Canada Life enlists Skillsoft to develop new leaders

March 14, 2023 | New Workplace Leadership | 4 min read

Sometimes a casual, watercooler conversation develops into a fully formed company initiative.

Such is the case with Canada Life’s newest recruitment and leadership program, an idea that emerged during a casual chat between the organization’s CEO and Vice President for Talent Acquisition.

The challenge: Canada Life—a leading national insurance provider—needed a formal program to recruit recent university graduates and give them the necessary skills to be the next leaders.

“Corporate came to our learning team and said, ‘What have you got?’” says Canada Life’s Manager for Emerging Talent, Robert Craig. The leadership development program they envisioned didn’t yet exist. It was up to Craig to, in his words, “whip something up.”

A program is conceived

With five primary locations across the country, Canada Life already did ample recruiting of finance, insurance, and actuarial professionals. “But in our recent history, we haven’t done a general leadership program, something where we could bring in graduates give them exposure to all of our business,” Craig explains.

His team got to work on designing a pilot: a formal, two-year program where a cohort of six recent university graduates would embed within Canada Life’s three business units (individual customer, group health and dental, and advisory network), rotating throughout the year. “The goal is to give learners the broadest view of the business,” Craig explains.

While on-the-job learning would be a natural part of the program, Craig also needed to design content to accompany it, introducing the tools and skills to be leaders. But because there was—as always—a budget in mind, Craig had to examine the learning resources Canada Life already had.

“There was a lightbulb moment,” he says. “We already had a lovely array of content through the Skillsoft Leadership Development program. I thought, ‘Why can’t we use this?’”

Developing our candidates
Above: an overview of Canada Life’s Leadership Development program goals.

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In walks Skillsoft’s Percipio

As luck would have it Skillsoft’s Percipio had an existing Leadership Development Program. Craig was able to modify the content with emerging leader-specific learning, and design it in a way that perfectly complemented the hands-on experience.

“There are already PowerPoints and guides to use,” Craig says. “The fact that I was able to grab them, create my own questions, add my own content, and refine the course was so beneficial.”

Learning activities
Above: an example of Canada Life’s Leadership learning content.
Our learning model
Above: Canada Life blended chosen tracks (left) with Skillsoft’s existing virtual workshops (right). The Leadership Development Program spent eight weeks on each track, with both formal learning and experiential activities, using Teams as the tool to collaborate and connect.

Off to learn

The first cohort kicked off in May 2022 with six new recruits stationed across Canada in Winnipeg, MB, London, ON, and Toronto, ON. Selected from a few hundred candidates, each new associate brought a depth of knowledge to the table - from social issues to app development and podcasting experience.

The group came together virtually to attend class and collaborate for about 3.5 hours a week, making Percipio’s online classroom crucial. “We couldn't bring everyone together physically in a classroom,” Craig says. “Skillsoft’s Leadership Development Program works so well because we’ve brought them together through Microsoft Teams. Not to mention the social aspect of the platform. Outside coursework, the cohort attends a monthly social with virtual activities, and has created their own virtual connections with each other. “We also engage and interact with three key executives in the company a regular basis,” Craig says.

As part of the program, each cohort is assigned a business challenge. “We've given them an assignment to research and tackle,” Craig says. “They've been taking advantage of a variety of resources within Percipio, which allows them to search and read up on topics.”

How it’s going

Craig says the blended program of virtual learning and hands-on application couldn’t be better. The cohort is not only engaged but making connections between the content and real-life meetings. “They’re building teams, joining teams, and connecting the content back to their roles,” he says.

Because the program is still live and active, evaluation has so far been surveying the cohort on the strength of the content and getting managers’ feedback. “So far, we’ve asked managers, ‘Would you hire them again?’, and the answer has been a resounding yes for all six of them,” Craig says.

Each associate has a goal to meet within the program and will complete a self-evaluation against the goal.

What’s next

At the beginning of this year, Canada Life began recruiting for the next leadership cohort. And in a full-circle moment, the original recruits will be using their “Developing People” course module to take on the role of “coach” to the new group.

While long-term ROI is yet to be reported, the company is already making good on its original goal to recruit and hire well-rounded leaders. “It helps to build the company’s leadership pipeline,” Craig says. “We’re not the big banks who hire hundreds of graduates each year, but we still want people to recognize us and want to work for us.”

With the high caliber of training and investment in career growth, they no-doubt will.