3 Learning Programs to Boost Employee Engagement Scores

Shelley Osborne

Head of Learning & Development at Udemy

July 25, 2018

Are you looking for ways to breathe life into your employee engagement? Here are some learning and development (L&D) initiatives we’ve used at Udemy that can help kickstart your employee engagement scores.

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Studies have shown that learning and development can increase employee engagement at organizations. According to Culture Amp employee feedback data, learning & development is a key driver in boosting employee engagement and retention. Employees who stayed were 24% more likely to say they had access to the learning and development opportunities they needed. In our Udemy Workplace Boredom Study, we discovered the top reason why employees feel bored or disengaged at work was the lack of opportunities to grow and learn. Moreover, 80% of employees said learning and development opportunities would help them feel more engaged on the job.

While engagement is influenced by many other factors including your leadership team, transparency, or company culture, learning & development programs can make a difference in whether people feel jazzed about coming to work every day. But what learning initiatives can you implement to keep your employees motivated and engaged at work? Here are 3 proven programs at Udemy that can help boost employee engagement.

1. Learning Fairs

Learning Fairs are high-impact L&D programs that can help boost your employee engagement scores. At Udemy, we offer Learning Fairs with a different theme every 6 months. These half-day fairs might be about wellness or global cultures with a diverse range of exciting classes—everything from yoga and Irish dancing to chocolate-tasting and Thai cooking. Udemy was recently voted “#1 Best Place to Work” in the San Francisco Business Times by our employees, and these learning fairs often appear in our engagement survey comments as a reason why employees love working at Udemy.

The goal behind our recent global learning fair was to connect our employees with the global nature of our business—where the majority of our Udemy learners are international. As we continue to expand globally, we wanted to expose our employees to the diverse cultures reflected in both our customers and our growing offices and teams abroad in Ireland, Turkey, and Brazil.

For example, at our recent global learning fair, a Turkish employee taught Turkish language and culture, highlighting our office in Ankara, Turkey. A French employee shared wine and cheese from France while a Chinese colleague taught Chinese calligraphy. We also tapped into our Udemy instructors, recruiting an instructor to teach Irish dancing to celebrate the culture of our team in Dublin, Ireland.

Our fairs are a great way to infuse a culture of learning and usually enjoy close to 100% participation. To create excitement and maximize participation at our recent Global Learning Fair, we offered a raffle of exciting prizes including $200 travel vouchers and Away luggage. For the raffle drawing, we provided a “passport” for each employee with custom-made stickers to show their participation at each session.

The results? Our recent Global Learning Fair enjoyed a Net Promoter Score of 90. Some of the feedback we got from participants included:

  • I loved seeing what our fellow Udemites are passionate about outside of their jobs and learn more about where they came from.

  • I like learning from my colleagues. Introducing the global aspect made it extra special, because it reinforces that a lot of us come from different cultures.

  • I felt so jazzed after the learning fair and hanging with my colleagues from all over the world. I left work that day feeling so lucky to work at a place like Udemy.

While our fairs are in-classroom sessions, we take advantage of the energy and excitement generated by the fairs to keep the learning vibe going. We suggest specific online courses on our Udemy for Business platform as a way for employees to learn more about a particular topic they just discovered at the fair, whether it’s learning a new language or meditation.

2. Career Navigation Program

Numerous studies have shown that employees deeply care about development opportunities offered at work. In fact, this is often a criteria candidates (particularly millennials) consider when deciding whether to join a company or not. According to Deloitte, research reveals that the No. 1 job benefit for Millennials is training and development and that it is 3–4 times more important than pay.

At Udemy, we show our commitment to our employees’ growth and development with our Career Navigation Program. Our career development program at Udemy centers around three key elements: introspection, goal-setting, and mentorship.

Introspection: As pre-work to the training, we ask employees to begin by taking time to really understand themselves—what have been the peak experiences at work that have brought them happiness, when have they felt most engaged and in “flow”? And on the other side of the coin, what have been the valleys at previous or current jobs? This exploration helps them identify which values matter most to them, whether that’s creativity, variety, influence, or any number of other things.
During the training, we go through introspective activities and discuss these peak/valley experiences and any themes they uncovered. Once they identify some common themes, employees are asked to select 5 values that mean the most to them.

Goal-setting: After the introspection activities, employees focus on creating meaningful goal-setting, applying the learnings they have about themselves to their work. For example, which positions should they pursue? What type of projects should they get involved in? In other words, they can look for ways to get closer to their “peak.”

Mentorship: Finally, our program ends by providing mentorship to help employees reach their career goals. We also run a parallel training program to train managers on how to be good mentors and help employees navigate their careers. Post-training, managers are required to schedule 2 career conversation 1:1s per year. This helps employees apply what they learned in the training about themselves and begin to take action on their career goals, in partnership with their managers.

For our career development program to be successful, it’s important that managers play a role in this process as a mentor and advise employees on how to reach their career goals. Managers can sit down with team members and map out the key learning steps to achieve their goals. They can recommend online courses on Udemy for Business using our Group Admin product feature and track their employees’ learning progress. For example, if an individual wants to grow into a managerial role, managers can assign management training courses on Udemy for Business to help prepare them for this next move.

In addition to promotions, your company also has to be open to offering horizontal growth as well. Here at Udemy, we encourage horizontal movement and internal transfers into new roles. On my own team, I’ve had two people join from different departments in the company. Each person started out with a 20% project to try out aspects of the role. This gave them the opportunity to explore a new department and role before fully committing to it. Because Udemy is a learning company, giving employees the support to learn and grow is at the heart of our L&D mission.

3. Grassroots Culture Crew

Finally, HR and L&D can’t build a workplace culture that keeps people motivated and engaged alone. Rely on your people to build the kind of culture they want. This grassroots approach goes a long way toward boosting employee engagement.

At Udemy, our Culture Crew—a group of volunteers across different departments of the company—develop and implement employee-driven programs to help enhance both our culture and workplace learning initiatives. For example, in partnership with our L&D team, our Culture Crew launched a mentorship program, pairing up mentees with both internal and external mentors. Our Culture Crew also initiated and organized our annual “Demmy Awards” to recognize outstanding employees that embody our company values. In addition, this grassroots group also hosts a diverse range of programs that both educate and celebrate our employees—from LGBT Pub Trivia Night during Pride Week to our UTalks panel series where employees give advice on career pivots or navigating the workplace as a woman.

While there’s no magic bullet to solving employee engagement, these are some workplace learning programs that have helped keep our employees engaged and excited to come to work every day.

Shelley Osborne is Head of L&D at Udemy. She has 15 years of experience in the education sector and corporate learning and development. Previously, she was VP of Learning & Development at Farside HR Solutions, specializing in talent leadership, management training, and soft skills development in the startup space in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Calgary where she specialized in gamification and instructional leadership.

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in the digital transformation of the workplace by offering fresh, relevant, and personalized on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at business@udemy.com

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