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Using custom professional development opportunities to develop leaders

Presented by Leah Fleet
in Leadership
July, 2024

Sponsored by DeGroote School of Business

Jodie Middleton, associate director of talent acquisition, development and rewards for Niagara Region, shares her experience of implementing a custom professional development program in their organization. Niagara Region worked in partnership with the DeGroote School of Business’ executive education team to build a custom program that suits their organization’s specific needs.

What motivated you to pursue custom programming for the staff at Niagara Region?

In 2023, we launched our People Plan which had four key pillars. One of them is to cultivate strong leaders. The work determined what a strong leader looks like in our organization, and it became apparent that we needed targeted learning.

Why did you choose to work with the DeGroote School of Business?

When we were looking further afield as to who could design a program that would meet our needs, we realized that DeGroote could do that and provide us with excellent customized learning.

We met with the team and from there it became easy as they really worked to understand what we needed from a program, the learning outcomes, and the facilitation styles. They were willing to work with us to make the capstone project align to our corporate priorities and work well in our environment and with our leaders.

What differences have you heard about or noticed since introducing custom programming to your organization?

I would say it is the relationships being built across the organization. You have a lot of people who may not otherwise ever work together, but through the program, they find common benefits, even though they’re doing very different work. Synergies are being created that you are always striving for across your teams.

Why is it so important for an organization like Niagara Region to support lifelong learning and professional development?

I think being a learning organization is important to your overall culture. To grow a learning culture, you must help people learn in different ways. You need leaders that are dynamic as well in terms of their own professional development, their knowledge, and their ability to evolve as the world around us is constantly changing.

We hear loud and clear from our employees that they want to grow career-wise in their roles and in the organization, which means the region needs to be supportive, helping people achieve whatever they’re looking to do. You want that engaged workforce, you want people to stay, and you want them to feel a part of the organization. I think learning supports all these outcomes.

What feedback have you received from program participants?

They are a little concerned going in because of the time commitment. Nobody has extra time, but they love working in a cross-functional environment and working on something that matters.

The capstone projects have been invaluable because integrating solutions to real problems into the learning means they are heavily invested in what they’re doing. It’s so practical and usable, which is highly valued in our environment.  MW

Municipal World Executive and Essentials Plus Members: You might also be interested in Dawn McCoy’s article: Are you getting a bang for your training bucks?

Leah Fleet is a marketing and communications strategist with DeGroote School of Business.

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