Ally Financial had started to notice a pattern — it would hire promising young talent in its auto finance business only to see them stay a year or two before leaving for other opportunities.

It was vexing because Ally's management had made growing and developing talent a priority.

"They were frustrated with the pace," said Kathie Patterson, Ally's chief human resources officer. "When you look at the turnover, you have to step back and do something a little bit different."

Employees wanted greater exposure to the business so they could understand how to advance into various career paths. To solve this problem, the Detroit-based Ally developed a rotational training program in auto finance in 2014 to help attract and keep promising employees, especially millennials.

This program appeals to those in the early stages of their career when they are still figuring out what path they want to take. The training allows participants to experience different roles and responsibilities within the company to determine what best suits them.

Kathie Patterson, chief human resources officer at Ally Financial.
Retention plan
"We are making sure we are not only developing our existing workforce but also making sure we have career paths and keep them engaged," says Kathie Patterson, Ally's chief human resources officer.

"How do we invest in opportunities for employees to stretch themselves professionally and help them grow and develop?" Patterson said. "We are making sure we are not only developing our existing workforce but also making sure we have career paths and keep them engaged."

This training option is one reason that Ally is on this year's Best Banks to Work For list.

Besides the auto finance rotational program, Ally offers similar options in accounting and technology. An accelerated option includes assignments in its chief financial officer group, which includes finance and treasury, and then in corporate functions, such as audit services, compliance and regulatory affairs.

Some of the basic elements are the same for all of the programs: They last one to three years and include three to five different job assignments.

This can be attractive to those who don't want to stay in one job for a prolonged period and instead crave understanding a concept and then moving on to a new challenge, Patterson said.

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Currently all of the assignments for each program remain within one area, such as auto finance. But as the training continues to evolve Ally will look for ways to have rotations across disciplines.

Participants get mentors who stay with them throughout the duration of the program. Ally usually recruits participants for the training from interns who have previously worked at the company.

Kari Kucinsky completed a rotational program in auto finance after graduating from Michigan State University in 2014 with a major in advertising and a specialization in sales communication. She was already familiar with Ally, having completed a marketing internship there. But through the training program, she deepened her understanding of the $163 billion-asset company with five different assignments, including in quality control.

Now she is a marketing specialist and has found that her experience in the training program helped her gain leadership skills, business acumen and a better view of Ally's customers base.

"It's a great way to develop yourself within the organization," Kucinsky said. "You get a full picture of what the organization does."

Ally is open to changing its training programs as its needs evolve. For instance, as the company expands into new products — it started offering credit cards and mortgages last year — it will likely formalize training in those areas too. The auto finance program has been so successful it is being expanded from four or five participants to up to 30, partly to help accommodate employees who were interested in it.

"I don't think we can claim to be a digital financial provider if we aren't willing to evolve," Patterson said.

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