Personalized Attention at SITA

With 4,500 employees spread across 220 countries and territories, leadership development presents a challenge to SITA.

With 4,500 employees spread across 220 countries and territories, leadership development presents a challenge to SITA.

For more than 60 years, the company, which specializes in air transport communication and IT solutions, has delivered and managed sophisticated business solutions for air transport, global distribution systems and government customers. To maintain a cohesive leadership development model across its worldwide network, SITA’s Leadership and Organizational Development (L/OD) group takes a personalized and virtual approach.

Senior members of the eight-person L/OD staff are coaches collaborating with five human resources business partners to support top leaders and high-potential successors. The coaching relationship consists of online chat, e-mail, phone or face-to-face discussions on topics ranging from leadership competencies to business concepts to mentoring issues.

Supported by CEO Francesco Violante after a restructuring in 2006, the company improved the formalized talent management and succession planning process. Through extensive assessments, 30 high-potential leaders emerged. SITA built a program for this critical group that focused on eight core competencies, including creating and innovating, formulating strategies and concepts, and persuading and influencing.

“These high potentials could be anywhere in the world and often have little routine access to collaborative development,” said Patrick Robertson, senior director of global learning and organizational development, and senior director of HR services. “The idea to use e-learning for this curriculum made sense, but there was a question of how to deliver, track and integrate with our commitment to a hands-on coaching program.”

SITA created a leadership development portal built around eight competencies with robust support for interaction so the user and his or her manager and coaches could collaborate. For example, the ability to query a specific topic often results in a callback from the coach. “We use every opportunity to connect,” Robertson said.

The L/OD group worked closely with suppliers of senior leader development materials to map content to the competencies. Content selections accommodated different learning styles, from articles and in-depth business cases to video faculty lectures and short, expert video lessons.

“These high potentials are working managers with deliverables, so the system had to be sensitive to their time constraints,” said Janet Shields, director of learning and organizational development. “Users can download many materials to their mobile devices, [such] as MP3 or PDF files, so that they can use any downtime to keep their development moving forward.”

SITA’s leadership development portal follows a fuel gauge metaphor. Each high potential has an individual dashboard with eight gauges corresponding to the competencies. The system tracks and monitors the “fuel” in each gauge, showing full, lower or empty based on the initial assessment of mastery, plus materials accessed.

The high potentials build individualized archives of material to populate each gauge. The dynamic gauges change with each new selection and as the user accesses the materials. The manager and L/OD coach have a view into their selections and progress.

“We are very involved with their progress,” Shields said. “E-learning has given us even more opportunities to connect one-on-one. We can see what they are working on, the questions they have, and sometimes we advise them to focus on a different area than they were planning. In fact, our remotely located staff are sometimes amazed to get a call from a coach within minutes of initiating a query in the portal.”

Company officials said the awareness of leadership development with key leaders in the business has been significantly raised since the rollout, and the 24×7 availability of the content is a major success factor.