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Agilent Technologies
High‐Impact Measurement Supports High Potential Development Next-Generation Leadership at Agilent
Agilent Technologies
INDUSTRY: Technology
EMPLOYEES: 25,000+
The measurement firm enhanced their Next Generation Leadership development programs, AIM, and LEAD, with competency development and assessments to improve its internal development pipeline of high potentials.
One of the world's leading measurement firms, Agilent Technologies, was committed to improving its internal development pipeline of high potentials into middle and senior management positions. To insure strategic business objectives were met, the learning and development team identified Agilent-specific competencies and survey instruments as being vital in their enterprise-wide Next Generation Leadership development programs, AIM, and LEAD. We spoke with Camino-Markowitz, Director of Agilent's Next Generation Leadership program. She described Agilent's focus on building an internal pipeline of future leaders and the development programs focused on enterprise-wide high potential talent: LEAD, for contributors transitioning from Stage 2 (independent contributors) to Stage 3 (contributes through others); and AIM, for leaders transitioning from Stage 3 management positions into Stage 4 strategic leadership roles.

"In 2006, our Global Learning and Leadership team recognized that we needed consistent leadership competencies across the organization," said Camino-Markowitz. "We worked with an off-the-shelf solution for the first year before moving to tailor our internal competencies and how they were applied at different levels in the organization."
Agilent put together a diverse team in the design and implementation process, including global learning and development consultants, business HR managers, and representatives from the staffing organization to approach the project holistically, focusing on the overall goals and outcomes, and ensuring alignment with ongoing talent acquisition, deployment and development efforts. This team reflected Agilent's cross-geographic diversity, representing Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Americas.

Finding a Partner
"We knew we wanted to find a partner that recognized talent development across every level in the organization, and an integrated approach throughout the talent management process. We wanted differentiation and we knew we needed a partner who could meet us on understanding our needs, developing a simple and cost effective solution within our admittedly tight timeframe."

Agilent's CLO, Teresa Roche, was familiar with Global Novations and the Four Stages® of Contribution Model for career development, and felt that it fit well within Agilent's core value of leadership at every level. Ultimately Global Novations was selected due to a number of factors; the alignment of the Four Stages ®of Contribution to Agilent's values, the capability to use the SkilAnalyzer® tool in the talent selection process, Global Novations' willingness to customize solutions to meet Agilent's specific needs, and the professionalism, flexibility, and competence of Global Novations' people to customize the Agilent competencies. Prior work had been done with Sally Nowak, from the global learning organization, on developing a competency model for the Agilent leadership framework and this latest body of work would build on that foundation. Agilent's leadership model reflects the key capabilities expected of Agilent leaders: setting and aligning strategy, building organizational capability and delivering results.

First, Global Novations would look at the competencies required to identify high potential, and then a 360 survey design would be constructed and implemented in AIM and LEAD. The 360 survey would supply a baseline and post-program measure for the high-potentials that completed the programs.

The work took a phased approach, with different Agilent team members stepping in to provide specific expertise throughout the development and roll-out process. One of the hallmarks of the Agilent-Global Novations partnership was the shared understanding of the different roles played and the need for a quick ramp-up to make that extended team highly effective. "We needed the flexibility, desire, and commitment that Global Novations provided in addressing our specific needs and we have found that Global Novations has always exceeded our expectations in both understanding and delivering on our needs," said Camino-Markowitz.

The yearly AIM and LEAD programs are launched by the 360 surveys. "That was the litmus test of the roll-out process," said Camino-Markowitz. "As with any online tool roll-out, and specifically based on our previous 360 experience, we were holding our breath for any potential issues; would there be typical technical issues or problems with raters not responding?" The roll-out was flawless.

Coaching Rooted in Four Stages®
Agilent utilizes an external partner, AON Consulting, to provide one-on-one coaching for each of the participants in AIM and LEAD throughout the duration of the programs, beginning with interpretation of the 360. It was important for these coaches to understand this new approach and Agilent arranged webinars that allowed the coaches to become versed in the basics of the Four Stages® of Contribution model. They also went through the Global Novations-designed survey tool to prepare for the roll out. With this background, these seasoned coaches were able to provide the Agilent participants valuable insight into the development areas that would best suit them and the organization.

