In the course of our work as performance consultants and learning professionals, we are always looking to show business impact, either return on investment or return on expectations. Engagement surveys provide a great source of data to understand where to focus.

A 2012 engagement survey provided the Enterprise Learning Team at the Hershey Company with the opportunity to scrutinize such data. The survey revealed that only a slight majority of employees thought they were offered the training and development opportunities they needed. The leadership team wanted to push that number higher. A 5% point favorability increase on two questions was the goal, and thus the Growing Careers@Hershey project was launched.

The cornerstone premise of the project was twofold. First, a newly developed leadership competency model, which we called Hershey Global Leadership Behaviors, was positioned as the foundation of career development. The behaviors were developed at four levels of leadership. Stratifying the behaviors showed a career progression for moving up in the organization. Second, Hershey defined career development as “building your portfolio of skills and experiences.” The behaviors were positioned as a transferable skill set. No matter where you worked at Hershey globally, developing these behaviors was essential for success. This positioning encouraged Hershey employees to look at lateral career moves as a way to “build their portfolio” with the behaviors as the foundation for success.

Marketing techniques were used to create awareness of the behaviors. Traditional marketing emphasizes the 4 Ps (product, place, price, and promotion). Hershey used three of these in the project.  We incorporated the product, leadership behaviors, in other key Hershey processes. The behaviors were aligned to the compensation broad banding structure and were part of performance management. The pervasive importance of these behaviors motivated the workforce to want to learn about them.

We created a virtual place for employees to learn about these important behaviors. All salaried employees were invited to two-hour events in Growing Careers@Hershey. During these virtual, conference-like events, participants could learn about the behaviors and other career topics by reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts, querying live hosts, and testing themselves. Segments, 15 minutes in duration were set aside for members of the leadership team to relate their career stories and answer questions in real-time.

Finally, the team used promotion techniques to create interest and “buzz.”  Short video “knowledge nuggets” were distributed on each behavior.  At the end of each video, employees were asked to submit words or phrases that came to mind regarding that behavior. The input was used to create word cloud logos for each of the behaviors. These employee-created logos were then used for banners and other marketing collateral that was distributed to all Hershey locations.

The two engagement survey questions increased in their favorability scores in 2013:

  • “I know how to advance my career at Hershey.”  (+12.9%)
  • “I am offered training and development opportunities that will help me advance my career.”  (+6.8%)

Growing Careers@Hershey was a success, and the results yielded a business impact that was beyond expectations.

About the Authors

MaryFarrellMary Farrell is currently the senior manager of Global Enterprise Learning & Development at the Hershey Company. Prior to joining Hershey in 2012, Mary spent the majority of her career in learning and development leadership roles at IBM where she achieved many internal and external awards, including an ASTD Excellence in Practice Citation. Mary specializes in innovative learning design and performance consulting.



GingerSwopeGinger Swope is currently the principal of Swope Learning Design LLC. Ginger enjoyed a 30-year career at IBM, Florida State University, and Comware as a performance and learning consultant. Among her clients are the Hershey Company and Edwards Educational Services.