A career path is a personalized journey filled with opportunities that branch and scatter into new directions. With so many different options, it is easy to slip into tunnel vision when locked on to specific career goals. Aspiring leaders see the bigger picture and know the journey is just as important as the destination.
“Leadership development programs provide a broad exposure to different parts of the company, while gaining the leadership skills they need to succeed,” said Kendall Bowness, Accelerated Leadership Program (ALP) graduate and assistant vice president of core market underwriting at Unum.
The ALP is a six-month learning experience that develops high-performing individual contributors to prepare them for manager level roles. While in the program, Bowness participated in leadership assessments, gained different perspectives through mentorship, and developed solutions for real business issues stakeholders and senior leaders were facing.
For early career professionals, programs like the Professional Development Program (PDP) offer extended exposure to different aspect of the business through department rotations. This three-year program prepares young professionals with skills they need before accepting director level positions within the enterprise. Program associates receive mentorship, a formalized leadership curriculum, and a strong network of program alumni.
Specialized Development Programs
“The company does a great job of supporting you through the certification process,” said Nora Merriman AFDP graduate and director of investment accounting at Unum. “When I was studying for my Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credentials, I received paid study hours so that I could study while I was working. They also paid for my study materials. Out-of-pocket, those materials would have cost around $3,000.”
For specialized career development paths, Unum and Colonial Life also incorporate multi-year rotational programs for employees. These programs include the Accounting and Finance Development Program (AFDP), and the Actuarial Development Program (ADP). The end goal is to provide on-the-job experience and exposure to different areas of the business related to their specialized experience. The AFDP and the ADP also provide study resources for certification exams.
These programs encourage autonomy toward the pursuit of professional goals. Kristen Long, ADP graduate and director of actuary of group pricing at Unum, said if she had specific actuarial interests, the program would provide her with opportunities for roles that matched the direction she wanted to develop her skills.
“The program rotates to different actuarial functions and parts of the business,” said Long. “Along the way we are responsible for different development goals and opportunities, it is on us to own that growth within our different roles. The goal is to create well-developed and well-rounded actuaries and business leaders.”
Mentors Help Connect the Dots
Mentorship is a prominent component in these programs because it provides insight on how others might strategically find solutions. Ian Bateman, PDP graduate and director of products and market development at Unum said senior leader and peer mentors helped him see outside of his immediate role.
“Mentorship gave me an opportunity to connect the dots,” said Bateman. “I had a chance to connect with people in different departments, which provided a great roadmap on how to look at the industry and how I can grow and develop.”
Unum and Colonial Life provide a Career Development Guide for employees to help them focus on what motivates and energizes them, pinpoint their areas of interest, and take action. Managers have at least quarterly conversations with their employees.
Career development programs elevate employees to new heights. When employers create a supportive environment where talented individuals can sharpen their skills through real experiences, they have a hand in strengthening the leaders of the future.