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Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) is a large regional wastewater utility with 694 employees that serve an area with a population of 1.6 million. HRSD initiated an organizational development program in 2003 to create a learning organization. The phased implementation of the program began in 2004 and will continue though 2006. The keys to establishing a learning environment to date have been eliminating internal fear of change, creating an effective 360° evaluation process and obtaining employee buy-in.

The Organizational Development Strategy was based upon the following principles:

Learning is a managed process.

Every employee is a learner.

Every supervisor is a teacher (people developer, mentor, coach).

Continuous learning is required.

Advancement is voluntary.

Program initiatives include:

Updating position descriptions to include job specific technical competencies complemented by a uniform leadership competency model.

Using position descriptions and the leadership competency model to conduct individual assessments.

Using assessment feedback to assist in creating individual development plans that are written by the employee and approved by the supervisor.

Developing a mentoring program to facilitate continuous learning for employees that want advancement opportunities.

Establishing program measurements at the individual and organizational levels.

Obstacles the team had to overcome to implement the program successfully include:

Lack of trust within the organization.

Fear that assessments would be used as a basis for compensation and promotion.

A culture of minimal formal performance feedback.

Past promotion history based heavily upon technical skills.

Successful implementation of the program was accomplished by:

Utilizing as many employees as practical in developing the program to promote buy-in.

Implementing the program initially with only the senior leadership so other employees could evaluate the impact without risk.

Communicating extensively with all affected employees.

Modifying the program based upon employee feedback.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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