In 2017, The Home Depot (THD) successfully launched a two-year enterprise-wide leadership development program for new managers called Leading Orange for Managers (LOM). Creating and executing LOM was a large undertaking and called for strategic alignment across the business as well as in the learning and development (L&D) department. 

THD is a home improvement Fortune 100 company with various business units and entities serving numerous markets (home improvement retail, home services, and maintenance, repair and operations). Leaders and associates work in office environments, in retail stores, on customer sites, and in distribution centers.

Associate development is a top priority for THD based on feedback from the Voice of the Associate survey. The LOM program develops new managers on foundational leadership concepts. Developing new managers at the beginning of their leadership journey enables them to be more successful, serve their team members better, and drive a culture of development.

Over a two-year period, managers going through the LOM program complete 32 hours of training and development. Currently, approximately 2,000 associates are actively going through LOM. January 2019 will mark the conclusion of the initial implementation of the two-year program. It’s estimated that the first group to complete the full program will be about 200 to 250 leaders.

To date, the average Level 1 evaluation scores across all courses are 4.67 out of 5. The average Level 3 scores are 4.53 and 4.28 from participants and their managers respectively. The Level 1 scores measure learner reaction to the courses and the Level 3 scores measure application of the learning resulting in behavior change, as reported by the learners and their managers. The opportunities to level-set on leadership behaviors while meeting other managers from across the enterprise are invaluable.

This article highlights how the L&D department executed the LOM program with a focus on instructional design (ID).

Enterprise-wide Audience

The LOM program initially deployed as an instructor-led training (ILT) program for the Atlanta Store Support Center (THD’s headquarters) audience. The ILT experience consisted of opportunities for skills practice and peer feedback along with electronic handouts and workbooks. Learners continued application with on-the-job exercises called Beyond the Classroom. These self-driven activities and reflections aligned with program content areas and resources.

The ID team created materials that would work for any audience at THD, including stores, distribution centers, and others. Here are some ways that the team met this challenge.

IDs designed experiences with broad, culturally appropriate language that would apply to different parts of the business. To do this, they used common language, acronyms and terms. For example, in the coaching and development course, instead of using coaching examples specific to one audience, IDs wrote a scenario that could happen to any audience member, regardless of their work environment, language and policies. In addition, the team used diverse examples of race, gender and background to be inclusive of the different types of associates and business areas at THD.

The team also represented different audiences with a variety of media. IDs worked with internal media experts to create photos, animations and videos representing the different business areas and departments at THD. For example, IDs wrote scenarios that any new manager could face but used media from key parts of the business for each scenario.

Additionally, some examples took a universal approach. In a course on collaboration, IDs worked with media developers to create a video about the importance of collaboration in the context of firefighting. Even though the firefighter example was not specific to the environment of THD, it helped learners to make connections and improve decision-making about collaboration.

On the other hand, courses like business acumen taught concepts using THD’s earnings report and also focused on a store profit and loss to help learners recognize trends and behaviors driving the numbers in the core part of the business. This topic allowed learners to learn about financials while giving them the confidence and resources to share the company’s performance with their teams back on the job.

Finally, a dedicated project team of L&D subject matter experts (SMEs) representing different areas of the business reviewed and approved the materials. The purpose of this was to ensure all audiences were included.

Asynchronous Learning

While the team continued to create and facilitate instructor-led courses, they also created asynchronous versions of the ILT content to benefit leaders in other environments at THD. The team created an experience that matched the integrity and interactivity of the ILT program. For the asynchronous experience, the team of IDs created a comprehensive, blended learning approach consisting of three parts.

First, for the initial learning experience, IDs created e-learning courses. And to ensure interactivity for each course, the team developed rich media experiences in partnership with media experts. Videos and motion graphics featured different THD environments, and the courses used language that fit the culture and different parts of the business.

Next, learners completed a series of activities back on the job that had them interacting with their leaders, other leaders and their teams. These experiences ranged from one to three hours and provided them with opportunities to practice new skills and get feedback from others.

Finally, learners came back to the LMS to reflect on their on-the-job experiences. This is where they wrote about lessons learned and answered open-ended questions, allowing them to reflect. Additionally, the team built experiences to drive learners’ vertical development by helping them address potential limiting mindsets and to think at a more advanced level.

Partnerships Across L&D

While key partnerships across HR and the business were necessary to pull off this program, the ID team worked closely with L&D strategists and SMEs to create content and align on delivery. 

The strategy managers and project team were responsible for conducting initial analyses on the business needs for new managers and aligning the needs with THD’s overall strategy. IDs met with this team to create and review leadership models, drafts and final deliverables. This team represented various business groups at THD and provided an accurate picture of activities and language that would resonate with each one.

As mentioned before, a rich media experience was integral to creating a broad learner experience for all solutions. In addition, for delivery, IDs collaborated with leadership training managers (LTMs), highly skilled facilitators focused on interactive and engaging classroom experiences, to ensure messaging and experiences worked for the audience. The LTMs played a key role in teaching concepts and helping learners walk away with additional on-the-job experiences. They also helped build a sense of community among learners at each session and tied each experience to past and future ones.

Final Considerations

L&D continues to work on the best ways to provide ongoing support to managers. With the use of the company’s intranet, there are various resources like videos, book summaries and tip sheets specific to THD’s culture, values and environment.

L&D is also leveraging enterprise-wide content in other programs with additional leaders. Other benefits are that LOM courses can be used on their own or as part of a full leadership development program. In addition, the L&D team is piloting an action learning program for managers that builds in coaching and peer support groups to run concurrently with the LOM program.