Stanford Manager Academy Helps Support a Learning Culture

When Stanford University sought to create a comprehensive program to develop managers, it trusted Interaction Associates - and that program was recognized by the prestigious Brandon Hall Excellence Awards for "Best Results of a Learning Program" in 2014.


Stanford University determined it wanted to replace its open-enrollment, individual, one-off classes for managers with a more robust and comprehensive development program. An employee engagement study identified gaps which pointed to a need for more and better manager development. Surveys and interviews with stakeholders indicated that employees felt they received too little feedback, had a lack of clarity regarding career paths, and insufficient or spotty goal-setting. 

How Interaction Associates Helped

Stanford’s Learning and Organizational Effectiveness group, working with Interaction Associates, outlined a development program that integrated a 360-degree survey, focused dialogues with participants’ managers, four days spent in classroom learning, and coaching to support focused development.  The program is implemented over three months to support robust learning while limiting people’s time away from their regular work.

Stanford selected Interaction Associates for several reasons, according to Julie Turchin, Talent Portfolio Manager. Interaction Associates delivers tactical, practical tools that people can use right away. In addition, Julie said that Stanford valued both IA’s facilitative leadership philosophy and the existing partnership. Senior Consultant Patty McManus worked with the Stanford’s team to extensively customize the material. She co-conducted an audience analysis, with many interviews --- and, because Stanford is very collaborative, a variety of stakeholders contributed input.

The pilot launched in the fall of 2012. After improvements were made, the program launched and continued over the course of the first year, developing about 350 people. Heading into year two, it is open to everyone who manages at least one full-time staff member.

Return on Involvement

Julie Turchin said, “Stanford is like a city: we have an incredibly diverse workforce, from nuclear physicists, to plumbing personnel, to librarians. We’re developing team leaders with 50-60 direct reports, and those who manage just one employee. The program is immediately accessible to all levels. It’s simple and practical, not dogmatic.”

According to a recent impact study conducted by Stanford, 99% of participants say they learned something they can use. One of the integral program elements is explicit goal setting for program follow up and on-the-job application.  The efforts to engage participants before and after the program have demonstrated value: according to the impact study, participants were twice as likely to report that they had achieved significant results with the program if they had completed a written development plan.

One of the program bonuses is the very positive buzz on campus, always good news when an organization is working at shifting its culture. Because the classroom instruction is targeted to a cross-campus audience, Julie added, “This culture can continue to be promoted. We are trying to make sure it spreads.” 

Stanford Management Academy earned a 2014 Silver Excellence Award from Brandon Hall Group for Best Results of a Learning Program

IA Services Provided

Customized manager development program.

Project at a Glance

Co-created a comprehensive manager development program for Stanford University.

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