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Utah Business

Thousands of employees have quit after Covid, to cope, employers are offering employee upskill programs like the ones led by Learn In.

Learn In wants to modernize how your employees upskill

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, more than 47 million workers quit their jobs during The Great Resignation of 2021, “many of whom were in search of an improved work-life balance and flexibility, increased compensation, and a strong company culture.” The phenomenon has since been recategorized as “The Great Reshuffle,” with hiring rates outpacing resignations as many of the workers who quit migrated to other companies. 

Regardless of how it’s classified, companies are grappling with recruitment and retention challenges in a big way. Workhuman’s most recent survey showed that four in ten employees will be looking for a new job in the next year, which is almost double that of its 2019 survey. 

A Prudential survey found that among those planning to seek new employment post-pandemic, 80 percent say they are concerned about their career growth, compared to 49 percent of all workers. “Additionally, the majority of this group (72 percent) are rethinking their skill sets (compared to 46 percent of all workers),” the survey says. And according to a Gartner report, “Nearly 60 percent of HR leaders reported that building critical skills and competencies will be their number one priority in 2022.”

The employers’ opportunity 

In his “HR Predictions for 2022” report, thought leader Josh Bersin says, “Learning, skills, and career pathways will become business-critical. Companies desperately need to reskill and redeploy workers, and the L&D (learning and development) market is responding faster than ever.”

Since he started studying L&D back in 1998, Bersin says, companies and investors have typically viewed corporate training as an important must-have but certainly not as a competitive advantage. That has completely changed, he says. “Today every single company executive is worried about skills. Not only have companies been redeploying, moving, and rethinking jobs and roles all over the world, we now have a skills-centric mentality.”

To help companies heed that call, Utah start-up Learn In has introduced an innovative platform that elevates traditional upskilling, taking companies’ employee education benefits from underutilized suggestions to in-demand incentives. 

“I went to lunch with a woman from Park City who had recently left Adobe. She’d been working for Adobe for ten years,” says David Blake, Learn In co-founder and CEO. “Adobe has an $8,000 per year education benefit, and she used exactly none of it. She had this opportunity to upskill, but why did she not do that? She already had a college degree, and many people who have an advanced degree perceive, ‘This is not for me.’ Companies haven’t facilitated it and made people aware of it.”

Learn In helps employers change that passive approach. For small- and medium-sized businesses, Learn In has curated a number of leading third-party continuing education courses, making it easy for employees to see their options, enroll, and participate. 

“We give companies a marketplace of skill-based programs, boot camps, certificates, executive education, and coaching—and we tie it into their existing benefits,” Blake says. 

Learn In has flipped the way companies make education benefits available. Typically, companies may offer annual education stipends, but they require employees to pay for course costs upfront, then submit for reimbursement. For employees with less disposable income, that can make upscaling challenging—if not impossible. Learn In ensures the annual stipend is accessible at the outset, clearly indicating the balance available on employees’ personalized Learn In dashboards.

Blake shared that his own educational benefit at Learn In is $3,000 a year. As he logged into his dashboard, he could see that he currently had all $3,000 ready to use. As he scrolled down, he could view a large selection of available courses, with the tuition fees noted. If he chose a course or two and received company approval to enroll, he could apply all or part of his available balance toward the costs. 

The interface works a lot like a digital debit card, and the dashboard helps employees track their benefits balance and their course progress. Learn In also facilitates companies that want to offer flexible financing options, like traditional tuition assistance, scholarships, and completion bonuses.

For larger employers, Learn In offers personalized education services beyond its marketplace, developing custom career academies. Each skill academy, aligned to a functional role like data science, incorporates application, measurement, feedback, and support based on educational best practices. Employees are also grouped into cohorts to foster engagement and accountability. 

From a program management perspective, employers utilizing the marketplace or skill academies have access to personalized analytics dashboards for tracking employees’ course approvals, completion status, and other key insights. 

Employees—a worthwhile investment 

Having launched in 2020 with its first clients onboarding in 2021, Learn In is already striking a chord. The company recently completed a Series A funding round of $13 million led by Firework Ventures, including Kickstart Fund and existing investors GSV Ventures and Album Ventures. The company also landed on the Inc. Best Workplaces 2022 list (which includes just 475 US companies, with only 11 in Utah). 

As for client success stories, Blake shared a story of a client that had budgeted $500,000 for company-wide education benefits. This client experienced serious underutilization when it first rolled out its program. 

“When they reimplemented with Learn In, $200,000 had been requested within the first month, and $100,000 had already been approved and initiated,” Blake says. “That puts them on track to exceed their goal of $500,000.”

While educational courses require employees’ commitment and time (many courses span several weeks to several months), Blake says employees’ personal rewards from in-depth upscaling can be significant. 

For employers, Bersin’s research on the cost of hiring, severance, and onboarding shows that it can cost as much as six times more to hire from the outside than to build from within.

“The ROI on upscaling is so high in terms of engagement, upward mobility, and the cost savings of not having to hire externally,” Blake says. “Companies are seeing education benefits strategically align.”

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