Episode #7: Dana Hariton McQuade on the Lessons of Launching a New Leadership Development Initiative

“People loved it.”

These were the words Dana Hariton McQuade used to summarize her organization’s reaction to launching a new global leadership development framework for different leader levels (new, emerging and accelerated).

She delved into the details of launching this new initiative on episode seven of the Learning and Development Stories Podcast. It necessitated bringing together three teams – L&D, organizational development and HR analytics – to create experiential learning programs that ultimately touch thousands of employees.

“When we announced the whole pathway around this, we could not offer enough classes soon enough,” she said. “People were so hungry for it. Everyone came out feeling stretched and grateful for the opportunity.”

Dana currently is the Director of Development at Prism Brain Mapping for North America and previously held learning roles for Lenovo and Morgan Stanley. Here are other insights she shared during the interview.

Dana noted that in general, data is lagging when conducting employee engagement surveys. It is also a one-way conversation as employees fill out the survey and then often times the dialogue ends there. With the rollout of the new leadership development initiative, Dana felt the organization took big strides to improve engagement.

“Employees felt their voices were heard,” she said. “There was satisfaction in that they knew the organization took the time to develop them. Employees want to know better approaches to do their work and many want to know about how they can advance. Showing we took time to develop people was an important engagement point.”

Linking learning to business objectives

There were two key ways in which this new initiative linked to key business objectives:

1. It addressed succession planning.

2. It connected the dots to what the company says about itself and what that actually means.

Lessons from mistakes

Anyone who ever takes on a new initiative will surely look back and think about doing things differently the next time around. If not, that could be quite problematic! For Dana, she would approach relationship building with key HR stakeholders in a different way the next time she launches a big new initiative.

“This culture was fast moving, sometimes firing first then aiming,” she explained. “I had my head down a little too much working and I didn’t feel like I had a seat at the table. I didn’t understand the why until much later on. This hurt me. Going forward, I will articulate what I need to be successful.”

Communicating the impact

Dana had particularly interesting insights to share around mobilizing learning communities in which attendees of a program share insights, both during and after a program. Key to this process is moderation.

She also stressed the importance of communicating key L&D initiatives during new employees’ on-boarding process.

Knowledge transfer

While travelling for work in Asia, Dana noticed that many people were doing professional development using WeChat, the Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app.

“People are learning in different ways that we are not capturing. If the interface isn’t easy, people will get learning where it is easy and relevant. We need to make learning accessible.”

Recommended tools and resources

Dana sees great opportunities for organizations to leverage immersive learning in part because going through experiences leads to higher retention.

This could play out in various ways. One such example would be enabling new hires to go through an immersive experience in which they might actually be able to see and experience the organization’s corporate headquarters located in another part of the world.

“This is completely different than watching a video,” she said. “When you can see touch and smell, you will be a better ambassador.”

Dana recommends that others in the L&D space refer to content from Josh Bersin and David Rock. A piece we particularly discussed was Rock’s article on why learning needs to be effortful in order to be effective.

You can connect with Dana on LinkedIn.

[thrive_leads id=’2432′]

[thrive_leads id=’2433′]