managers to maximize participation. Follow up email targeting "procrastinators" suggested ways to complete the Summit in a timely manner if participation started late.
• Intranet sites. Links were created on the home page of the AT&T intranet site to the Summit Portal for maximum visibility and AT&T University staff partnered with business groups to cross-reference the Summit Portal from their intranet sites.
• Social media. AT&T University leveraged tSpace, the companies shared workspace, for peer-to-peer learning and to reference, explain and promote the Summit and available resources. Blogs have enabled the AT&T University staff to gather reactions and feedback.
Leading with Distinction is bringing a consistent understanding of the One AT&T vision and has dramatically expanded AT&T's ability to reach and engage leaders across the organization. Managers at all levels are learning and collaborating with colleagues in other regions and business units. AT&T University has designed and delivered a flexible, rich program that achieved its goals and is well positioned to evolve as the business moves forward.
Involvement from business leaders helped ensure that the Leading with Distinction program was aligned with company goals, objectives and strategies. AT&T tracks both qualitative and quantitative metrics for the program to gauge business and learning impact, and to refine future programs. Here are some of the numbers gathered so far:
|Participation in all of the program's events/sessions||
|Participant satisfaction survey scores||
|Global reach to managers in all sites around the world||
AT&T will use the evaluations from Levels 2 and 3 to measure the qualitative impact over the next six to twelve months. Initial Level 1 feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from leaders and frontline managers. They feel more connected, empowered and engaged and see the program helping them move toward One AT&T. Frontline manager comments include appreciation for bringing the "strategic road map for the future all the way down to the first level management team" and for "considering us a valuable asset to the company and furnishing us with this LwD experience".
The Leading with Distinction Virtual Management Summit dramatically expanded AT&T's ability to reach and engage leaders and managers across the organization in a cost effective and timely manner. In eight months, the team delivered a consistent development opportunity to AT&T's largest management population of 105,000. For the first time, frontline managers could participate with their peers in a common learning experience. The ability to cross borders and functions will make the transition to One AT&T happen faster and more completely than it would have without the use of the virtual setting.
This article supports the CorpU 12 Dimensions of Learning Excellence - Organize (Technology & Infrastructure).
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