Archives for December 2016

Top 10 Objections to Gamification (and the Best Way to Respond)

User engagement should always be a primary consideration for any L&D strategy. We must provide a clear reason for employees to choose a learning experience over the myriad of other things they could do with their time. First, our experiences must provide clear value to the user. Engagement—and, dare I say, fun—is a very close second. Gamification, despite all of the possible objections, is a great way to set employee learning experiences apart in the endlessly cluttered world of work.

During the past decade, gamification has received its fair share of skepticism regarding its potential to impact employee learning and performance. But, when applied effectively and in combination with other effective learning techniques like microlearning, gamification has the power to significantly improve employee engagement and business outcomes.

Conversations about gamification have evolved during the last two years. The talk is less about gamification as a defining trend and more about how real businesses are using it with great success. We’re starting to see the results of multi-year gamification implementations. Technology is enabling more meaningful, engaging user experiences. Business stakeholders have become more comfortable with the concept, especially now that it no longer seems like just a “trendy” thing to do—prompting organizations like Bloomingdale’s, Walmart, Pep Boys, and many others to leverage it for boosting key business results. Overall, it feels like a great time to dig into gamification as a way to address difficulties with workplace engagement.

Whether you’re just getting starting with the idea of gamification or trying to perfect your strategy, you’re likely to run into some of the same challenges I, as well as many others, have encountered. Here are the 10 most common objections to gamification as well as how to respond, including follow-up questions for discussion.

Objection 1: “I don’t get what gamification is all about.”

Response: Simply stated, gamification is an opportunity to improve employee motivation and engagement at work—two vital considerations for the modern workplace. Advances in technology mean we have the ability to use the same kinds of game mechanics used in the real world (like earning badges for contributing content online or gaining points for taking actions that promote a particular brand) to improve employee learning and working activities.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

How are we already using game mechanics with our customers?

Where do you encounter game mechanics in everyday life (e.g., loyalty programs), and how have they motivated people to engage in an activity?

Objection 2: “Games are a waste of productive work time.”

Response: Letting people play games all day would certainly not be a valuable use of work time and, fortunately, that’s not what gamification is all about. Gamification uses familiar methods (such as game play, points, rewards, and leaderboards) to motivate employees to engage in learning that helps them do the things management already wants them to do on the job, such as reach performance goals, complete training activities, or share their knowledge with their peers.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

How much time and effort, and how many resources, are we currently wasting trying to get our employees to engage in taking the right actions on the job without any result?

How much value would added engagement provide to our employees, customers, and business? Is this value worth the trade for the small amount of time dedicated to gamification activities?

Objection 3: “Older employees won’t like this.”

Response: While gamification does appeal to “Millennials,” repeated studies have proven that game mechanics are about individual preference, not demographics. Factors like age and gender don’t make a difference when it comes to the potential for gamification impact, which means it’s important to put aside assumptions. For example, while many people may assume males dominate the gaming industry, adult women now make up the largest demographic. An effective gamification strategy is designed to accommodate individual preference and workplace culture, not generalizations.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

On what evidence are we basing our assumptions regarding demographics and employee engagement?

How does the reality of a multigenerational workforce relate to the potential of gamification?

Objection 4: “This won’t work in our culture.”

Response: Every company culture is unique. What works for one organization won’t automatically work for another. The same is true for gamification. Game mechanics have a proven impact in the real world across all demographics and use cases. To be effective in a particular organization, the gamification strategy must take into account the unique elements of the culture and what truly motivates and engages the company’s employees. Take Toyota, for example. The company puts together a huge knowledge-based competition every year for its dealership reps that encourages them to compete on what they know about their products for a chance to win prizes, including a trip to the Super Bowl.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

What unique elements of our culture should we keep in mind when designing programs focused on employee engagement and motivation?

In what ways may our current perceived culture potentially be inhibiting our ability to try new ideas and evolve as an organization?

Objection 5: “We’re giving people points and badges. So what?”

Response: Badges and points aren’t valuable on their own. An effective gamification strategy ties game mechanics, like points and badges, to real-world value (see the article on Pep Boys linked above). This could include a variety of value propositions, such as tangible rewards, certifications, credibility, or even bragging rights in a highly competitive environment.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

How are we already using symbolic items, such as certificates and pins, to recognize employee accomplishments?

