Nicole Pollard used to run past the MassMutual building in Springfield, Massachusetts; she never expected to work there. Her background is in education and she loves teaching but she wanted more, including opportunities to learn different things and be in a leadership role–that’s how she found herself at the insurer.
The pandemic and challenges related to attracting and retaining talent led to her current position. Prior to the fall of 2020, remote learning was non-existent at MassMutual. Pollard, head of learning and development, digital insurance operations, and her team led to the launch of the learning, development and coaching organization.
“During the pandemic, when we all went home, our department wasn’t set up to manage the development of our 900 associates remotely, or onboarded new hires due to natural attrition. Everything before then was done primarily via fly-in or in person. In a matter of a few weeks our team was able to digitize learning and development for all associates at and joining MassMutual,” she said.
Pollard’s team brought in Canvas, a learning management platform, to support the digitization. Recently, Pollard and her team have built a library of hundreds of insurance development courses.
“We have some folks that have never taken an online class before or haven’t been in a class setting since they were in high school or college. We knew what we had was good but how do you get people to be able to interact with it?” Pollard said. “Balancing usability while continuing to provide a first in class learning experience, was one of the biggest reasons why we picked Canvas as a learning management system. It was used for elementary school children during the pandemic primarily because it’s so simplistic to explain to their parents.”
Pollard and her team have also built a coaching program to augment the learning, development and onboarding experience. Pollard said she’s excited about the addition.
“A lot of companies are starting to understand the benefits of coaching as a strategic differentiator. Coaching aims to provide continued development after hiring, onboarding and training to make sure that each associate has a fine-tuned, catered development plan that makes sense for them,” Pollard said. “We are trying to figure out how we leverage all the digital tools that we have or hybrid tools to make sure that each person has something that works for them. That’s really what the coach’s role is all about.”
Pollard is the chair of the mentoring committee for the MassMutual Women’s Leadership Business Resource Group and is a member and treasurer of the Enterprise Technology and Experience Diversity and Inclusion Committee and interacting with people is Pollard’s favorite part about being in her current role.
“The best part of any passionate leader’s day is interacting with the people that they lead and seeing that light bulb moment go off and something clicks for them,” Pollard said. “Really just being that guiding light for people. A big piece of it is collaborating with your team and others, being there, being yourself. I always say, hands on, hands in, I never will be a leader that delegates understanding.”