About 10 years ago, Blue Ridge began an orientation program for its home office staff. “Then we realized there was so much value in it that we opened it up to community managers and service managers,” says Gina Carter, Vice President of Portfolio Operations for Blue Ridge.
Eventually, the company decided that everyone could be eligible. “We formalized it to say it doesn’t matter who you are,” Carter says. “Everybody’s a leader in our company and can come through leadership training.”
The program, called EPIC with a Purpose, is divided into four stages and happens every 18 months.
With the assistance of training firm Staub Leadership International, the first two stages of the EPIC leadership program combine psychological understanding and leadership development with business insights. Building upon the leadership models taught in EPIC I and II, EPIC III learns from their experiences while enjoying outdoor activities, including white water rafting, zip-lining, rope courses and team-building activities. EPIC IV, which launched in spring 2019, is the culmination of the leadership journey and is centered around giving back to the community.
Once employees make it through the first three steps of Blue Ridge’s program, they graduate to the last level—usually about six years after hire. Employees also work together for another purpose at that point. “We’re building these toys for these children whose families are deployed [in the military],” Carter says. “That is EPIC IV, which is our last level before they’re going to graduate from the program.”
To help build a strong bench of associates, Gables Residential offers two leadership programs. The company’s top-level program—the Gables Leadership Institute—focuses on building the strengths of high-potential associates and providing them with training and coaching to grow their leadership skills.
“This program culminates with an active learning project that’s useful for generating solutions to existing business challenges the company then considers for future implementation,” says Sue Ansel, Gables President and CEO.
Gables’ other leadership development program, called LEADER, is a six-month program targeting high-performing regional leaders and emerging leaders in the organization. “Participants attend monthly interactive sessions where they learn about core leadership competencies, including self-awareness, emotional intelligence and developing high-performing teams,” Ansel says.