What types of workplace accomplishments and recognition would employees potentially find worth sharing with their peers and managers?

Objection 6: “I can see how this would work for front-line employees, but this isn’t for professional roles.”

Response: We all learn all the time, regardless of our roles. While the process is consistent, the topics and context in which we learn change based on the nature of our work. Employees in professional roles often have high levels of autonomy, unique knowledge requirements, and considerable time constraints. (Check out these PDF documents—profiles of employees who work in professional roles at MCAP, a call center; TBC, a tire distribution firm; and Ethicon, a division of Johnson & Johnson—to get some additional context on this subject.) For these individuals, engaging and high-value learning experiences are of great importance. Not only does gamification fit in this context, but it can also help address the variety of different motivators needed with such a diverse audience.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

Do we struggle when trying to engage employees in professional roles in continued-learning opportunities?

What are the potential benefits of using similar strategies to develop our employees in front-line and professional roles?

Objection 7: “There’s no proof this will work.”

Response: We’re now starting to see evidence of the impact gamification can have on employee engagement and business results long-term. Ethicon (see above) regularly sees 90 percent voluntary engagement among its medical sales teams within its gamified training platform—and that’s just one example. To achieve early success with gamification, it’s essential to leverage the knowledge and shared experience of gamification thought leaders to create a unique organizational strategy.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

How do we typically introduce new, innovative ideas within our organization?

Which audience(s) may be most ready to try out our gamified strategy based on their willingness to accept new ideas and related business objectives?

Objection 8: “We don’t have the time or money to build games.”

Response: Gamification isn’t about building big, complicated games. The power comes from using simple, familiar game mechanics in meaningful ways. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways using right-fit technology. You also don’t have to jump in with every game mechanic available. It’s about finding the right place to start based on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

What tools are we already using that have gamified elements, such as points, leaderboards, characters, or achievements?

Who are the right potential partners to engage to help us better understand how we can apply gamification to our workplace?

Objection 9: “Games have to be integrated with the learning experience to be effective.”

Response: The relationship between a game and a learning activity is based on the organization’s desired outcome. Learning games, such as simulations, can deliver content in a gamified manner. Casual game play can also engage users with or without direct connection to the learning experience. This type of simple game can motivate users while creating an improved readiness state, or “flow,” that better prepares the user to receive training content. Have you ever tried to interrupt someone while they’re playing a game? Then you have experienced the impact of flow.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

On what research are we basing our beliefs regarding the connection between games and learning?

How engaged do we believe our employees are today with the learning activities we provide? How impactful could an increase in this engagement level be for the same activities?

Objection 10: “It’s going to be impossible to keep people interested.”

Response: Gamification is about human behavior, and that’s a very complex topic. Some early studies pointed to a novelty factor with gamification, suggesting that initial bumps in engagement will quickly trail off as the mechanics become less motivational. However, new research—including findings from Karl Kapp working in collaboration with Axonify—has shown that a well-designed gamification strategy that takes this into account can sustain user interest over time. For example, after more than three years, the impact of elements like rewards, achievements, and leaderboards has not noticeably changed for sample users who initially found value in these types of motivators.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

How have our learning and engagement strategies evolved during the past 10 years to account for changing employee needs and business objectives?

Which subject matter experts and resources should we consult regarding complex workplace issues, such as human motivation and the science of learning?

Responses like those above should help you engage in more meaningful conversations about gamification with your peers and stakeholders. I also suggest sharing third-party content as a discussion follow-up, including research studies and articles from recognized thought leaders, when appropriate.

User engagement should always be a primary consideration for any L&D strategy. We must provide a clear reason for employees to choose a learning experience over the myriad of other things they could do with their time. First, our experiences must provide clear value to the user. Engagement—and, dare I say, fun—is a very close second. Gamification, despite all of the possible objections, is a great way to set employee learning experiences apart in the endlessly cluttered world of work.



Company Culture: How to Capture Your Values

Have you ever walked into work and thought: I’m not sure who we are and why we do what we do?

While there’s no one way to run a company, and businesses operate differently from one to the next, every organization has a culture and exhibits values, whether explicitly stated or not. As a company evolves, it will have to reevaluate its processes and standards to accommodate its growing workforce.

