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This Is How We Do It

‘THIS IS HOW WE DO IT’101
Lori Seal built a culture-rich training program to curtail poaching, lost time and bad fits

Although Blytheco has over 40 years of success helping clients evaluate and implement business software, nothing prepared its executives for how cutthroat hiring in tech would become.

Blytheco consultants — often the ones who knew the ins and outs of customers — were regularly poached by other companies seeking to close a very real talent shortage.

“Losing team members to poaching hurts the customers the most,” says Lori Seal, CEO of Blytheco and a Vistage member since 2012. “When a consultant works with a customer implementing their software, they learn a lot about their unique business processes, tailoring that software to the customer’s business. Poaching is impactful not only because of the cost to recruit and train, but more importantly, because of the disruption to our customers.”

New hires often spent hours re-learning the customer’s business, resulting in unbillable hours for Blytheco, frustrated clients and wasted time. And with 100 employees serving 2,000 clients, Blytheco lost time serving other customers while bringing new hires up to speed. This loop was untenable for Seal. Something had to change.

2022 STAR program graduate Brian Renner works with a client.

She also noticed another recruiting issue: the talent “gold rush.” Blytheco soon found itself flooded with job seekers, many of whom were skilled and knew the software but didn’t fit with the company’s culture. To Seal, this felt like a poor trade.

She began to wonder: Could they build a system that could train culturally positive employees to be excellent software consultants, while also training employees on existing customers? Seal shares, “I imagined a program where we could be part of the solution rather than perpetuating the damage.’”

In 2017, Blytheco executives joined the cause and launched the “STAR Program,” which stands for Strategic Training and Recruiting. Seal hoped that it could help solve the poaching, recruiting and brain-drain challenges while building a bench of team members truly passionate around creating client success.

Blytheco was committed to launching the STAR Program and recognized the potential to “fail our way to success.” Initially, this proved true. The program was far too structured and didn’t produce the right graduates. But Seal knew the program had merit. She and others at Blytheco interviewed other companies with similar programs and adjusted STAR to fit their needs.

We allow them to manage their time, reach creatively for success and demonstrate a ton of initiative and ownership.
Lori Seal, CEO of Blytheco

“Now, we give them all kinds of program goals and enable them with materials, but we don’t drive their consumption of it,” Seal says. “We allow them to manage their time, reach creatively for success, and demonstrate a ton of initiative and ownership. We evolved the program to emulate what that end role is truly like.”

STAR is now used to onboard new employees and provide training courses on Blytheco’s consulting “secret sauce,” products and approach to customer service. Gone are the days of poach-driven brain drain.

Thus far, more than a third of Blytheco consultants have been through the STAR Program. It’s had positive effects across the entire company, Seal says, building better attributes in employees, recruiting people who fit the culture, and assisting in scaling up the workforce. “It’s had millions of dollars of impact on the bottom line,” Seal says. “Without being able to scale our delivery team up by 50 percent, we would have had to turn away a lot of business — we would have had far more turnover and retention challenges.”

Blytheco has also experienced a cultural boost, with both employee engagement and customer satisfaction scores rising since it adopted the STAR Program. “It’s affected everything,” she says. “We have created opportunities for people to have a new career that they wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise.”

To other companies desiring their own training program, Seal shares that executives must buy into the program for it to thrive. At least one executive must champion the program implementation and the life of the program. Blytheco still has monthly meetings where executives examine the program’s metrics.

“There needs to be an ongoing attitude of commitment and refinement,” Seal says. “That’s key.”

Seal says that much of the inspiration for this program came from her decade in Vistage groups. Through Vistage, she’s learned that knowledge is teachable, but radical changes to a worker’s core attributes are more difficult to shift. This is a big reason why Blytheco began hiring for fit and training for skill. Seal has also learned from her Vistage experience that the struggle for talent exists in every industry. That’s why she wants to share the bones of the STAR Program with other companies, even competitors.

“We believe that the rising tide will lift all ships,” Seal says. “If we can get more companies in our ecosystem to do this, they’ll create more talent, which will help all of us create better customer experiences and give us more access to talent. We’re all in a position to affect a positive change.”

That belief led Blytheco to launch the “Luminosity Program,” an offshoot of STAR that will help high school kids in underserved communities get years of training to work in tech.

“We’re all facing talent scarcity,” Seal says. “It’s the No. 1 challenge businesses have: Not having access to enough quality talent to allow them to live out their mission. We all can be proactive in solving that, right down to future generations. Businesses have a lot of power to address this problem.”

3 LESSONS LEARNED
With Bob Dabic, Seal’s Vistage Chair
Training programs are critical to retaining high-performing staff.
Continuous development is one of the main reasons high performers stay with a company. If you can’t provide challenging growth opportunities for high performers, then they will move on to another organization where their aspirations can be fulfilled.
Training is a significant recruitment tool.
To attract high performers, you need to regularly invest resources in training to grow your people. Training programs provide an enormous return on the time and money invested and tend to greatly improve morale!
Training and development prevents brain drain.
Seal and Blytheco’s senior management team created a systematic way to regularly train and develop managers and staff, which has minimized brain drain. They have also been able to attract new talent into competitive roles, training and equipping them for success.
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