Jane Hutcheson: Banking on a Learning Culture

Today’s learning must keep up with business demand and strategy. As vice president of learning and development for Toronto Dominion Bank Financial Group, Jane Hutcheson ensures education is a top-priority investment.

Name: Jane Hutcheson

Title: Vice President, Learning and Development

Company: Toronto Dominion Bank Financial Group


  • Training support for the largest acquisition in Canadian history, when Toronto Dominion bought a 15,000-person trust company in 2000.
  • Included training on mission-critical products and processes to support the conversion to a newly branded retail bank, TD Canada Trust.
  • Winner of an Award of Excellence from the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).
  • Development and rollout of a branded management development program to 3,000 people managers to consistent rave reviews from participants and their bosses.

Learning Philosophy: “Learning and development exist within our organization for the sole purpose of supporting the achievement of critical business objectives in the short-term and positioning the company to compete successfully over time. Our mandate is: Partners in performance—providing the right learning to the right people at the right time to achieve business objectives.”

Learning in today’s enterprise must come hard and fast in order to keep up with business demand, and the financial sector is particularly vulnerable as inundated knowledge workers must meet and satisfy sensitive customer needs, as well as the needs of the organization. As vice president of learning and development for Toronto Dominion Bank Financial Group, Jane Hutcheson provided more than 100,000 modules of training in 2003 and expects that number to double in 2004. Learning is a high priority for knowledge-worker organizations, and Hutcheson works to find new ways to provide learning that is simple, fast and easy.

Toronto Dominion Bank Financial Group (TD Bank) provides a full range of financial products and services through businesses such as asset management, securities and commercial banking. With approximately 48,000 employees to educate in offices around the world, one of Hutcheson’s greatest learning challenges at TD Bank is synergizing a consistent employee learning experience across diverse businesses, including full-time service brokers, retail branches, investment banking and a call-center environment.

Hutcheson does not have a learning background, but was groomed for her current position through a variety of consulting opportunities in the financial and retail sectors. She said that consulting fostered a new way of thinking that has helped her create the learning culture at TD Bank. “Banks say, ‘We need to have everything figured out. We need to send out the shrink-wrapped solution that’s thought of everything and is documented within an inch of its life,’ whereas in a retail culture, for example, that just doesn’t fly,” Hutcheson said. “They’re much more willing to say, ‘That sounds like a good idea. Let’s get it 75 percent right, hike it out to people, not assume it’s perfect, get feedback, monitor and fix it as you go along.’”

Hutcheson’s experience with implementing and executing strategy was further expanded through consulting work in research-based assessment and development, including job evaluations. “I ended up consulting around the people element, and you really needed to think about the ‘what’ side and the ‘how’ side,” Hutcheson said. “You had to take a strategy and say, ‘If this is the balanced scorecard for an initiative, here are the things we need to track and measure.’ Then you’d better figure out how to take that to the next level and say, ‘What are people accountable for? What kind of competencies, skills and expertise do people need in order to be able to deliver against those accountabilities?’”

Hutcheson also relied on the sales aspect of consulting to help her succeed in her current position. “This role is an interesting balance between reacting and being responsive to business needs,” she said. “You’ve got to sell to survive. You need to do relationship selling, and you need to understand the politics within an organization. I use that all the time in this role. I’ve never had a training job in my entire life,” Hutcheson said, adding that she was recruited for TD Bank because she knew the industry, how to influence and how to get things done. “I took a lot that I learned and I apply it in a different context, and I have very smart people within my group who have the degrees in instructional design, distance learning and so on.”

Part of TD Bank’s competitive business strategy is to act as an integrated company, rather than distinct business units operating independently. Customers are assured that their cross-divisional business needs will be seamlessly maintained for a holistic experience. That same integrated seamlessness applies to employee education, Hutcheson said. “There should be some expectations from an employee’s point of view that this is what it means to work at TD,” she explained. “I’m challenged to try and figure out ways to create consistent experience and operate with the same principles, yet recognize the differences in these different parts of the business. A retail branch manager in Idaho is going to have very different needs and approaches to life compared to an investment banker on Wall Street.”

In 2000, TD Bank purchased the largest trust company in Canada, adding approximately 15,000 employees to its existing workforce. The $8 billion deal brought with it a need for more specialized training. Conversion to a new system and the addition of new products and processes meant pulling out all the stops in terms of supporting the existing professionals and the newly acquired company. Hutcheson worked hard to deploy a disciplined project management methodology not currently in place at TD Bank. “The sheer volume of stuff we could potentially train people on was overwhelming, so we came up with a concept: It’s got to be mission-critical,” Hutcheson said. “We have to focus on what people absolutely have to know the morning the doors open of this new converted organization. So we focused on product knowledge like features and benefits and the processes required for fulfillment.”

