Samantha Funderburg First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation
Training & Learning

First Guaranty Mortgage’s Key to 300% Growth: Blended Learning for Managers

Leadership training is key for every company. But for companies that are doubling–or tripling!–in size in the space of just a few years, this training is critical to keep up this crazy momentum and drive sustained growth. 

So, how can you be sure you’re supporting your leaders with the right training tools and resources? And how can you keep your managers connected and learning from a distance–even in the midst of a global health crisis?

This week, I’m speaking with Samantha Funderburg, AVP of Learning & Employee Experience at First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation, about her playbook for engaging managers with blended learning experiences. Read on for tips on establishing dedicated communities of learning managers, boosting staff retention rates, and much more.

Samantha and I got started by discussing First Guaranty Mortgage’s impressive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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The challenges of 300% growth during a global pandemic

For First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation, the last 18 months have been a time of incredible growth.

“First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation is a mortgage lender providing a full spectrum of lending products and services,” says Samantha. “In the last 18 months, we’ve grown 300%. We’ve been navigating this growth while also working in a remote work environment.”

As Samantha explains, this swift pace of growth soon highlighted some training gaps. “What we found is that we have a strong technical training platform for job skills training, but we did not have a developed manager training program. We needed to create initiatives to fill this gap.” 

First Guaranty Mortgage had to address this gap while working within time constraints. “The mortgage industry is a fast-paced environment, and we saw historic volume in 2020. Time is not something we have a lot of. We had to meet our learners where they were, and get them something that didn’t have to take them away from their jobs for one, two, or even three days at a time.”

And like everyone else, Samantha was also juggling the constraints of learning in a pandemic. “We’re also dealing with this virtual environment where people were feeling fatigued from being online. We needed a way to keep up engagement in this remote work environment.”

Fortunately, Samantha had a playbook for manager training based on the principles of blended learning.

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Time is not something we have a lot of. We had to meet our learners where they were, and get them something that didn’t have to take them away from their jobs for one, two, or even three days at a time.

First Guaranty Mortgage’s blended learning manager training playbook

So, how do Samantha and her colleagues at First Guaranty Mortgage keep managers and leaders engaged in training from a distance? As she explains, it’s all about using blended learning to provide the right mix of asynchronous and synchronous training resources. 

“We set out to develop an infrastructure for on-demand and live learning for the ongoing development of our people leaders,” says Samantha. “We know that learning is more than just a one-time event, so we created a buildable learning experience to support our managers in their development.”

Samantha talked me through two key aspects of this blended manager training: making training available via multiple modalities, and focusing on pre-work and post-work within this program.

1. Making manager training available via multiple modalities

“We started out by launching a ‘leaders as trainers’ series, as well as an external speaker series to really inspire our managers,” says Samantha. “We also launched a digital playlist to ensure learning was on-demand 24/7. We’re currently in the midst of rolling out a ‘manager power hour’ program, and working on developing a manager orientation.”

As Samantha points out, this focus on multiple modalities was a deliberate way to make manager training more engaging. “We wanted to have resources using multiple modalities. A lot of the time, managers are asked to participate in training, and then what happens? Nothing. We’re focused on moving beyond that and making manager training engaging at every level.”

Samantha Funderburg First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation

On top of this, Samantha is also focused on building Collaborative Learning into First Guaranty Mortgage’s manager training. “Focusing on the manager power hour virtual training sessions, these are for managers and AVP-level people leaders who want practice, easy-to-apply resources that will help them lead their teams with confidence.” 

“This manager power hour is a bi-monthly series that includes pre-work, guest speakers, and post-work. We’re turning this into a real Collaborative Learning environment.” 

2. Enhancing manager training with pre-work and post-work

In addition to her focus on engaging manager training, Samantha and her team are enhancing this training with pre-work and post-work. “We know manager training doesn’t happen in just one hour.” 

“We wanted to marry that pre-work and post-work activity into our program. With this program, we’re covering traditional topics, but we also partner with a vendor for a fresh approach.”

“The program is really driven by activity and discussion. We drove a higher level of virtual engagement by utilizing some different technologies such as breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams for small-group work, as well as polling software to keep our fingers on the pulse. It really helps to keep things engaging and exciting for our learners.”

So, what impact is this approach making at First Guaranty Mortgage so far?

Related: 5 Secrets to Keep Your Teams Engaged in the World of Hybrid Work

Measuring the impact of First Guaranty Mortgage’s blended manager training

For Samantha, First Guaranty Mortgage’s blended manager training is already helping to drive growth. Even better, it’s also having a big impact on core metrics like retention. 

“Specifically, we’re looking at retention, and how we can move the needle on our retention rate,” says Samantha. “We’re also hoping and expecting that these programs impact our net promoter score.”

“Since installing some of these programs, we’ve already seen a 5-6% reduction in turnover. It’s really encouraging. We’re consistently looking at these numbers to drive impact.” 

And Samantha and her team aren’t done yet. “With our manager power hour series, we’ve partnered with HR to identify data points for leadership or employee relationship issues which they then monitor through exit interviews. We partner with them to monitor trend decline, and we expect to see even more encouraging results over time.”

Related: The Right Way To Do Blended Learning in 2021

Since installing some of these programs, we’ve already seen a 5-6% reduction in turnover. It’s really encouraging. We’re consistently looking at these numbers to drive impact.

Thanks again to Samantha for being so generous with her time and expertise! 

If you’re looking for more great ways to support leadership development, check out our interview with Adam Oppegaard of Tower Loan on 3 steps to impactful manager training, plus our round-up article on 5 ways L&D teams can support leadership development

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