Beginning with the end in mind, the organization identified the transformational leadership behaviors required to move the organization toward its new vision. Here’s their story:

“When John Klein became the CEO two years ago, he understood that with true leadership, (which differs from management), People’s could achieve its vision,” said Rondi Frey, manager, Leadership Development, People’s Corporate University, People’s Bank. “That meant creating a solid understanding of what kind of leadership we needed to take us there.

“Changing a 160-year old organization is not easy,” said Frey. “We looked at all aspects of our business. We really wanted to change our image for the customer, and to do so we needed to change the culture of the organization.”

Looking at different areas including products and services, marketing, customer perception and internal systems, People’s Bank determined that the organization needed an internal change to transform its external perception. Frey spearheaded the leadership development effort to change the internal culture. “We didn’t want this to be a flavor of the month,” she said. “We wanted this process to be something we could live with for a long time and that would be integral to our people systems.”

A team of senior leaders chartered and championed the leadership portion of the project and asked representatives from the Organization Effectiveness (OE) division to help determine how the new leadership model/competencies would change their systems and drive the business. “This is when we came in contact with BT.Novations,” said Frey. “We wanted a simplistic model that everyone in the company could aspire to.”

The competency model became known as “Leadership as ART,” and features nine competencies focusing on Accountability, Results and Teamwork (ART). “Everyone is a leader and everyone contributes,” said Frey. “These competencies translate what we mean by ART. Everyone can find themselves in these competencies – regardless of their role in the organization.”

From there, People’s Bank adopted BT.Novations’ Four StagesTM Model, defining each competency by “stage” of development, i.e., depending on others, contributing independently, contributing through others and entrepreneurial contributor. “When we married our competencies and the Stages, we came up with behavioral anchors and a language for development,” said Frey. “What was interesting was that through this language, the image of our department shifted from ‘training’ to ‘learning,’ and we established People’s Corporate University (PCU) to support continuous learning to achieve business results.”

“We did a lot of compelling things to support leadership development and make it appealing to employees. And we hooked all of our programs together, including competency-based curriculum, new workshops and online modules,” said Frey. The PCU homepage was launched in March 2000, and, since that time, has gone through extensive upgrades. “It is a resource center where you can learn about Stages, competencies and career bests.”

By positioning People’s programs with BT.Novations’ Stages and competencies, learning and development maps were created. “We were able to focus on learning and developing critical aspects of growth, and also determined areas where we could not effectively train, such as departments that required special skill training like technology-oriented skills,” said Frey. “We repositioned all of our programs, redesigned our curriculum and out of our 250 programs, we eliminated 75 percent, thus retaining a huge efficiency savings.”

PCU has not overcome all of its obstacles. “It is a learning journey,” said Frey. “We are still challenged every day as we strive to enhance leadership throughout the organization.”

Some positive results include the number of individuals who visit the website. “Our organization has about 3,600 employees and 60 to 75 percent use our site,” said Frey. “The more people who use it, the better. It is really a marketing tool to let our employees know what we are about and what we can offer them to develop and grow their careers.”

Frey also uses surveys to get feedback regarding their department’s services. “We know that things are happening differently then they were in the past. We have lots of testimonials from individuals who find the tools and resources invaluable. Many employees realize they can actually have a career best.”

“Our goal is for each employee to experience ongoing development so that their interests, passions and specific talents are effectively matched to organization needs,” said People’s President and Chief Executive Officer John Klein in March 2002. “We strive to have all our employees working at their career best.”

PCU currently uses level one and level two evaluations for their courses and programs. “We are beginning to benchmark and are really moving into level three behavior change,” said Frey. “Next year, we will be able to tell if we have moved the organizational needle. Sometimes I want the change to come faster, but I know we are millenniums from where we were two years ago.”

As for the future, one of PCU’s goals is to offer its services to outside customers who bank with People’s Bank. “It will differentiate us in the marketplace, increase customer loyalty and attract more customers,” said Frey. “It is exciting to be working at an organization that places such high value on leadership and learning.”

Frey feels good about the progress thus far. “Change doesn’t happen overnight, but we can make major leaps,” said Frey. “PCU has realized that we cannot be all things to all employees. Leadership as ART sets us up to be very focused. That is a lesson that I would hope other people can learn.”

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People’s Bank (peoples.com) is a diversified financial services company providing commercial, consumer, insurance and investment services. Founded in 1842, it is the largest state-chartered bank in Connecticut with managed assets of $14 billion, 151 branches and 230 ATMs. People’s is a leader in consumer and commercial banking, residential lending, insurance sales, supermarket banking and is the nation’s 15th-largest issuer of MasterCard and Visa credit cards. People’s subsidiaries offer brokerage services, asset management, equipment financing and leasing, and insurance services.


BT.Novations provides companies globally with a full range of HR consulting services, from employee selection and retention to development and contribution. More information on the firm may be found at http://www.bt.novations.com.

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