2011 Game Changer: Wendy Savlin

Manager, talent development, Sprint Nextel Corp., Overland Park, Kansas

September 29, 2011

When Sprint Nextel Corp. decided to move away from instructor-led training, a door of opportunity opened for Wendy Savlin. She began producing a series of short videos that employees could access from the company's intranet. The project has cut training costs while creating unexpected benefits for the telecommunications company.

According to Ann Rhoads, Sprint Nextel's vice president of talent management, who nominated Savlin for the Game Changers award, "If someone came at it differently, it could have been a negative moment. But Wendy turned it into a win."

Savlin, 35, realized a new model was necessary in order to reach Sprint's far-flung employees and to give them easy access to useful information. "We had an opportunity to look at how we deliver content to people when they need it, and in bite-sized chunks so they can absorb it and incorporate it into their daily lives," she says.

Savlin started with a webcast series for managers, but soon learned that the hourlong videos were too great of a time commitment. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, Savlin edited the lessons into several snappy vignettes.

The short videos were a hit, so Savlin's next step was to develop a themed series. "Leaders' Lessons from the Recession" featured company executives sharing strategies they'd used to tackle problems resulting from the economic slump. That 2009 series, made available to all employees, was recently followed by "Road to Recovery."

Savlin says the videos actually had a positive effect on morale because watching them made employees feel more connected to the company and its leaders. "In a company this size, most people don't have that contact with their senior leaders. In my own experience it was like, 'Wow, I feel like I know them now.' "

She also turned performance management from a static, bureaucratic chore to a dynamic learning experience, featuring coaching and immediate feedback. With tools such as online journaling, employees' accomplishments are noted and bosses can check them at any time.