Sometimes this means rethinking whether you are clearly communicating your values and reinforcing them day to day. Whether you’re a budding startup or a centuries-old conglomerate, there are certain key elements and factors that go into revisiting what you stand for, and where you’re headed next.

While culture and values flow from everyday decisions and behaviors, starting the conversation at the top is key to long-term success. If you do not have buy-in upfront from the heads of the company, staying on course will be difficult.

CEOs and their leadership team must exhibit the behaviors they expect of others within the organization. Actions speak loudest. Every choice should take your values into account. From how you evaluate candidates to how you assess and reward existing employees, decisions will be viewed through the lens of your values — Do we do what we say we do?

Ask the tough questions.

If you’re gently reforming or radically overhauling your company culture, the first thing you have to do is be open to change and that means being prepared to ask tough questions.

If you’re a founder-led organization, chances are they have a specific view or focus to convey. If the organization has been around for a while, you might have already established some values or themes. The most effective first step is to ask aloud:

  • What have we said (or shown) our values to be?
  • Have they been explicitly communicated?
  • Are they any unspoken values?
  • Why do we need to state our values? What If we did nothing?

You’ll want to dig into the details you uncover. Sometimes it’s easiest to accomplish this step by bringing in someone from the outside to help. An external facilitator who has been through this process before will offer an outsider’s perspective and help you find what you truly stand for. A good facilitator will tell you to stop, collaborate and listen. Pay close attention to the questions that arose in the earlier steps, specifically where people expressed confusion.

While approval from senior leadership is critical, there’s no better place to turn for input and insights than your employees. They live the culture every day and they know what it’s like to work there. Focus groups can provoke responses you might not have expected. You can also send out a targeted survey to discover what the focus groups might not yield — discomfort, shortage of faith, low morale and more.

Be willing to use a variety of methods to collect and capture information from employees. Some will be more forthcoming than others, but the goal is to get to a 360-degree view of the company. However, do not expect or wait for consensus; you will never get there.

Communicate, put into practice and reinforce.

You’ll want communication to not only come from the top down, but also the bottom up. When you have finalized a set of values, share the wisdom broadly in multiple ways: from senior leadership at company town halls and also between managers and employees in smaller meetings. Let your employees know what came out of the exploratory sessions and where they can find additional tools and resources to serve them better.

Some of what you say will stick, yet other messages won’t take right away. Make sure you’re committed to stay the course and reinforcing the message with action, through behaviors and future decision-making.

Continue to let your employees know you’re assessing the organization and you will report back when it’s the right time to move ahead. Respect your employees for having their say. Repeat the message in company updates and begin emails with, “Because you shared …” They will feel valued and therefore get on board.

AUTHOR:  Matthew Jagoda is the chief people officer at Shutterstock, a content licensing company that includes images, videos and music. 

Reprinted from WORKFORCE

White House Challenges States to Overhaul Non-compete Deals

In October 2016, the White House announced a call to action to reform non-compete agreements. Instead of proposing sweeping federal legislation, it is asking each state to pass non-compete reforms. This call to action comes on the heels of a joint White House/Treasury Department report issued this past spring addressing the use, issues, and state responses to non-competition agreements.

Why is the White House taking on this issue? According to its Fact Sheet, non-compete agreements narrow the employment options for an estimated one in five workers in the United States, which the White House believes has the real potential to slow job growth and increase unemployment.

As a result, the White House is calling on state policymakers to pursue best-practice policy objectives, including one or more of the following objectives:

Ban non-compete clauses for categories of workers, such as workers under a certain wage threshold; workers in certain occupations that promote public health and safety; workers who are unlikely to possess trade secrets; or those who may suffer undue adverse impacts from non-competes, such as workers laid off or terminated without cause.

Improve transparency and fairness of non-compete agreements by, for example, disallowing non-competes unless they are proposed before a job offer or significant promotion has been accepted (because an applicant who has accepted an offer and declined other positions may have less bargaining power); providing consideration over and above continued employment for workers who sign non-compete agreements; or 2 encouraging employers to better inform workers about the law in their state and the existence of non-competes in contracts and how they work.

