learning and development pivot players

by Linda Glass

When I was at Starbucks years ago, our number one goal was growth. I still remember the mantra 2000 by 2000 – we were going to be HUGE. Ah – youth.

We all knew our business strategy and we all knew the role we played in delivering it.

If our core purpose was to enhance the human experience one cup at a time, how could we scale that? Like any business plan, you look at process, tools, and people. When it came to investment in our people to drive growth, we focused on what was valuable to the customer and who had the highest impact on delivering that. 

Customers expected:

  • Predictable, high-quality product
  • Accessibility and convenience
  • Human connection

Not to oversimplify the strategy around this, but it came down to how we defined growth and determining the roles that were critical in delivering on those promises and accomplishing our Vision. We found that the roles that were most critical in creating the greatest return and subsequently posed the greatest risks, were those that had to straddle the line between execution and strategy. These are what I like to call the critical “pivot players.” 

There’s a logic flow you can follow to get down to knowing who your pivot players are and which ones are the right investment for Learning and Development. It’s simple, but not easy per se. This will require conversation and healthy debate – time well spent so that you are applying the right solutions to the right roles and focusing your investments in an aligned fashion.

Seven questions to ask before implementing a learning & development strategy

The magic 7 questions: 

  1. What mode are we in? Growth? Turn Around? Transformation? Stability?
  2. What is our Vision? Where do you aspire for your business to be 3-5 years from now?
  3. How will we measure success and what are the Key Drivers to those measurements? What indicators will tell you you’ve achieved your vision?
  4. What functional areas must perform at their highest potential to achieve those measurements? These are areas of expertise/ disciplines – not necessarily org structure
  5. What roles are critical in delivering on these promises? The roles most critical in creating the greatest return and subsequently pose the greatest risks
  6. For each of these roles – how, healthy are they – what does the data tell you? 90-day turnover, annual turnover, diversity, engagement, performance metrics, etc.
  7. From the data, what is the problem you are trying to solve and what is the best solution for each role? Do you have a hiring problem? Retention problem? Skill gap problem?

To further illustrate this, let’s take Starbucks growth mode challenge through the Magic 7:

Pivot player chart

What’s important to know is that we didn’t focus on these roles at the exclusion of everyone else. It was critical to have everyone realize their potential, but we mapped our investments so that we could provide quality development to the masses while doubling down on these critical pivot players. 

This is a point in time exercise that talks about decisions made decades ago. If you were to do this same logic flow now and you look at Starbucks recent statements about convenience being a top priority, you would likely see critical roles in technology and store development take the lead investment. Also, at the time, Starbucks invested very little in marketing, relying on the stores to drive connection and build the brand. Today, with so much focus on digital-first and loyalty programs, I would assume marketing and analytic roles would be on their investment current map.

I worked with another company that was going through transformation. They knew that in order to do that there needed to be an initial focus on aligning 100 senior leaders of the organization around the skills and behaviors that were required to lead a transformation. It required a consistent approach to honest feedback, coaching, setting priorities. So the focus was on the top leadership first while opening up self-serve learning to the other critical pivot players – any role that had responsibility for managing others.

Who are your Pivot Players? 

About Linda Glass

Linda Glass

With over 20 years of experience in the talent and people development industry, Linda Glass brings in-depth knowledge of business and leadership experience to every engagement and coaching session she’s involved with. Through her time building out talent strategies for household names like Starbucks and Nordstrom, she’s identified the pain points and created a playbook for building out successful teams. Linda now helps leaders grow and overcome challenges at Glass Talent, her personal coaching and strategy business. Keep an eye out for future guest posts from Linda on the Verb blog for insider tips on people and talent development.

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