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Learning and development

10 Companies with exceptional employee development programs

"What happens if you train your employees and they leave? What if you don't and they stay?" This adage sums up why all companies should be building robust employee training and development programs. Here are 5 examples of companies doing it right.

Meryl D'Sa-Wilson

April 29, 2022

The workplace is going through a revolution with The Great Resignation and The Great Reshuffle — where change is the only constant, and employees are looking for work opportunities that offer more value, flexibility, and growth.

According to The Readiness Index,

“Having opportunities to learn is the biggest workplace driver of readiness in the US.”

Your employees want to learn and grow. And helping them get there with learning and development programs will support them and give your business new resources for growth.

Let’s understand why your organization should consider investing in a development and training program. We’ll also look through some real-life examples of employee development programs and their results.

What are training and development programs?

Training and development programs are learning exercises that employees participate in to grow their existing skills or learn new ones. Likely, what training employees take depends on the skills gaps within the organization. However, many companies have begun offering learning stipends that give employees the autonomy to decide what training they take part in.

Why your company needs an employee development program

So, why are companies looking into learning and development? And what can your organization achieve by running a training and development program?

While these programs are usually focused on training employees, you’ll notice in the employee development program examples below that there is more than meets the name. Through mentorship and training, organizations are helping employees grow more confident and ready in their roles.

That’s why 71% of Fortune 500 companies have workplace mentoring programs, while many more support informal initiatives.

From career to development to employee satisfaction, there are many reasons why companies take time to run an employee development program:

  • Upskilling and reskilling employees
  • Leadership and management training
  • Digital transformation and skill expansion
  • Bridge confidence and readiness gap
  • Employee performance support
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Improve the success of internship and returnship programs

Through employee development and mentorship programs, organizations have been able to do more for their employees. And it pays off. Employees that go through these programs have higher retention rates and engagement levels. 

There are several examples of successful development programs to take note of:

Employees want more for the places they work, namely development, growth, pay, and well-being. And you can use employee development programs to engage, retain, and invest in your employees.

What sets exceptional employee development apart?

Most development programs will only the basics: training sessions, once-a-month meetings, performance reviews, and online courses. But corporate e-learning isn’t enough

So, what sets the below employee development programs examples apart from other such training programs? 

They go above and beyond. 

It is not only about providing employees with the tools to do their job at this company well but also helping employees feel challenged, motivated, and ready to take on new endeavours. 

They do this by running reverse mentoring programs, interviewing employees with the intention to understand their needs, and creating agendas that benefit the business and the employee.

Let’s look at what makes exceptional employee development:

  • Focusing on employee growth and satisfaction
  • Supporting for DEI initiatives through conversation
  • Increasing visibility of minority employees for leadership opportunities
  • Providing leadership with fresh perspective from junior employees
  • Retaining junior employees (Millennials and Gen Z) in a post-COVID world
  • Collecting feedback to further improve the program
  • Supporting remote and distributed teams

Examples of employee development programs

72% of businesses agree that L&D has become a more strategic function in their organization. And this may take a few different forms — providing financial support for learning, attending conferences and webinars or running mentorship programs.

Let’s look at a few examples of how companies have created and managed employee development programs.

Heineken

When surveyed, 86% of Heineken senior leaders wanted to connect with junior employees—the next generation—to gain new skills and experiences. This led to Heineken running a reverse mentoring program where junior employees act as mentors to senior leaders and executives. Such a program aims to provide leadership with new perspective on the future of work and areas for growth. 

Additionally, Heineken also runs a global diversity and inclusion program. This program is geared towards empowering colleagues to practice inclusion and embrace the diversity of countries the company operates in. When creating the program, Pascale Thorre, Inclusion and Diversity Head conducted a round of 45 introductory interviews to understand how inclusive employees thought the company was and what could to make it more inclusive.

The goal then was to create a program that focused on the “potential needs of [their] people across the full five layers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory” This meant keeping in mind needs associated with physiology, belonging, self-actualization, self-esteem, and safety in mind. Thorre further said,

“[I]nclusion starts with open and honest communication with everyone in your company … After all, Inclusion can translate differently in different environments and for diverse people.”

