The BEST Awards recognize organizations that demonstrate enterprise-wide success as a result of employee talent development. The winners use learning as a strategic business tool to get results. View the entire list of 2023 BEST Award winners.
Learning institutions leverage industry best practices to train their employees.
Innovators in the education space have an extra incentive to provide superior L&D opportunities to internal employees: They seek to practice what they preach. Three education-based companies with unique business models have taken that directive to heart, distinguishing themselves by the learning programs they offer their employees.
Win-winsAt Guild, a career opportunity platform, client companies access a curated marketplace that includes degree programs and stackable certificates for adult learners. Guild's focus on education, skilling, and career pathways seamlessly transitions to its 1,400 employees. "Our core product that we offer to our internal team, Guild for Guilders, really reflects how we live our mission" of unlocking opportunity for America's workforce, says Dean Carter, chief people and purpose officer.
Via Guild for Guilders, employees have access to the same array of learning programs—including degrees, certifications, and courses—available to Guild members at Fortune 500 employers. "We're focused on career acceleration for our own employees, just as we are for the employees of our employer partners," Carter explains. More than 40 percent of staff are currently progressing through the program, and the company has seen an increase of 2.3 times in "promotion rate between nonengaged employees and those enrolled in programs through Guild for Guilders."
The program is a win-win, because it equips participants to take on more-advanced roles within Guild, says Carter. The program demonstrates "how we are able to utilize our internal workforce to test and learn our products and services for our members and learners while also fueling the career growth of employees," he adds. "We've paired courses offered in the Guild for Guilders catalog with open roles throughout the company. Then we identify personalized career pathways informed by employee capabilities and match them to current and anticipated hiring needs."
At Kaplan, a global educational services provider, the L&D team created a framework of competencies for its workforce of more than 5,000 employees that empowers staff to successfully function at each respective role in the organization, from individual contributors to C-suite leaders.
"Each employee has the opportunity to create an individualized development plan (IDP) that can be updated throughout the year," explains Rosa Finelli, executive director of L&D. "We designed the 2022 Develop U Virtual Conference to offer professional development sessions tied to the different competencies," focusing on areas of leadership, business essentials, technology, and wellness.
Internal subject matter experts delivered 56 sessions over three weeks and customized the learning for Kaplan by Kaplan. More than 800 attendees boosted their knowledge, skills, and application in various areas, with employees opting into sessions suiting their respective IDP goals. "The average rating of the conference from 2022 survey results was 4.72 out of 5, or 94 percent," says Finelli, and both Newsweek and SHRM highlighted the program as an industry best practice.
Be wellOne area where Alamo Colleges District, located in Texas, is focusing is employee well-being. Its TD team developed an initiative to address employee mental health. Alamo Colleges encompasses five independently accredited colleges serving 68,000 students in the greater San Antonio area.
"The pandemic has had a tremendous effect on people's mental health and well-being, causing employees to experience a range of issues such as anxiety, stress, depression, and burnout," explains Lisa Garcia, division digital communications coordinator. "Our well-being programs and initiatives use a holistic approach by focusing on the whole person."
To foster a work environment that reduces burnout and improves well-being, the TD team developed a model of learning that boosts wellness in five core dimensions: physical, mental/emotional, social, spiritual, and financial.
Employees learn at their own pace via internal sites, resources, and hybrid learning options within the shared learning management system and intranet. Just-in-time training programs provide resources and materials for in-depth learning and application. Leveraging the LMS is "an incredibly powerful and effective way to reach out and let our employees know that we prioritize their health and well-being by providing a vast array of mental health resources," says Garcia.
Manifesting best practicesKaplan is likewise leveraging technology to present learning options to employees. For example, it is bringing gamification via a knowledge reinforcement platform. The company "provides employees with a daily, game-based learning opportunity to strengthen knowledge of important workplace topics," Finelli states.
"The platform is based on brain science and uses an algorithm to customize learning for the employee. The more often they are exposed to a question or piece of information, the more likely they are to increase their retention, move up to higher difficulty levels of questions, and graduate from the topic," Finelli continues. The platform "increases retention and confidence, all while promoting fun learning."
For Alamo Colleges, the TD team uses best practices to tailor its employee training programs to support the institution's mission of empowering its diverse communities for success. "At Alamo Colleges, high-quality education and affordable cost provide great value to students and alumni who are major contributors to the economy and culture of community," says Esteban Ramon, learning and talent development specialist.
The TD team recently increased employee engagement by aligning with the organization's "moonshot" to end generational poverty and increase social mobility in and around the community, Ramon notes. "TD implemented innovative learning activities to help faculty support students by meeting their needs, improving overall student success." Through Pedagogy of Care workshops, faculty learned to approach teaching "under a new lens based on an ethic of care as both a moral imperative and pedagogical necessity," Ramon adds. With that perspective, "faculty provided a more equitable learning environment by reducing barriers that perpetuated poverty."