Incentivize employers to write enforceable contracts, and encourage the elimination of unenforceable provisions by, for example, promoting the use of the “red pencil doctrine,” which renders contracts with unenforceable provisions void in their entirety.

I am encouraged by this White House initiative. First, consider that a White House that favors big government via federal agencies legislating instead of administering is not proposing federal non-compete reforms, but is instead calling on individual states to take on this issue on a state-by-state basis.

Second, there is no doubt that employers overuse non-competes. Employers often misuse non-competes to try to scare every worker away from their competitors, knowing that the sheer cost of litigation serves to enforce an otherwise unenforceable agreement. Of course, costs flow both ways, and while a business may be better positioned to bear that burden, do you really need to spend money fighting a fight that, at the end of the day, you likely cannot win? Pragmatically, then, across-the-board non-competes for all employees do not make sense for employers.

There is no reason to chain employees with overly broad agreements. Employers often use the destructive tornado of noncompete agreements to blow out a match-flame of competition. Instead, employers should target the specific issues of concern, such as trade secrets protections, non-solicitation, and non-disclosure of confidential information, and narrow the agreement only to address those concerns. The more narrow an agreement, the more likely it will be that an already skeptical judge (and judges typically do not like non-competes) will enforce it.

In the right circumstances, non-compete agreements play a key role in protecting businesses and promoting innovation. Employers need to understand, however, that every employee will not destroy your business by leaving to work for a competitor. Your job in developing and deploying post-employment covenants is determining the specific interests you need to protect, and tailoring your agreement to that specific interest on an employee-by-employee, or job-class-by-job-class basis.


AUTHOR:  Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. Comment below or email Follow Hyman’s blog at

Reprinted from WORKFORCE

5 Trends for the Future of Learning and Development

In today’s world, organizations that fail to adjust their learning management practices and solutions often struggle with organizational growth or productivity. As a result, leading companies are abandoning traditional methods of learning in favor of more effective solutions—often involving technology innovation—that engage talent and improve performance. This report highlights key trends affecting the future of enterprise learning and recommendations for selecting the right provider.

Key Findings

  • One-third of companies are increasing their budget for learning and development.
  • 41 percent of companies describe their culture as “Controlling.”
  • Only 10 percent of companies are leveraging mobile learning solutions.
  • 59 percent of companies are leveraging social learning activities.
  • Source: Brandon Hall Group 2014 Learning and Development Benchmarking Study (n=569)
  • Prioritizing the Individual

Organizations are facing several critical pressures, including a short supply of leaders, the need to develop and engage employees, and issues with turnover. Finding and keeping talent is no longer an HR challenge but a strategic business priority. Yet, most companies are unable to build lasting relationships with their employees in an effort to overcome these challenges. Instead of empowering employees with the tools they need to succeed, many companies feel threatened by their workforce and fearful of change. In fact, when asked to define their company culture, 41 percent of companies described it as “controlling,” or a highly structured and informal place to work with little collaboration. With the emergence of a younger generation and the rise of the independent worker, companies must rethink their approach to talent and begin to prioritize the “individual.” They must provide a new mechanism for learning—one that can adapt to the needs of a changing workforce and align closely with organizational objectives.

For many companies, an updated learning and development process is long overdue. Brandon Hall Group’s 2014 Learning and Development Benchmarking Study shows that more than 50 percent of companies have revisited their learning strategy less than two times over the last five years. It may seem surprising (considering the state of the global economy over the last few years), but learning has remained, for the most part, stagnant. The good news is that one-third of companies are increasing their budget for learning and development over the next 12 months. With nearly 50 percent of these companies currently spending $100 per learner per year, companies will need to become more strategic about their learning programs and technology enablers. Brandon Hall Group research indicates that the top areas of learning investment include internal L&D staff and external consultants. Although having the right resources and expertise is critical, companies may want to consider the role technology can play in transforming their learning functions.

Trends and Recommendations

Although learning is one of the most mature areas of talent management, it is also one of the most innovative. With recent technology advancements and the rapid adoption of social collaboration, learning and development has come a long way. Yet making a decision to improve a learning management program and invest in a learning management solution is often a daunting challenge. Five key trends and best practices that companies should consider include the use of mobile technology, adoption of social learning tools, alignment with corporate objectives, use of adaptive learning principles, and the ability to measure effectiveness.

