How to Harness Employee Feedback to Build a Lasting Learning Culture 

Shelley Osborne

Head of Learning & Development at Udemy

May 31, 2018

Spoiler alert: I love feedback. As an L&D professional, that may sound like a given, but I like to think I really love it. It’s one of the most important elements of my job and it also helps to explain why I chose Udemy as my professional home.

At Udemy, we rely on a constant feedback loop from our instructors, students, and customers to create and deliver courses that enable them to improve their lives through learning. Not only is it table stakes for how we do business, it’s also how we’ve chosen to build our culture internally. The Udemy team is dedicated to fostering a culture that’s inspired by giving and receiving feedback, which fuels all of us to learn and grow.

Knowing how important feedback is to Udemy as a business, and me personally as an L&D professional, I’m dedicated to making sure our L&D programs aren’t solely prescriptive but built on the wants and needs of the entire company. With the proliferation of technology, employees are no longer a captive audience for corporate L&D and it’s become harder than ever to compete for people’s mindshare. For L&D programs to be successful, the experience not only has to be consumer grade and attractive to employees, but it must also speak to their biggest needs and challenges to ensure adoption.

When deciding what L&D initiatives will make the biggest impact and stand out to Udemy employees, it is critical to be feedback driven in my approach and take the time to understand and analyze where the team is today and where they want to be in the future.

3 centers of feedback

We continuously work to build L&D programs that are crafted by employee feedback, but when I first joined Udemy, that feedback hadn’t yet been centralized into a single source of truth. Our team prioritized gathering feedback and took a three-step approach to ensure there was no stone left unturned.

First, the HR team deployed a Culture Amp survey to take a company-wide pulse of current engagement and better understand what the top development priorities were for our employees. This foundation allowed us to begin building out our “jobs to be done” framework and capture the key learning moments and needs for Udemy employees.

Following the Culture Amp survey, we wanted to take time to dive into specific findings and ensure the team felt heard and understood. We conducted in-person interviews and deployed follow-up surveys to determine what learning was in progress, what learning was needed ASAP, what learning was needed first, and what learning would be most impactful. By leveraging the insights from a variety of stakeholders, we built out a SWOT analysis that continues to act as a guidepost for our L&D programs.

The last center of insight that we leveraged was prior feedback from years of experience testing a variety of programs. By leaning on my own experiences and the feedback loops I’ve witnessed around L&D initiatives, we had the ability to bring prior knowledge to the table to help inform decisions and guide our strategy moving forward.

Putting employee feedback into action

After two months spent eliciting every ounce of feedback we could, it was time to put all of our findings into action. Now for a little irony: after slicing and dicing our employee feedback, the number one training request that I heard across teams was for how we could drive better feedback internally! The L&D team proceeded to craft a training program to improve the feedback experience on either side–both the feedback giver and the feedback receiver. It was imperative for us to underline the fact that feedback isn’t a “gift” (which can be thought of as a non-essential bonus item), feedback is actually “fuel.” Feedback is critical fuel for growth and development, which coincidentally led right into the next two programs we rolled out.

Once our employees understood how to effectively give and receive feedback, we wanted to guarantee that they worked at a company that allowed them to act on that feedback. Our next big initiative was to double down on our learning culture and empower employees to learn what they need to, when they need it, and action on their individual needs. By introducing Drop Everything and Learn Hours, Learning Days, and employee budgets towards learning, we helped to cement a culture centered around learning and development.

With our focus on a learning culture, fueled by feedback, our goal at Udemy is to have each of our employees be empowered to learn what they need to further their careers and have the appropriate forum to share development goals and voice their needs.

In order to successfully drive career development, it was imperative for us to bolster our culture of feedback and learning first to allow our employees to be in the driver’s seat of their futures. With our culture in place, we then had the ability to capitalize on that and roll out our Career Navigator program to arm our employees with tools to navigate their careers and have effective conversations with managers. The workshops allow our team to harness what they’ve learned through Feedback is Fuel and within our learning culture to be in the driver’s seat of their career and communicate their goals meaningfully and effectively.

Bringing this to your organization

Are you interested in hearing more about how feedback-driven L&D programs are essential to building a culture of learning that prioritizes employees and their needs? I’ll be speaking on this topic at Culture Amp’s Culture First in San Francisco on June 13 at 2:45 pm PT. Buy tickets here and get 30% off with our “UDEMYFORBUSINESS” promo code!

Shelley Osborne is Head of L&D at Udemy. She has 14 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.

About Udemy for Business:

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant 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

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