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Business Champions to Organization Leaders: Keep Focus on Employee Learning a Priority

Posted by Brian Sorenson on December 14, 2016

Topics: Workforce Development, Employee Incentives, Talent Management, Knowledge Transfer

During the closing panel of CAEL’s 2016 International Conference, “The Working Learner: Business Champions Share Key Workplace Initiatives,” business leaders from Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), Hilton Worldwide and UPS converged to share their experiences helping employees gain access to upskilling and higher education opportunities. Hilton Worldwide chief learning officer Kimo Kippen, HCSC vice president of human resources Mary Jo Burfeind and retired chief human resources officer of UPS Michael Johnson gave an illuminating look at how their organizations have evolved their employee education options and the challenges they’ve overcome in implementing them.  

Members of Business Champions, a group of senior-level business leaders from companies across the U.S. dedicated to learning about and sharing strategies for upskilling and expanding credential attainment among employees, each speaker noted the importance of encouraging employee development. With an emphasis on filling the skills gap through upskilling, the speakers highlighted the need to educate their workforces to support both personal and professional development.

“Is your workforce prepared for the future?” Johnson asked. “The blind spot [for organizations] is do I want to reinvest the money necessary to close the gaps. As the business changes, you might have to change the metrics and expected outcomes.”

“It’s mandatory for us to take part in the process to upskill our workers,” added Burfeind. “Skillsets are changing. Many critical roles today were not critical roles just a few years ago.”

Panelists noted the tremendous value of tuition assistance to help employees gain the skillset they need for these roles, but stressed the importance of providing such a program backed by a plan.

Burfeind agreed, noting that tuition assistance programs are not one of the incentive programs that are commonly cut but that companies want to know they’re getting something from it. For his part, Johnson stressed that organizations should be upfront about what they hope to get out of offering tuition assistance and the level of support they can provide employees.

“Be clear about what your objectives are,” said Johnson. “Be honest from the employer prospective about what you’re looking for. You can’t hold [employees’] hands through [the process], but we can guide them through.”

“Make education accessible,” said Burfeind, addressing the need for providing learning opportunities that fit adult learners’ busy schedules. “Not just bricks and mortar programs, but on-site and online programs as well.”  

The panel participants also discussed their partnerships with, and expectations of, higher education and associated partners to support the frontline workforce.

Burfeind noted the success HCSC has had in implementing CAEL’s LearningCounts program to help employees gain course credit for knowledge they already possess, saving them time and money. In addition, Burfeind spoke about the mutual benefits of working with university partners that offer discounts and waivers, in addition to a unique partnership with John Wood Community College to provide a healthcare administration certification program.   

Funded by Lumina Foundation and managed by CAEL, Business Champions focuses on learning about and sharing strategies for upskilling the frontline workforce and expanding credential attainment among employees. For more information on Business Champions, click here.