Going Mobile. Mobile has transformed the way companies work, interact, and collaborate. With global penetration rates skyrocketing, organizations that are not considering mobile in all areas of HCM will have a difficult time competing for talent. Despite this reality, companies are still slow to embrace mobile learning solutions. Only 10 percent of companies are using mobile Web-based learning solutions. Some 8 percent are using mobile learning apps, 5 percent mobile performance Web-based sites, and 4 percent are using mobile performance apps Most companies recognize that mobile learning solutions can improve adoption, expand global reach, and engage users better, but do not understand how to execute a mobile strategy. Additionally, some organizations find it challenging to determine what options are available and which providers to consider. Regardless of the barriers they are facing, organizations looking to improve their learning functions will need to make mobile part of the equation and determine what requirements they have in order to select a technology partner.

Understanding Social. Companies are quickly embracing social media tools, as well as investing in social collaboration tools to better engage employees and foster a learning culture. Although social has become mainstream, companies still lack the knowledge and insight around how to use these tools for learning and development. Of the 59 percent of companies using social for their learning strategies, only 24 percent say they are effective. One reason is that companies are limited in the social tools they are using. Companies are using document sharing, discussion forms, and blogs, but they aren’t generally using video or micro-blogs—which our research shows are more effective—to improve their learning functions. Companies must educate themselves on the value of social learning and invest in providers that offer solutions that drive business outcomes.

Considering Adaptive Learning. Adaptive learning is a methodology that breaks traditional models and allows employees to learn at their own pace. It has gained popularity with educational institutions, referred to as “adaptive teaching,” where a teacher will gather information on individual students to learn what they need to do to improve their learning. In the workforce, adaptive learning is conducted similarly. Employees can be monitored individually and in real time to determine what learning approach will best suit their needs. It has advantages for younger generations entering the workforce that have expectations around flexibility and interaction. Adaptive learning can be effective at improving efficiency, as well as employee engagement and retention since it allows employees to build confidence and overall expertise. Companies may want to consider breaking traditional learning methods by introducing aspects of adaptive learning.

Aligning with Business Objectives. The learning of the past operated in silos where learning professionals had little interaction or input from other areas of the business. The learning of the future must be closely aligned to overall corporate strategies in order for companies to achieve results. Any program or technology investment should involve input from business leaders to ensure that learning is driving retention, engagement, and performance. For those companies that did align learning and business priorities (48 percent), more than 70 percent were able to improve company revenue.

Measuring Effectiveness. To determine if the learning strategy in place is driving business outcomes, companies must find a way to consistently measure its effectiveness. Companies should determine metrics in advance and include both business metrics and learning/HR metrics. Currently, most companies are considering team encouragement, employee engagement, and employee satisfaction over more concrete business metrics such as retention, turnover, and revenue per full-time employee.

Key Takeaways

Most companies must adapt their learning strategies to meet the demands of today’s workforce. Traditional models of learning do little to bridge the gap between employer and employee or to improve engagement and performance. By aligning learning strategies with corporate objectives and leveraging innovative technology, organizations will be able to significantly improve their learning functions. Key takeaways:

Select the right provider. In the past, organizations had limited technology choices for learning and development, but today there are new solutions emerging every month. Organizations should consider providers with innovative capabilities such as mobile and social and also understand the importance of measuring the effectiveness of learning activities.

Collaborate with the business. Learning professionals must work closely with business leaders to design the learning program and also to gather input on the right technology providers. With executive support, organizations can help shift their approach to learning and create new vehicles for enabling individual success.

Put the individual first. Companies must shift the way they view employees and consider focusing on the individual and his or her unique learning needs. For some companies, this strategy may include aspects of adaptive learning; for other companies, it could mean a different communication strategy.


AUTHOR:  David Wentworth and Mollie Lombardi are analysts for Brandon Hall Group, an independent HCM research and advisory services firm that provides insights on Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, and Human Resources. Wentworth is senior learning analyst and Lombardi is VP of the Workforce Management Practice.


5 Tech Leaders Step Up Learning and Development to Engage Employees

Companies with high employee engagement reap a number of valuable benefits: Productivity and innovation flourish, employee retention and loyalty grow. One key way companies can drive employee engagement and differentiate themselves in a competitive job market is through their learning and development (L&D) programs.

