The People-First Learning Strategy that Works

Jill Witty

VP of Talent & Operations at Entelo

April 18, 2017

“Great employees are the foundation of great companies.” This statement, which happens to be our first core value at Entelo, has research to back it up. Putting people first enhances your company’s performance, as evidenced by a study by the University of Warwick, which found that happier employees are 12% more productive.

But how do we attract, nurture, and retain these great employees and keep them happy? Glassdoor research discovered one of the top drivers of job satisfaction is not compensation, but whether people feel challenged and have opportunities to grow. Growth is not just advancing up the corporate ladder, but it’s about taking on “stretch” projects, moving horizontally into a different role, or learning something new.

At Entelo, a recruiting software startup in San Francisco, one of the ways we create a people-first culture is by helping our employees grow both personally and professionally. We are supportive of our employees, their growth, and their desire to live well-rounded lives. (See What a Workplace Culture that Truly Develops its People Looks Like.)

Here are some of the ways we’ve built a nurturing environment for our employees.

Nobody is an employee for life anymore

Today no one is an employee for life, let alone for 2-5 years. These days, employee tenure in the tech industry is around 1-2 years. At Entelo, we focus on preparing our employees to be their best selves here or elsewhere. We don’t just look at developing a person in their current role; instead, we try to equip them with the skills and experiences that will serve them throughout their careers. They may only be at Entelo for a few years, but leadership training or even meditation courses are building blocks for the rest of their lives. Our managers are career coaches and mentors who not only help employees be more effective today, but help them grow down the road whether it’s at Entelo or somewhere else. We want our employees to take on stretch jobs where they can learn and grow. Once they master the skills, they can then move to a new, more challenging role. Our supportive growth environment results in making our employees productive, engaged, and happy. We currently have a 4.9 rating (out of 5) on Glassdoor, and 98% of current and former employees would recommend Entelo to a friend.

Learning should be employee-driven, not company-driven

Companies can get caught up in a “top down” vision of the kind of learning they want to bring their employees. But this vision often differs dramatically from what employees actually desire. To align your L&D offerings with what employees are most interested in learning, consider conducting surveys and talking to both managers and employees about their interests and needs. Once you get alignment, you’ll want to make sure you’re not imposing a learning requirement on your employees. Instead, show you’re listening and provide them with the learning resources on their wish list.

At Entelo, we chose Udemy for Business because it was a learning platform that offered the best mix of courses that appealed to our employees. It’s the kind of engaging, consumer-first learning resource that people actually want to use. Our employees see it as a huge benefit. As we look to grow our people, Udemy enables employees at all levels to explore more challenging roles or switch departments. For example, a salesperson can take a series of courses to prepare them to move into an entirely new career in digital marketing. This is true for our junior employees who may not have found their career calling yet or our mid-level employees who want to take on new challenges. Learning through Udemy enables them to take the necessary steps to go in new career directions or to upskill in order to enhance their current career path.

We also make learning at Entelo employee-driven rather than compliance-based. If something is a requirement, people stop paying attention. We view learning as a continual process. We don’t let the conversation die after the training. We keep thinking of ways to seed the conversation on internal social media channels like Slack or at All-Hands meetings.

HR should empower people instead of being a roadblock

The old HR was seen as a barrier, constrained by legal requirements, whose sole goal was to mitigate risk to the employer. Today, the new HR is about empowering people instead of being an impediment to their growth. We’re Talent and People Operations, no longer HR. It’s our job to make sure we create a safe, nurturing culture that empowers people. This includes training team leaders to be effective and supportive people managers. It’s also about creating a company culture that’s diverse and treats employees respectfully so that everyone feels included. In this new people-first culture, it’s sometimes important to make a decision that’s right for the person, but wrong for the organization. For example, we occasionally have employees who come to us for advice about a career move. Often, we’ll encourage the employee to take a job outside of Entelo if it means a significant promotion that we can’t offer them.

Putting people first and enabling them to grow are essential to keeping your employees productive, engaged, and happy. Focusing on people has (theoretically) always been the mandate for HR organizations, but companies often give it lip service or simply tick boxes. It’s time to put the humanity back in “human resources”—and actually make a difference for your people.

Jill Witty is VP of Talent & Operations at Entelo and a customer of Udemy for Business. Jill has 18 years of experience in HR, operations, and entrepreneurship. She holds an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

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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