Learning with impact: Career growth through professional development

Jim Steffler

Jim Steffler's team was growing at an astounding rate. UBC Sauder Executive Education equipped him to lead the change.

The Challenge

When Jim Steffler took the class Building a Strong Organizational Culture, which completed his Certificate in Human Resource Leadership at UBC Sauder School of Business Executive Education, he planned to put what he learned to immediate use.

Over the past few years the executive vice president of people at LGM Financial Services Inc. had been shepherding in big changes. The number of employees had ballooned and Steffler was playing a leadership role in developing the hiring practices to make sure the organization had the right culture and people in place.

“We were moving into a brand new office space in downtown Vancouver and we were looking at how we wanted to shape our culture as we grew in the new space,” says Steffler about the serendipitous timing of the course. “And this executive education opportunity was the final step in that journey.”

The Personality

“I didn’t always have the background in HR,” admits Steffler. In fact, the 54-year-old had come from large banks and insurers with mostly a sales strategy and operations background, but had always been interested in the people side of the business.

“I had observed over the years how people were hired without much thought put into the larger picture—mostly to get bums in seats—and how that is not always what is best for the organization, near or long-term.”

When he joined LGM almost eight years ago he was eager to not repeat the same mistakes he’d seen in his previous jobs. As he was leading the company to triple in size, he knew it was time for action.

“I knew that if we failed to put some really strong hiring and talent strategies in place then we won’t effectively respond to the growth.”

The Experience

Steffler says the Sauder Executive Education course offered techniques that he immediately employed for developing and nurturing his organization’s culture during the staff’s transition to its new building downtown.

“One part that really stayed with me is the idea of cultural artifacts,” he says. “Making sure your culture is represented in whatever new environment you move into, the décor, the items hanging on the wall—I found this fascinating.”

And he says there was a shared learning experience in the class that was clear from the first discussion.

“I didn’t come into this with a strong technical HR background, but I did have a lot to offer in strategy,” explains Steffler. He says that he felt his fellow classmates were eager to learn his insight into strategy and he gained substantially from their HR knowledge to gain new insights.

The Change

“I still refer to material from the course several times a day,” says Steffler. 

He says he has found the lessons he learned in those few days instrumental in setting up LGM’s new culture and preserving the old.

LGM has adopted wellness strategies derived from Steffler’s experience at Sauder and even designed its offices – located in Montreal, Oakville and Vancouver – in the same vein to maintain a consistent culture throughout the organization. “It’s just another element I took from the course,” he explains.

Steffler says ushering in this change has help the organization build and maintain a positive and open culture that is supporting the company’s continued success with greater collaboration.

Executive Education at the Sauder School of Business

Our professional development programs aim to transform your career and accelerate your organization’s business objectives. With more than one hundred open enrolment programs taught by top Sauder faculty and leading industry experts, we zero in on your goals and ensure you get results.

We have a broad range of programs, from short skill-building courses for managers who want to make their mark to intensive week-long residential programs for senior leaders. Each is comprehensive and convenient, minimizing your time away from the office and family. All our programs can be customized to meet your organization’s business objectives and professional development needs.