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Building a Better Team: Blue Matter Academy

Posted by Bethany Ahlers, Head of Blue Matter Academy on September 22nd, 2020.

A key part of building a People First Culture is making sure team members have the tools, training, and support they need to do their jobs.  But it doesn’t stop there.  At Blue Matter, People Development is essential to the success of our employees and our company.  We want to  help team members continually develop and grow professionally throughout their careers.  Blue Matter Academy (BMA) is in the business of developing our employees and promoting our People First Culture.

If you’re thinking about a career at Blue Matter, then you might be wondering what Blue Matter Academy (BMA) is and why it could be important to you.  So, let’s find out!

Best-in-Class Learning and Development

Blue Matter Academy is our in-house learning and development (L&D) organization.  We believe so strongly in helping team members succeed and develop, that we’re working to create the world’s best L&D organization in a consulting firm our size.

For newly hired team members, BMA ensures that you’ll never be thrown into a “sink or swim” situation.  You’ll have the proper training and support to get off to a great start. For more experienced team members, it means that you’ll always have access to resources to help you continuously improve.

So, what exactly does BMA do?  Well, it does a lot of things but there are three key programs that I want to mention:

  1. New Hire Acceleration
  2. Manager Journey
  3. Ongoing Professional Development

Getting Started Right with New Hire Acceleration

A new hire’s first experience with BMA is through our New Hire Acceleration program. This is a 6-month curriculum to help new team members get acclimated, feel comfortable, and be productive in their new role.

During the first week, new hires are introduced to fresh content each day that helps them get to know Blue Matter.  We introduce topics related to our culture, the organizational structure, how we operate, and generally how we conduct business.

One of the most important things we do in the first week is assign a “buddy” to each new hire.  The “buddy” is a peer-level colleague who has been with Blue Matter for 6 months or more.  The buddy’s role is to support the new hire by checking in with them, answering any questions they may have, and providing guidance if they need it.  Having a buddy is beneficial in the onboarding experience because a new hire typically feels more comfortable asking certain questions of a peer than they might when dealing with a more senior-level mentor or manager.

During a new hire’s second week, we begin to dive into core consulting skills.  Then, over the course of the next six months, the new hire goes through a self-directed curriculum which dovetails with on-the-job training allowing the employee to practice skills on his or her projects.  Also within the first six months, the new hire attends a two-day live acceleration class where he or she will apply what’s been learned and practice new skills.  Currently, that class is offered twice per year.

The Manager Journey

At BMA, our philosophy is to design training curricula that align with the specific roles team members are supposed to perform.  A great example of this is our manager development program, the Manager Journey.

This program is being designed to help team members become better managers of people.  Its goal is to build skills at each stage on the continuum from an aspiring manager (such as a Senior Consultant) through experienced manager and emerging leader.

An aspiring manager will learn “what good looks like” when it comes to managing teams.  He or she will also be introduced to key tenets of management.

A newly promoted or newly hired manager is paired with a manager mentor and learns about the technical elements of being a manager.  The new manager explores topics such as project management, assigning and delegating work, delivering performance feedback and reviews, having difficult conversations, and more.

As managers progress in their careers at Blue Matter, they focus on developing skills that will help them become stronger managers and leaders.  The Experienced Manager curriculum focuses on topics like team building, motivation, developing client relationships, and other skills that are critical for senior managers and leads.

Ongoing Professional Development

In addition to our role-based programs like New Hire Acceleration and the Manager Journey, BMA delivers all of the training programs for our annual meeting and our regional trimester meetings.   The topics for these sessions are varied, but they all address key skills that are relevant to team members’ roles.  Topics include things like:

  • Business Planning
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Storyboarding and Slide Development
  • Developing Insights and Situation Analysis
  • Meeting Facilitation

For more senior leaders, BMA offers training on additional topics like

  • Client Relationship Management and Business Development
  • Building Trust and Teambuilding
  • Performance Management
  • And more…

What’s Next from Blue Matter Academy?

By the end of 2020, BMA will implement a Learning Management System to provide easier ongoing access to a range of learning and development resources.  We’re also continuing to expand our library of learning content.  Our ultimate vision is that a person in any given role will be able to use these resources to create a learning path tailored to their specific development needs.

Looking a little further down the road into 2021 and 2022, our development-stage LEAD program is going to be really important.  LEAD stands for Lead Education and Development.  Whereas Manager Journey focuses on managing people and projects, LEAD focuses on leading projects,  identifying opportunities, and leading teams.

The LEAD program is founded in proven leadership competencies.  The goal is to help team members build their strengths across the full range of competencies to become proficient in both the technical and interpersonal aspects of leadership at Blue Matter.  As we move into 2021, we’ll be saying a lot more about LEAD!

Personal Perspective

I joined Blue Matter almost two years ago because it was clear that the company truly does put people first.  Throughout my career I’ve worked in 9,000+ person companies that didn’t invest as much in learning and development as Blue Matter does.  It truly is exciting to work with a company like this one.

Why do we invest so much in learning and development?  You can find many articles on the benefits of investing in development that include higher productivity, higher motivation, and less turnover.  At Blue Matter, the true reason we invest heavily in development is because we value our people.  Everyone deserves to work in a place where they have the opportunity to learn and grow in their career.  People First is a key tenet of our culture at Blue Matter and the investments we continue to make in Blue Matter Academy is representative of the value we place on our employees

Stay tuned for more on our People First culture!