by Shayne Thomas
25 Jan 2021
Organic Valley Success Story
How America’s largest organic dairy brand overhauled its end-to-end talent management program through industry-leading technology and learning content.
(originally published on Nov 5, 2019, and updated on Jan 25, 2021)
“We had numerous manual protocols in place that weren’t scalable…. We have a lot of required training—USDA, FDA, OSHA—but making sure that everyone took their training was both challenging and time-consuming.” — Mark Schroeder, HR/L&OD Technology Strategist, Organic Valley
Organic Valley, the largest producer of organic dairy products in the United States, experienced massive growth between 2006 and 2016—increasing gross revenue by 350% and staff by 160%.
As we all know, any business that experiences rapid growth, regardless of its size, will go through a slew of growing pains. Organic Valley was no exception to this rule. As its business grew and sought out new ways of addressing increasing consumer demands, a strain was placed on talent management. Its once highly manual approach to managing both the recruitment of top talent and development of employees, managers, and senior leaders no longer sufficed. The company needed scalable, integrated, and highly personalized tools to address and keep up with the ever-evolving needs of its rapidly growing workforce.
It didn’t take long for Organic Valley to realize that Cornerstone would be the best partner to lead them on this recruiting, performance management, and learning & development journey.
Organic Valley was drawn most to Cornerstone's unique ability to provide a full, 360-degree unified talent management solution that could take their productivity—and their employee experience—to the next level. As a starting point, they implemented both Cornerstone Learning and Cornerstone Recruiting, and then in 2020 rolled out Cornerstone Performance with Cornerstone Succession. Their embrace of such a wide variety of our tools is a testament to Cornerstone’s ability to help businesses transform their talent management and learning processes through industry-leading technology, content, insights, and best practices.
Since implementing all of these tools and solutions, Organic Valley has generated some pretty impressive results. Here’s a quick overview of their growing success to-date:
What the HR team really needed was a better way to capture valuable employee data and then use it in an objective, yet empowering way to help align employee goals to key business priorities more effectively (i.e. via a 9-box grid). And in the year since the company first launched Cornerstone Performance, they have successfully transformed what was once a weak spot—both operationally and functionally—around employee development and growth into a quantitatively powerful way to have real conversations about employee success. This has opened up new opportunities for the HR team and managers alike to support and nurture 950+ employees throughout their careers at Organic Valley in ways they could never do before.
- Increased employment applications
“With Cornerstone, we’ve seen an increase of 42% in applications. Candidates comment on how simple it is to apply. That’s feedback we love to hear!”— Ashley Dahlen, Employment Manager, Organic Valley
As the company grew, Organic Valley’s need to hire qualified talent became more important (and timely) than ever before. However, given their previously lengthy and time-consuming online application process, they noticed that fewer and fewer applications were coming through. In essence, without even realizing it, they had created their own barrier to recruiting top talent. That’s when Cornerstone Recruiting came to the rescue; we helped Organic Valley simplify its application process and grow its applications completed by 42%.
- Led to a boost in training completion rates
“We have almost 100% user adoption. With Cornerstone, I also have 100% confidence in the fact that training has been assigned.”— Mark Schroeder, HR/L&OD Technology Strategist, Organic Valley
As mentioned before, training and employee development was predominantly a manual process at Organic Valley until Cornerstone came into the picture—so much that employees very rarely had any visibility into what was required of them. Today, the situation has taken a full 180-degree turn, whereby all employees (yes, 100% of them) now complete their training in a timely manner. Why? Because Cornerstone makes it possible to empower managers—and their teams—to take training into their own hands.
- Supported effortless customization
“The ability to customize so many aspects of the platform has been key. There aren’t many platforms that can do what Cornerstone does.”— Mark Schroeder, HR/L&OD Technology Strategist, Organic Valley
Implementing Cornerstone solutions doesn’t mean that employees will see the Cornerstone branding plastered everyone. Quite to the contrary, we make it possible and easy for our customers to create a digital experience that looks, feels, and speaks like their brand. And that’s exactly what we did with Organic Valley. Not to mention, we make it easy for businesses to make these solutions truly their own. “Cornerstone is the easiest for the end user and for the administrator to get what they want without feeling they’ve invested a tremendous amount of customization.”
- Created a go-to learning (and more) hub
“An employee suggested we call it ‘The Tool Shed,’ which is genius because it’s the place you go to get the tools you need to do your work. Everybody knows that for anything learning-related, they have to visit The Tool Shed.”— Mark Schroeder, HR/L&OD Technology Strategist, Organic Valley
For the first time, Organic Valley now has a central place where all learning and development happens. But the implementation of the company’s learning management system (LMS) actually has a fun story. Organic Valley invited employees to participate in a fun contest to create a unique brand for its Cornerstone Learning platform. The winning idea: “The Tool Shed.” Not only did this help drive awareness for the LMS before it was ever implemented, but it also engaged employees in the future of their learning and development early-on. The fact that employees were able to take some ownership of what the LMS looked like was a great strategy for boosting both awareness and nearly 100% adoption immediately after launching. In fact, it proved to be such a huge success that the LMS is now used as a central hub for various communications around training, events, and other happenings—and not just learning and development.
- Reinforced the importance of learning
“We use Cornerstone to deliver 7-, 14-, and 30- day interval lessons and ‘engagement guides’ to managers before and after employee learning.” — Carrie Bero, Senior Learning and Organizational Development Specialist, Organic Valley
It can be really hard to motivate anyone to learn, much less your own employees. That’s why Organic Valley has relied on Cornerstone to help them manage their Continuum Learning Program, whereby employees are invited to take a series of mini-lessons to master job-related skills or learn new soft skills (and beyond). Providing employees with bite-sized opportunities to learn makes learning and development, as a whole, feel less daunting overall. Even better, as they get through each mini-lesson, there’s a feeling of accomplishment and progress that results—a win-win for both Organic Valley and its employees.
- Enabled manager training
“Our development focus for leadership has shifted to influence current and future leadership capability, style, and execution, while also creating unity at all levels of leadership.” — Kimberly Fredrickson, Director of Learning and Organizational Development, Organic Valley
Cornerstone’s belief is that no one is too old or too seasoned in their career to learn something new. Organic Valley shares that belief, too. One of the biggest benefits that Cornerstone brought to the company was its wealth of knowledge and content around manager training and development. For any company, especially those undergoing rapid growth, ensuring that managers have the skills to lead effective, high-performing teams is critical. This is one of the reasons why Organic Valley has tapped into Cornerstone Learning to provide its managers and leaders with ongoing training and leadership development programs (that drive results!).
- Automated performance management
“Performance management used to be a very manual process for us. We wanted to breathe new life into it to give it a greater sense of quality, meaning, consistency, and accountability." — Amy Ryan, Senior Learning and Organizational Development Manager, Organic Valley
It's one thing to simply automate performance management and succession processes, especially after having run a very manual system for years. Truth be told, some employees were skeptical that doing so would simply turn employees into numbers. But the company was well overdue to overhaul this process—and not just for the purpose of streamlining it—and knew that any big changes made would need to be communicated clearly to employees. That was the only way to ensure that employees felt confident and supported by the new processes. What the HR team really needed was a better way to capture valuable employee data and then use it in an objective, yet empowering way to help align employee goals to key business priorities more effectively (i.e. via a 9-box grid). And in the year since the company first launched Cornerstone Performance, they have successfully transformed what was once a weak spot-both operationally and functionally-around employee development and growth into a quantitatively powerful way to have real conversations about employee success. This has opened up new opportunities for the HR team and managers alike to support and nurture 950+ employees throughout their careers at Organic Valley in ways they could never do before.