Learning COVID-19 Recording: Bridgestone's Susie Long - 7/16/20

In response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp holds a weekly series of standing calls to help Learning and Development leaders navigate this unpredictable time.

Meeting highlights: 

This week’s Learning and Development action call hosted special guest Susie Long, VP Talent Management and Development at Bridgestone Americas. She was interviewed by i4cp CEO and co-founder Kevin Oakes, and we shared some new survey data about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on succession management practices. Here are four highlights from the call:

1.     The benefits of truly integrated talent management. Long’s leadership at Bridgestone Americas spans many areas of talent, including traditional areas such as learning and development and performance management, but also areas that are sometimes separate at other organizations such as talent acquisition and inclusion and diversity. While integrated talent management platforms have made it easier to get benefits from breaking down the walls between HR functional silos, it helps even more to have a single leader who oversees these various aspects of talent and can make sure they are all aligned. Long mentioned two areas where they have seen benefits from this approach, with one being people data and analytics. Having an integrated approach makes each piece of data more valuable, and more easily allows the team to move from reporting to real insights and even predictive analytics. Recently the organization has been focusing more on talent movement, and here having talent acquisition, L&D, and performance closely aligned makes it easier to appropriately staff strategic teams and initiatives quickly.

2.     L&D’s involvement with inclusion and diversity initiatives is ongoing. Long said that last year some budgets were temporarily frozen or cut for L&D programs, so they had to hold back on launching some particular initiatives. But that has changed, and so they’ve been able to go beyond basic bias-related training and provide a program called “Inclusion Ambassadors” which is geared towards all managers in the organization. This is just one way that the organization is promoting a culture of inclusion, trust, and empowerment.

3.     Performance management continues to evolve at many organizations. Bridgestone Americas continues to evolve its approach to performance management, and Long noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the pace of change just as it is in many other areas. First, she noted that for this year in particular many goals from January simply are no longer relevant, or at least need to be updated, at the mid-way point in the year. So this year is a great example of the benefits of Bridgestone’s previous decision to change from once-a-year performance reviews to twice-a-year conversations. Long noted that this includes working with Total Rewards to provide recognition and incentives based on outstanding work for the first half of the year (something that can sometimes get forgotten or lost at organizations that wait until the end of the year). They are also emphasizing more continuous coaching and feedback, with Long noting the use of the infinity symbol to represent this in the organization.

One challenge for managers with this shift is learning how to best start the performance and feedback conversations. Long noted that she has found senior leaders are usually good at this, and front-line supervisors are generally good as well—but that middle managers tend to struggle the most. Technology and training can help some, but too often the conversation ends up focusing on a list of tasks or projects rather than being the desired two-way dialogue that includes the employees needs, etc. Fortunately, i4cp members have access to several tools to help with this challenge, including a set of Conversation Made Easy performance feedback cards, and a two-page Check-In Conversation Guide.

We asked participants on the call where their own organizations are on the evolution of performance management, and 40% said they still took a traditional approach involving once or twice a year check-ins and reviews. Another 40% said they are in transition by moving to a more continuous performance management model that includes continuous coaching and a feedback culture, and 20% said they had already shifted to that approach entirely. When we asked to what extent the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this evolution, 13% indicated it had accelerated it significantly and another 37% said it was accelerated somewhat.   

4.     The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest on succession management. As a follow-up to our earlier study on succession management, i4cp recently asked the same survey participants to see what, if anything, has changed recently. We first asked if the priority for succession management has changed in their organization, and 31% said that the priority had increased or significantly increased (vs. only 9% indicating it had decreased). When asked to what extent the pandemic and recent events will alter their organization’s succession management strategy, only 14% said it would to a high or very high extent, but a solid 37% said it would to a moderate extent. When then asked what will have increased importance for succession management candidate qualification and/or readiness, 60% indicated behaviors that promote inclusiveness or belonging, 54% said demonstrated ability to engage with others in a virtual environment, and 40% said behaviors that promote holistic well-being. When asked what she might add to this list from her experience at Bridgestone, Long stressed the ability for rising leaders to handle highly ambiguous environments—something we’ve all lived through in recent months.

In addition to the recording and notes, please see these resources: