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Melissa Luna, Director of Talent and Organizational Development, Achieve

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April 2023

Q&A Interview: How Talent Development Creates a Great Workplace

Q&A with Melissa Luna
Director, Talent and Organizational Development, Achieve

Melissa Luna (Missy) joined Achieve in late 2022 as Director of Talent and Organizational Development. Formerly called Freedom Financial Network, Achieve is a Fin technology company offering personalized financial solutions.

Missy joined from Advisor Group as Director of Talent Development. Previously, in her consulting and coaching practice she worked with small to mid-sized organizations helping them with leadership and employee development, recruitment strategies, and career development efforts. She holds an M.S., Educational Administration from Texas A&M University, and a B.S., Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Colorado State University. 

Q. You recently joined Achieve as Director, Talent and Organizational Development. Can you tell us about the role?

My role with Achieve oversees talent management, which includes career pathing, career development, mentor programs, talent acceleration, and internal mobility programs.  Our goal is to engage and retain our talent by providing career growth opportunities, and support company goals. Career development includes everything from helping employees through career discovery to identifying the necessary development and resources so they can achieve (no pun intended). We are currently working on developing career pathing based on our four engagement drivers.  The information will be developed in a career portal where employees can see needed information in their career journey.

We also launched a Career Development Program Pilot to introduce our development philosophy and provide employees and leaders with guides and resources for career discussions, goal identification, and Strengths articulation.

I am also partnering with our Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Kingsley Forde, on projects to create a safe place where people feel a sense of belonging. We are developing a mentoring program that has successfully been piloted within two of our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

“Through organizational design and career pathing, we break down silos as people see other opportunities within an organization.”


What makes your role strategic for Achieve right now?

My role supports the growth of Achieve, and one of the company’s four core values which is care. Achieve has been in business for 20 years and is now at 2,800 employees. We’ve received the Best Places to Work award 15 times. Our values drive everything we do. Every day, we get to be our innovative, passionate, and authentic selves while bringing empathy, compassion, and human kindness to our members.

Because of COVID-19, the way in which we engage people is different. In training delivery we used to be accustomed to an all-day class, but that format doesn’t work anymore. More than an hour on Zoom and you can almost see people disengaging. So one best practice is to micro-burst the lessons so they are bite-sized. You provide tools and space to practice, for example in coaching clinics.

With hybrid work it is more difficult to understand another person because you’ve got that screen blocking your ability to read body language and make a connection. If the leader hasn’t gained that empathetic ear, taking time to ask questions and get to know people, they need to develop that muscle. Our L&D team has created training to support our leaders in how to engage virtually, and approach team work through heartfelt leadership, and is also providing coaching clinics so they can practice the application.

“An interesting trend with the millennial generation is that they’re accustomed to having coaches, and as a result many organizations are now adding an internal career coach, usually in HR.”

Your background includes creating career pathways that help employees develop into leaders. Can you tell us about that?

At Colorado State University, I created a justification for a career management center. This has similarities to what you would do within an organization, helping people find resources. I sold the idea to people who gave endowments to the college, saying this will have a direct impact on job placement rates. They heard it and liked it.

Following that, I started my own consulting practice in organizational design and industrial and leadership development, working with many small cap companies that didn’t have an HR department but could contract with me to build a system for training or leadership development.

I’ve also coached organizations at all levels. An interesting trend with the millennial generation is that they’re accustomed to having coaches, and as a result some organizations are either hiring internal career coaches or spending more time developing managers to learn this skillset.

How can organizational design help develop people?

At Achieve we are a matrix type organization, so that a role like project manager exists across divisions, and I can translate my experience in my current role by moving to that role in another division. Through organizational design and career pathing, we break down silos as people see other opportunities within an organization. We strengthen internal mobility, retaining people while helping them develop.

What are your top HR priorities so far at Achieve?

Top HR priorities for this organization include DEI and career pathing. Another top priority is the return to office. In 2022, the company did a pilot bringing volunteers back into the office three days per week in one month. We then collected and assessed the data to identify how it went. A primary theme was that people were fine coming back if it was for purpose. If there wasn’t purpose in coming back, they didn’t want to.

Frederickson Partners, a Gallagher company is a market leader in retained executive search since 1995. As one of the top-rated HR executive search and C-suite recruiting firms, we have expertise in placing Chief People Officers, Chief Human Resources Officers, Chief Diversity Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Legal Officers and many other senior leaders. We draw on a broad network of rising and established executives and leaders, and a 28-year reputation as a talent acquisition and HR Advisory provider.

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