City National Bank

City National Bank has been named one of the ‘Best Employers for Women’ by Forbes and as part of the ‘Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance’ program by American Banker for its employee resource groups and DEI initiatives. More recently, the bank is launching Ex-Change—a new program for the Women's Network. This program offers informal mentor-mentee interactions to create a safe space for learning and knowledge-sharing. 

The program is open to all — it combines traditional and reverse mentoring so that anyone can participate as an advisor or advisee. Mentees choose their mentors from a list of potential advisors drawn based on common interests and goals. On top of that, mentees can have multiple mentors and vice versa. 

Cooley

Cooley, a global law firm, runs a virtual mentoring program—called Cooley Academy Mentoring Program (CAMP)—geared towards improving their onboarding process. The purpose behind this program is to pair new employees with experienced individuals and bring them up to speed more efficiently. 

Through this program, mentors get to teach, train, and support new hires through mentoring sessions, and prepare them for more complex work. The company used reporting tools to better understand how mentoring relationships were performing through mentorship progress and feedback.

Randstad

Randstad, a Dutch multinational HR consulting firm, runs a large-scale global mentoring program. Through this program, they were able to study employee engagement and turnover rates — of those in the program versus those who did not participate. By paying closer attention to employee engagement, Randstad provided employees with development and support and reduced turnover rates.

Cruise Automation

Cruise Automation cares deeply about internal career development. They want to attract top talent and nurture them to grow further within the company. Their training and mentorship programs help them achieve this. Through these programs, they were able to accelerate employee development by matching new hires with experienced employees. They used templated mentoring agendas with guiding questions, to-do tasks, links to further reading, and other resources so that teams could have meaningful conversations about skills and goals.

After all, a great match can lead to career-changing opportunities.

Amazon

Amazon runs multiple training programs under the Amazon Technical Academy to prepare nontechnical employees to move into software engineering careers. These training programs will help employees feel confident and take on different roles at Amazon and also in other industries. One such program is Associate2Tech where they will train front-line employees to move into technical roles, even if they have no previous IT experience. All training is voluntary.

Regarding fleshing out Amazon’s training program, Beth Galetti, Senior Vice President of HR says, “We think it's important to invest in our employees, and to help them gain new skills and create more professional options for themselves.”

Chipotle

Every single year, some fast food brands are losing more than an entire workforce. That means they’re constantly scrambling to staff their stores, leaving them less time to focus on achieving their strategic goals.

Chipotle is attempting to buck the trend by betting big on employee development.

In 2018, the company announced it was reinvesting more than one-third of anticipated savings from tax law changes into its employees.

And since the dawn of the pandemic, Chipotle has enhanced its employee development plans by adding more than 5,500 remote courses, covering topics as diverse as business, tech, and wellness.

This move is part of a wider initiative that saw the chain introduce an employee resource group called United Network of Influencers Furthering Inclusion and Ethnic Diversity. The group’s goal is to promote an equal opportunities approach to career growth and development, thereby helping Chipotle build a discrimination and inequality-free working environment.

Key components of the program include:

  • Mentoring for minority employees
  • Quarterly training sessions to promote workplace diversity and inclusion (D&I)
  • Virtual roundtable events featuring high-profile speakers and panels

Discussing the company’s efforts, Chief Diversity, Inclusion and People Officer, Marissa Andrad says: “Our employees are seeking real connection more than ever before, and it's our responsibility to cultivate an environment where they can continue to thrive and pursue their passions with like-minded co-workers, even in a virtual setting.”

Workday

Regularly recognized as one of the world’s best employee management systems, Workday is another company that strives to position employee development at the center of its talent strategy.

The company is leveraging its own technology platform to identify and develop the key skills required to support its growth plans.

“When you understand the skills of the organization and you enable employees to activate those skills, you create a lot more options for how your work gets done,”

says Chief People Officer, Ashley Goldsmith.

In 2021, Workday rolled out a skills-based HR strategy incorporating proprietary tools such as its Career Hub. This allows employees to find and work toward specific skills by connecting with opportunities to help other teams and departments — letting them learn “on the job”.

Internal surveys of Workday employees and managers who have taken advantage of gigs have been “really encouraging”:

The company recognizes there is still much work to be done, as Goldsmith explains:

“We plan to continue to incorporate employee feedback through surveys and make adjustments based on employee needs.”