Millennials now comprise the largest segment of the American workforce, and a recent study shows that they rank training and development as the No. 1 most valuable benefit employers can provide. Leading tech companies today understand this and are creating new learning initiatives to drive employee engagement and job satisfaction. Pandora calls these programs their “B2E” (Business to Employees) initiatives. Salesforce, the thought leader behind Customer Success, has named them “Employee Success”

Here’s how five big names in tech use innovative learning and development programs to make sure employees are engaged at work, and how startups and mid-sized companies can borrow from their playbooks.

SALESFORCE: Innovative, Customized Learning Journeys

Salesforce customizes L&D to the individual employee to increase productivity and engagement. Dan Darcy, SVP, Productivity, runs enablement at Salesforce and describes his job as Customer Success for internal employees.

For Salesforce, Customer Success is all about putting customers first. It means actively working to increase customer happiness, engagement, productivity, retention, and ultimate success. For Darcy and his team, Employee Success comes first.

“My goal is to establish the best sales training program in the industry, and then roll out this framework for training across all Salesforce departments,” Darcy says enthusiastically. Darcy’s team polled employees and discovered that Salesforce employees wanted personalized learning opportunities they could do at their own pace.

To deliver, Darcy’s team is adapting Salesforce’s homegrown Trailhead interactive customer learning platform for in-house employee training. Sales account executives still start their careers with face-to-face Salesforce Academy training at headquarters. Trailhead builds off this foundation by flipping the classroom model. Employees and managers design one-on-one learning journeys to meet each individual employee’s unique personal development needs and goals. With Trailhead, Salesforce is leveraging new training technology to increase both Customer Success and Employee Success.

YELP: Retaining Young Talent Through Learning & Development

James Balagot, head of Learning & Development at Yelp, uses L&D to increase engagement and retention. Each year, Yelp hires and trains hundreds of young account executives, who quickly are pursued by other companies. As a former Yelp account executive himself, Balagot understands that providing young professionals with valuable learning programs, a positive culture, and meaningful advancement opportunities is the best defense against attrition.

Yelp’s strong commitment to promoting from within is the foundation for the company’s L&D efforts. To keep engagement and retention high, Yelp executives actively mentor young employees and tell managers that employee development is their key priority. Balagot surveys employees regularly to assess their job satisfaction and engagement. Employee participation in L&D programming is optional, but the message is clear: Yelp wants employees to succeed and provides daily opportunities for learning. At Yelp, every day can be a school day so employees can continually grow and advance their careers.

PANDORA: A Clear Focus on Manager Training

Pandora is another company that recognizes mentorship and manager-employee relationships are key to employee job satisfaction. “The No. 1 reason employees leave is because of poor relationships with their managers,” states Matt Morgan, Pandora’s VP, Employee Experience and Development. His team carefully tracks two key employee engagement survey metrics to measure the strength of employee-manager relationships:

  • My manager really cares about me as a person
  • I would recommend my manager to others
  • Teaching new managers to coach, support, and manage their people effectively is Pandora’s primary L&D goal.

Morgan’s team creates all its own B2E content and training tools for new managers in-house to reflect Pandora’s values and culture. While the courses are required, Pandora makes all its manager training available online and on-demand, and makes sure each session takes less than 15 minutes to complete. Pandora successfully focuses its L&D initiatives on manager training to increase employee engagement and retention.

ADOBE: Online Leadership Training Drives Global Productivity

Adobe’s uses L&D to develop leaders. “At Adobe, when we talk about leadership, it’s leadership at all levels, from our newest college grads to our senior leadership,” says Angela Szymusiak, senior Talent Development partner. Three years ago, Adobe’s senior executive team identified five key leadership capabilities to cultivate in all employees:

  • Lead with Emotional Intelligence
  • Identify and hire top talent
  • Scale the business and drive growth
  • Innovate and drive change
  • Role-model the Adobe Check-in approach by delivering meaningful, timely feedback

Adobe’s Global Talent Development team designed Adobe’s innovative Leading@Adobe curriculum to accomplish these goals across Adobe’s vast organization of 14,000-plus employees, in 40 countries and 70 locations.