Camino-Markowitz described the coaching component of the program, "The coaches helped the participants interpret their data and identify the right development work in alignment with the business and individual goals. We wanted an integrated approach to development and for individuals to consider what will serve them best as they move into the next level of their development plan. The development plan is the output of the pre-360 and is really focused on identifying the key areas of development for the individual in preparation for the next level of responsibility." She continued, "Identifying just gaps isn't always the answer, depending on the career path or goals of the individual, looking at overused strengths and other indicators need consideration. The coach is very effective at crystallizing the right focus for the individual."

Using the Data to Drive Development
The survey data provided extremely helpful and timely feedback to individuals as they continuously developed their leadership skills. Agilent's aggregate survey data results have shown consistent improvements in leadership competencies from AIM and LEAD participants.

Camino-Markowitz said it is very exciting to see the quantitative data and use it as part of the individual and group conversation. "We can talk to the group about what the group scores can mean relative to meeting our business objectives and where they need to focus. As participants improve, we can share that information; that is very exciting. That's a very specific way to answer 'how do you measure results?' We do aggregate reports for both pre- and post-surveys and you can clearly see how we have moved 150 individuals' proficiency in the competencies and behaviors that Agilent expects every year."

She continued, "This year, we viewed the emerging themes from the pre-survey within both the group and individuals. We used that data to extrapolate where the group of high potential talent needed to focus to move the needle in achieving strategic goals. We use this information in the development of our program content, in anchoring themes, and raising awareness. For example, many of the participants were highly rated by peers and employees, but their manager ratings were not as high. Why was that? We hypothesized that the participants needed to strengthen their relationships with their managers; they needed to create more visibility about the things they were doing, and create better linkages in aligning strategy. It gave that group awareness and connection to something that might be missed without the aggregate data, and helped us determine how to use the data as part of the development conversation and in the design of the program."

Each facet of the AIM and LEAD programs are designed to spur conversation about how to be a better leader at Agilent, laterally from peers and upward to senior leaders. "Having integrated and effective tools allows us to have value-driven conversations."

"We have the right tool, and the right partnership that allows us to look a little deeper into what themes we need to focus on. It's thrilling to have the data of the post-training surveys, to see how these individuals are perceived by peers, clients, employees, leaders. It is wonderful feedback, and feedback outside of performance management is critical to development, and most welcome by our top talent.

As part of the partnership with the global learning and leadership development organization, Global Novations has made it very easy for us to be flexible and give better service to our internal clients."

Next steps: beyond AIM and LEAD
Agilent went beyond the existing surveys of the AIM and LEAD programs when they reached out to Global Novations again to help with the program participant selection. Agilent managers nominated their direct reports for the program, and the process was not as defined as it could have been.

"We felt that we were utilizing the 360s very well, but we also began to get curious about what areas we needed to strengthen within the program. We looked at how to strengthen the nomination process," said Camino-Markowitz. Agilent had strongly supported the program internally, with increased communication, tutorials for managers on what was expected of a program participant, and instruction on how to have a conversation with potential program candidates.

Agilent believes the managers and leaders within the businesses are the best people to put candidates forth, and sought to provide a source of objective validation for their nominations into the programs. Global Novations designed a "quick Hi Po assessment" survey based on the Four Stages®, and focused on some of Agilent's key leadership competencies. A low-profile pilot project, Agilent managers used the tool to validate their high potential candidate identification. While not heavily marketed internally, the survey was well received and leaders outside of the pilot came forward to request the tool the following year.
High Potential Quality: Before and After
After implementing the Hi Po assessment, Agilent contrasted the previous year's AIM and LEAD benchmark 360 surveys with the benchmark surveys conducted after implementing the quick assessment. The benchmarks of participants after implementation of the Hi Po assessment were higher, and one could hypothesize that it indicates more successful participant selection.

Agilent Technologies has implemented a high potential identification and development process that is fully integrated with their global leadership framework, incorporates several external partners, and provides individual development that is highly targeted to create the leaders required to execute their strategic vision.

Leslie Camino-Markowitz couldn't be happier about the outcomes of the programs or the Agilent-Global Novations partnership. "We work as innovators, in solution and process innovation. We continue to ask questions about what we need to achieve and how we can do it better. We are fairly easy to work with and we value partnerships and collaboration, but we move quickly and want partners who won't sacrifice service for low cost. We really take our partnerships to heart. Having partners like Global Novations helps us on our way to becoming the world's premier measurement company."