Human Resource Managers Need Leadership Development Too: How General Electric Partnered with Abilitie to Create a New Standard of HR Leadership
As technology continues to advance and the economy remains volatile, effective Human Resource leaders have become increasingly critical to the growth and scalability of companies worldwide.
HR leaders have evolved beyond the stereotypical “payroll people” to dynamic individuals requiring virtual presentation skills, communication, financial literacy, and overall business acumen. Organizations that invest in the development of their HR leaders will see a return in the form of talent retention, people management, and overall organizational effectiveness.
In 2020, General Electric (GE) integrated Abilitie’s Business Challenge simulation to bring their newly enhanced Human Resources Leadership Program (HRLP) to the virtual world. This newly enhanced program was named a “Best Use of Games and Simulation for Learning” honoree in the Brandon Hall Group’s 2020 Excellence Award for Human Capital Management program. Traditionally, the program has been delivered in an in-person modality, but it was important to GE to transfer the seamless experience to a virtual format with a myriad of engagement tools and dashboards.
GE Program director Imola Richards said, “We wanted to prove to our talent who were skeptical about the virtual space that learning events in the digital space can have impact, be meaningful and entertaining. For that, having a simulation was absolutely critical. The Abilitie program was a cornerstone of our plans to turn around learner experience in the virtual world. People have seen success, so their approach to learning has adapted.”
Richards believes that professional development programs are critical for all managers, but she sees a unique opportunity with HR leaders because of the vastly different nature of their everyday tasks.
“It is critical to have a strong leadership program backbone because when you are in an HR leader role, you learn most by doing. It’s a job that requires coordination and adaptability,” she said. “Abilitie’s programs helped me structure our learning at GE to include the core ingredients our leaders need that others in the HR market don’t have. The simulations created an atmosphere for doing, feedback, and learning. The facilitators helped with the engagement, and it was never boring. All of those things are important to Human Resource Managers.”
Over a two-day course, the 40 participants from 11 countries worked in teams to navigate the new program. In their teams, the participants collaborated in breakout sessions and made decisions about how to proceed in the simulation together. This approach aided GE’s goals for their participants by providing leaders with a structured, real-life experience focused on business concepts that helped drive differentiated behaviors.
“HR is so much broader than just finance. It’s about managing people, understanding business, and solving complex problems,” Richards said. “HR is not just payroll people. It’s about human skills – the differentiator will never be functional knowledge only.”
HR leaders can benefit from leadership training, just like other business managers, because of the transferable skills taught in Abilitie programs. From understanding the needs of a business, to better people management, financial literacy, and overall teamwork, the skills HR managers can gain are critical to talent retention and development.
Richards believes effective leadership development programs require what she calls a “secret sauce.”
“Our HR leaders were so engaged because we had all the right ingredients: the sessions were not too long, the groups were small, and there was a good balance between theory and practice. That helps change the mentality toward virtual training. I also believe gamification is so powerful – we live in a new generation that wants to be engaged, compete, and learn by doing,” she said.
While gamification is an important factor in promoting successful outcomes from experiential learning programs, harnessing the power and scalability of virtual technology is also a powerful piece of the puzzle. Like other businesses with global operations and a distributed workforce, virtual program delivery allowed GE to give employees the opportunity to network with geographically diverse cohorts without having to take time for travel.
“The global aspect of Abilitie programs allows for more powerful learning. From China to India, and France, you can run the same program for 10 people or 100 people and have incredible outcomes using that structure,” Richards said. “Program management will always be a learning experience for companies. Abilitie gives you the case studies, the simulations, the structure, the facilitators, and told me exactly what I needed to contribute to make the GE program a success.”
HRLP participants enthusiastically reported that this experience changed their attitudes about virtual learning and that they had become virtual “pros” by the completion of the program. The program continued to demonstrate its success throughout the participants’ work. As a result of the experience, participants built a quick-reference resource on “The 5 Ways to Leverage Finance in Human Resources,” which they use in their day-to-day work, demonstrating both the immediate and continued application of the concepts learned.
What Real HR Leaders Had to Say
“100% would recommend that this be kept for future generations of learning. It was a great, interactive way to learn about finance and business implications of different decisions.”
“I also highly appreciate the mix of competitive games and the learnings shared during discussions.”
“Maybe finance can be fun? Strongly recommend doing this session in the future!”