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Taking the LEAD on Professional Development at Dunkin' Brands

The Story Behind Dunkin' Brands' Annual Professional Development Conference for Employees

Courtney Reun
Employer Brand Manager
Jeremie Smith
Employee Communications Manager

Whether you’re starting your first day on the job or celebrating your 20th work anniversary with us, the learning never stops here at Dunkin’ Brands. That’s because while we’re on a journey to transform our iconic brands, we are also committed to transforming ourselves through the many learning resources, tools, and programs available to us.

A cornerstone of our continued learning is the L.E.A.D. Summit, an annual professional development conference hosted internally by Dunkin’ Brands employees for Dunkin’ Brands employees to focus on personal and professional growth.

2020 Dunkin' Brands LEAD Summit

L.E.A.D., which stands for Learn, Explore, Achieve, and Develop, officially launched in 2019 in response to feedback from employees seeking ongoing development tools, resources, and opportunities throughout the year. The Summit itself has evolved over the years from a series of successful training days dating back to 2014 and Employee Resource Group (ERG)-sponsored events like the Leadership Conference in 2018 to a full-day conference-style event at Brand Central (our headquarters in Canton, Mass.) in 2019.

“We partnered with all of our ERGs after the success of the Leadership Conference and established a small cross-functional team of employees from multiple departments across the organization to bring together a day focused on professional development,” said Heather Schuchardt, Dunkin’ Brands Director of Talent Development and Human Resources. “The L.E.A.D. Summit is focused on delivering content and experiences designed to help employees build and strengthen their skills and behaviors to align with our Strong, Smart, Kind values.”

Heather oversees the cross-functional team charged with bringing the Summit to life. Everything from developing the conference’s theme, content, and schedule to the booking of external guest speakers and employee engagement.

“Being surrounded by smart, collaborative, and fun-loving colleagues is one of the best parts of working at Dunkin’ Brands, and the L.E.A.D. Summit really showcases what can be achieved when we stretch beyond our daily responsibilities and come together to achieve a common goal,” said Heather.

Our company’s leaders are also heavily involved in the Summit with many across the organization clearing calendars to give employees the time to invest in learning and professional development. Members of the Leadership Team also actively participate from presenting materials and hosting sessions to introducing external speakers and opening and closing the event.

The inaugural Summit in 2019 focused on Dunkin’ Brands’ values of Strong, Smart, Kind through skill-building workshops, panel discussions, and 10 guest speakers. The 2020 Summit, held in September, focused on Dunkin’ Brands’ core behaviors of Bold, Inspirational, Collaborative, Authentic, Curious, and Inclusive.

“These behaviors complement our values and truly are the foundation to our success, so we thought it was important to focus our content around how our employees can strengthen these behaviors in their day-to-day roles to drive our business forward,” said Heather.

Unlike 2019, the 2020 L.E.A.D. Summit was 100% virtual due to COVID-19. Delivering a virtual conference presented new challenges, but also afforded new opportunities like connecting our employees from all over the world to the full conference experience.

This year’s virtual conference was held over a span of seven days and featured four external speakers, including keynote addresses by Brad Karsh, JB Training Solutions Founder and CEO, and Cy Wakeman, New York Times best-selling author and President and Founder of Reality-Based Leadership. There was also a diversity and inclusion workshop on building an inclusive and equitable workplace led by Michael Curry, a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors and past president of the Boston Chapter, two Leadership Team-member led panels, and self-directed learning opportunities on business acumen and personal wellness. The Summit ended with a virtual happy hour hosted by the ERGs featuring Boston TV and radio personalities Billy Costa and Jenny Johnson and comedian Juston McKinney.

“It was a really rewarding and engaging conference this year,” said Katy Cote, Dunkin' Brands Talent Development Manager. “Employees are hungry for these opportunities and we continue to see participation increase in these types of events. It’s great to see our Leadership Team support professional development in the organization so strongly. Learning and growing will always be needed in order to move the business forward, so having the support from our leaders, the resources from events like the L.E.A.D. Summit, and the commitment from employees only make us stronger as an organization.”

Added Heather: “Our future is fueled by our employees. The L.E.A.D. Summit is not only an investment in the personal and professional growth of our employees, but in the growth and transformation of our two iconic brands. This commitment is so critical to our success and a wonderful example of what makes life at Dunkin’ Brands so unique and special.”

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