One learning tactic came in the shape of some 90,000 binders, all stuffed with specific business objectives around retention of business, customer service and employee morale. “We didn’t have much of the technology to do this online at that time, so we had to use paper,” Hutcheson said. “People loved it. In a real time of insecurity, they could clutch it in their little hands, write notes in it, take it home and study it. It was hugely successful.”

Hutcheson works to use the same kind of content to provide productive and effective learning. “You know in a knowledge worker industry such as ours, people have to learn all the time, yet you have to prioritize and package learning for people so that it’s digestible and helps them understand that this is critical, whereas this falls in the category of nice-to-know,” Hutcheson said. “Figuring out how to work with the businesses to truly prioritize and make things crisp, succinct and focused is a huge challenge.”

To address this challenge, Hutcheson has modularized learning, limited the number of pages and hours for training and employed editors to help subject-matter experts streamline content for Web-, paper- and workshop-based learning. “We’ve also worked with senior executives and said it’s not enough to have a limit on the size of training, you also have to limit the number,” Hutcheson said. “If you have 200 small initiatives, you won’t accomplish what you want to accomplish. You need to limit the number of days that are available for training, create competition for what gets provided to people.”

As a result, three days may be focused on product training and another four on sales or behavioral training. All of it is monitored by a combination of field personnel and people within Hutcheson’s central learning and development group. Time is treated as a scarce learning resource. “The other population, the head-office support functions, tend to get very little training, and that’s another challenge—to find ways to provide competency-based training that drives a specific business strategy and is really important to promote people’s ability to be successful on their job,” Hutcheson said.

The yearly “Global Training Report” provides statistics on learning expenditures by business, investment and full-time employees. A team on Hutcheson’s staff is devoted strictly to the measurement of learning and generates reports to demonstrate return on investment, knowledge acquisition and on-the-job impact. “I’ve discovered there are very few situations where you can actually isolate the element of training from all of the other stuff that goes on in an environment,” Hutcheson said. “We do that very selectively and focus more clearly on the actual effectiveness of the training, which is more about thorough use of testing.”

TD Bank uses a range of different techniques, such as random sampling observations and three- to six-month surveys and evaluations to measure training effectiveness, but Hutcheson does not hold learning wholly accountable for the success or failure of an initiative. “I want us to take accountability for what we do, but I don’t want training as a function to take responsibility for the fact that the market went bad, they selected the wrong people or their compensation system was wrong.” Hutcheson said. “We try not to do carpet-bomb training. Not everyone is at the same level of training. Some people need it, and some people don’t. We’re doing a better job of modularizing. Let’s allow an opportunity for a test, then say, ‘You only need to take modules two and seven.’ We’re partners in performance, and we’re providing the right learning to the right individuals at the right time. How can you do that unless you understand what people already know?”

TD Bank’s management development program includes coaching, 360-degree multi-rater surveys, self-assessment and mastery testing of the 22 identified management practices, which must be completed before candidates can attend class. “There’s a very cool element of this that I love that just blows people away,” Hutcheson said. “It’s very powerful getting the feedback, and it’s a significant investment, but worth every cent.”

On the third day of the management development workshop, actors or simulators called “Ms. Performance Management” or “Mr. Developing Others” role-play in active learning to create a mythical task force at TD Bank. Extremely realistic actors who never break character help participants emotionally engage and coach to understand their specific strengths and weaknesses. “I observed one of the coaching sessions, and an individual was coaching this woman who was supposed to be very smart but very aggressive. If you coached her properly and asked questions to try and understand, you began to appreciate that she had an inferiority complex because she didn’t have much formal education. She was overcompensating by being aggressive. If you just said, ‘You shouldn’t do that, what’s the matter with you?’ this woman, the actor, actually started to cry. That kind of emotion is definitely beneficial in training. It’s one thing to talk about the theory, but quite another to be emotionally engaged. Then you’ll really remember it. It’s high-touch, and that’s the secret to success going forward. If you’re someone’s boss, you need to understand that whole person,” Hutcheson said. “If you help someone work through difficult challenges in their life, they will love this organization, perform and give you their discretionary effort. Instead of coming and going through the motions, they’ll really try because they’ll really care.”

In addition to the learning maps that have been created for key roles in the organization, the future of learning at TD Bank will include implementation of an enterprise-wide learning management system and efforts to leverage technology across a geographically dispersed population. “We also have a focus on leadership development as distinct from management development,” Hutcheson said. “What does it mean to be a leader at TD? How do we support people in their development? Another bid area of focus in Canada is ensuring that we are compliant with anti-money-laundering and privacy legislation and so on, that we find efficient and effective ways to deliver that training to mass populations, figuring out how to operationalize the high-touch component. How do we make it come alive?”

Kellye Whitney is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer magazine. E-mail Kellye at kellyew@clomedia.com.

November 2004 Table of Contents