Because of Adobe’s size, the Global Talent Development team relied on technology, Adobe’s Web conferencing platform, Adobe Connect, and on-demand resources to deliver scalable leadership programming. The company now offers a curated on-demand suite of leadership development e-learning tools globally. Moreover, Adobe gets the content right—its 60-minute virtual Adobe Connect labs consistently receive net promoter scores above 90 percent (e.g., I would recommend this experience to my colleague).

Adobe also has reimagined its performance management model. It has replaced its annual performance review process with a frequent feedback loop approach called Check-In. Check-Ins have been embraced throughout the company and are credited with improving communications, employee satisfaction and productivity.

FACEBOOK: Culture Is the Key for a Rapidly Expanding Workforce

“Facebook’s key Learning & Development objectives are to promote respect and foster a culture of continual learning,” says Mike Welsh, Learning & Development partner and People engineer at Facebook. The company’s approach to L&D was designed to appeal to its talented Millennial workers who are hungry for autonomy, feedback, learning, and advancement. Facebook employees want personalized experiences, so the company offers many avenues for individual learning through on-demand classes and career flexibility. At Facebook, most of the learning happens organically within functional departments and is peer-to-peer and employee driven.

Facebook’s L&D team is most known for its innovative Manager, Leadership, and Positive Culture development programs. For example, Facebook’s Engage Coaching Program provides new managers with one-on-one sessions with an executive coach to help them develop effective people management skills.

Facebook’s FLiP (Facebook Leadership in Practice) program also receives rave reviews. The FLiP program goes deep into leadership best practices, case studies, teambuilding, and coaching circle exercises, where rising leaders receive feedback and coaching from their peers and Facebook executive team members.

Finally, Facebook’s nationally recognized Managing Unconscious Bias program trains employees to acknowledge bias in the workplace and build productive working relationships with co-workers. Facebook successfully uses L&D to create a culture that puts people first, and fosters employee engagement, collaborative relationships, and continual learning.

COINBASE: A Forward Thinking Startup

Some believe that L&D is a perk only big companies can offer. Three-year-old Coinbase, creator of the first bitcoin wallet, is proving that theory wrong.

Coinbase, a Series C company with just over 100 employees, is already using L&D to ensure high employee engagement. According to Nathalie McGrath, director of People, Coinbase has created meaningful L&D offerings without a big budget and proprietary programs. To date, Coinbase has adopted Facebook’s coaching circles model, implemented Code School on Fridays, and is exploring partnerships with Udemy to offer employees a variety of on-demand courses. Coinbase’s goal is to empower employees and promote employee learning and continual personal development even when the company is in startup mode.

Five Affordable Ways to Launch L&D Initiatives

While large tech companies may have the money to invest in best-in-class, proprietary L&D programs, many of their best practices don’t require significant resources and budget. Here are five tips companies of any size can implement quickly to bring L&D to their organizations without breaking the bank.

  • Promote in-house mentorship and coaching. Get informal mentorship meet- ups, coaching circles, and peer-to-peer learning off the ground.
  • Make online education an employee benefit. Edtech companies such as Udemy, Udacity,, and Coursera all offer a variety of affordable, turnkey B2B subscriptions for employee online learning.
  • Regularly track employee engagement and job satisfaction. Measure results and solicit feedback. Design and test new L&D initiatives. Strive to constantly improve these metrics.
  • Train new managers to lead, manage, and give frequent feedback. Employees are more engaged and productive when their bosses are good people managers.
  • Treat employees like customers. Make employee engagement, success, and advancement a key business priority. Leverage L&D programs to demonstrate your company’s commitment to its employees.

Embrace L&D to Drive Engagement, Retention, and Productivity

“Employee engagement is the one key metric business leaders can influence quickly to improve business productivity,” stated Jack Welch early this year. Salesforce, Pandora, Yelp, Adobe, Facebook, and Coinbase all have demonstrated how learning and development programs can be used to increase employee engagement. True star employee performers care far more about learning and personal development than free lunches, gym discounts, and ping-pong. Earn their loyalty and increase their productivity and job satisfaction by bringing meaningful learning and development opportunities to your organization.

AUTHOR: Ellen Wilson is a product marketing consultant who works with tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is passionate about learning and development and helping people advance in their careers.


Pin It on Pinterest