How To Provide A Path To Advancement

One of the most important ways to attract and retain talent is to make sure they can see ways to grow within the company. Kelley Daviss, EVP of human resources at Lendmark Financial Services, offers a case study.
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Kelley Daviss, executive vice president, human resources at Lendmark Financial Services, understands the importance of upward mobility within the company to help employees achieve their career goals. Daviss has made career advancement a focus at Lendmark, a household credit provider based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, which offers personal loans, automobile loans and retail merchant sales finance services through more than 400 branches in 19 states.

Daviss spoke with StrategicCHRO360 about how employers can best structure talent management programs to nurture employee potential, why training is critical and how to build a company culture that supports advancement.

Lendmark provides a career path for each of its employees. Can you tell me more about the strategy behind that decision? What have been the benefits?

Our leadership approach is based on four core values we call LEND: Loyalty, Engaging, Nurturing and Decisiveness. LEND serves as the center for all we do, and how we do it. 

We know company and customer success begins with employee loyalty and engagement. As a company, we strive to earn both every day with all of our employees across our 400-plus branches and support offices in 19 states. Because of this wide geographic footprint, we especially need to be clear when it comes to career pathing so employees know the best ways to grow their talents and, most importantly, how Lendmark helps them in this effort.   

We outline career paths for employees, including entry-level positions. One of our best examples is for our loan consultants. These newly hired employees can move from the entry-level branch position to senior loan consultant, to branch manager trainee, and then to branch manager—all within a short few years. This trajectory is more than hyperbole. Lendmark makes sure we provide the necessary mentoring from managers, sponsorship from executives, and continued personal and professional development opportunities to help employees achieve their individual goals and have the opportunity to move to executive ranks—if they aspire to do so. 

Can you give me an example or two of a Lendmark employee who has benefitted from this structured approach to professional development?

As one of our executive vice presidents, Bret Hyler’s Lendmark career journey demonstrates the power of career pathing. Bret started as a branch manager trainee and has since risen to executive vice president of branch operations and is second in command to our chief operating officer. Bret completed Lendmark’s BMT program eight months early, and after his promotion to branch manager, Bret met Joe Burgamy, Lendmark’s COO.

With executive support, Bret grew and led larger teams and geographies. He was Branch Manager of the Year from 2006 to 2010. Bret’s exemplary work opened additional opportunities for him to lead special project assignments and to broaden his business acumen and understanding of organizational strategy.

Lendmark supported Bret by sending him to executive leadership courses that were identified. He is now responsible for all Lendmark’s branch operations.

Often, current employees find out about job openings within their own company only after the positions have been filled. How is Lendmark finding ways to communicate job opportunities to current employees, beyond just posting on the company’s careers page?

Lendmark communicates new positions to all employees within the first week of each month through its internal communications channels, including an internal job board within Workday where employees can set up alerts to be informed immediately of internal opportunities that match their career path. We also advertise “hot jobs” internally through a monthly employee newsletter that I publish.

Additionally, Lendmark hosts annual succession planning meetings with company leaders to identify high potential employees. The company then often includes these employees on important company initiatives and projects to keep them engaged and help them continue to grow their professional skills and confidence. These experiences are some of the most meaningful for growth.

Beyond making employees aware of career paths and open job opportunities, what are some other ways companies can improve their professional development strategies? 

For Lendmark, a growth mindset is critical to company and employee success. Not all employees are interested in climbing the professional ladder, but it is critical we offer the tools, information and training to help employees broaden their skill sets.

To do this, Lendmark invests heavily in professional development. This ranges from specific off-site courses and experiences to in-house training through the Lendmark Academy for important everyday skills like Microsoft Office and Outlook. I also recommend companies encourage employees to actively participate in recognizing the areas where they need additional development and find the courses and webinars to help address any skills gaps. Whenever possible, Lendmark financially supports training and provides employees with the time they need to participate in classes.

I encourage companies to make career growth as easy as possible. This includes not only providing specific roadmaps for upward mobility, but also creating a culture where leaders within the company understand the importance of growth and allow employees to take the necessary steps with full financial support and management encouragement. This practice is a great retention tool and increases engagement in a way that pays dividends to all involved.

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