Marriott International

Marriott International has been consistently named one of Asia Pacific’s best employers, with much of its success tracing back to its focus on employee development.

“Marriott International is a people-first company,” says Natasha Rasheed, Area Director of Human Resources for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

“We believe in taking care of our associates, so they in turn take care of our guests. It’s embedded in our DNA.”

The company’s employee development plans are designed to attract and retain a loyal team committed to the core values of excellence and service. It offers two development programs:

  • The Global Voyage Leadership Development program, intended to help recent university graduates 
  • The Marriott Development Academy, aimed at helping aspiring managers acquire the skills required for leadership roles

Combined, those programs have helped Marriott International fill more than 55% of leadership vacancies within the Australian market with internal candidates.

Not only that, but the company fosters close relationships with schools and universities to help it attract top talent at a young age. It also places substantial focus on D&I, whether through empowering female leaders or by ensuring local populations can access its training and development initiatives.

Urban Company

Urban Company is India’s largest home services marketplace, with a platform that helps customers book everything from plumbers and appliance repairers to beauty services and personal trainers.

Much like the vast majority of organizations, Urban Company was forced to radically rethink its systems of working during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Its first major call was to shift its entire workforce to remote working; a huge challenge for any organization, let alone one with 1,300 office-based employees.

However, Urban Company has always been happy to find innovative solutions and implement creative workflows. 

With these in place, the brand’s marketing team was able to slash creative production costs by 85%. And it took the same ambitious approach to learning and development.

The Urban Company leadership quickly realized employees still needed to be able to acquire new skills and learnings even while working away from the office, so it launched its own learning and development platform, Urban Academy.

The company leveraged internal expertise to build programs covering a wide range of topics, including:

  • Excel Skills (basic, intermediate, and expert)
  • Leadership
  • How to give feedback
  • Problem-solving
  • SQL

As interest grew across individual teams and departments, they were able to bolster the program by adding 25 new instructors.

Furthermore, all that internal knowledge was supplemented by a regular series of two-hour talks featuring key leaders from various industries.

Types of training and development 

So, what type of employee development and training program does your business need? This depends on the resources available and the goals you want to achieve. You can then apply different corporate learning strategies to make your program successful.

Let’s look at a few types of training, learning, and development:

Online Learning Management Systems (LMS)

As more companies adopt remote work, training and mentorship will move online, while in-person seminars will become less. Although LMS software is a growing market, there are persistent challenges around how engaging online learning can be. 

In fact, 56% of new hires prefer having a buddy or mentor when starting at a new company, and believe mentors can support their growth.

For that reason, training programs have adopted more social learning models that can be pursued virtually as well.

Mentorship programs

Mentorship programs are a great way to aid and accelerate learning at work. They provide employees with the opportunity to learn from a seasoned leader and become more competent because of it. 

Start employee mentoring programs by getting leaders, stakeholders, and employees on board. Choose a type of mentoring (1-on-1, group, traditional, reverse, and so on) that fits your goals and needs. Once you decide on the type of program, create relevant pairings between mentors and mentees. 

If you’re trying to pair employees at scale (think 100+ employees), you’ll likely want to use a pairing algorithm that automates the registration and matching process.

Peer-to-peer training

Peer-to-peer training is another effective way to bring more of a collaborative or social aspect to employee development. 

Technical skills like how to code, follow a procedure, or executive a specialized task can be learned through a course or by following available documentation. But to master these complex skills, employees will benefit more from working alongside a peer. Likewise, they can also learn more abstract skills like how to handle conflict better, balance work and life, or be a better leader. 

Improve your employee development program with Together

If you’re planning to work on your own employee training program, remember that it takes more than just building a training program and assigning courses or tasks. Employees must feel empowered to learn for your L&D efforts to pay off. 

Together’s mentoring software can help you create an intentional and mindful space for growth and development. We help organizations run internal mentoring and training programs and will support your program from registration to implementation to reporting. 

Inspired by these employee development program examples and ready to build your own? Book a 15 min call with our team. We'll walk you through how our platform can help you create an educational and growth-friendly space in your workplace!

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