When upskilling benefits went unused, Checkr redesigned its program to empower employees

Learning and development has become a pivotal offering for recruiting and retaining top talent, but limited time and money can leave some employees feeling left out. 

Almost all employees say training and development is an essential policy that would convince them to stay with a company, according to research by Clear Company. Further, data from Zippia shows 92% of employees say well-planned L&D programs have a positive effect on their engagement. Meanwhile, companies that spend at least $1,500 per employee annually report earning 24% more profit than those with smaller learning and development (L&D) budgets, reports Kaltura. 

However, with U.S. workforce engagement levels dwindling — only 32% of full and part-time employees report being engaged, according to a recent Gallup poll — there is clearly a gap in what companies are offering, versus what employees find impactful. 

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Despite their best intentions and a large annual stipend per employee, global tech platform Checkr was only using 2.5% of their annual learning budget as of 2020, and found employee participation in L&D options painfully low. To course correct, the company partnered with upskilling platform Degreed, which offers a Learn In program that gives employees access to a learning wallet to use at their discretion, as well as a suite of courses and programs to participate in. A personalized card is available for all global full-time employees, and once a requested program is approved, funds are added to the card for the employee to use. 

"This year in January, every employee was reset to $3,000," says Jamal Smith, senior L&D specialist at Checkr. "Before Learn In, that same benefit was available, but you had to come out of pocket and search for those learning opportunities. It can be daunting to think about the various providers and courses and programs out there, and the bigger issue was you had to be reimbursed. For some people, coming out of pocket $500 or $2,000 isn't feasible." 

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Learn In's customizable training paths offer over 1,000 long-form learning programs to choose from; Checkr employees receive program recommendations, but also have the option to choose what they think will be most beneficial to their professional goals. If there is something of interest from an outside provider, they can request it through the Learn In platform, says Smith. 

"Employees appreciate the opportunity to customize their own learning path, especially if [they] want to advance into a leadership role or cross-functionally onto another team," he says. "It's allowed people to quickly ramp up their knowledge and pay attention to skills they need for upward mobility, while also tying them back into their daily performance."

Because the programs are asynchronous, employees can budget their time to complete training whenever they have time available, including during the workday. By giving managers the autonomy to have an open dialogue with their teams about expectations of getting work done, the company can continue to run efficiently to get business outcomes, while mixing in work-life balance, says Smith. 

With a built in tracking system, it has become simple for leaders to understand what skills are being developed and how the L&D benefit is truly being used, Smith says. Since making the program a part of their L&D efforts in 2021, Checkr has watched engagement levels within their 1260-person workforce increase 228% year-over-year. Not only are employees using their stipend for degree programs, certification programs, one-off courses and boot camps, but they are also investing in general materials that tie directly back to their roles, as well as company initiatives, he says. 

"People are upskilling, they are engaged, they are taking ownership and they are learning," says Smith. 

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Giving employees the resources they need to be their professional best is the mark of a people-first company culture, as well as a way for organizations to build up their talent pipelines. 

"It says a lot about a company's priorities," Smith says. "You're giving your employees the chance to customize their learning plans according to their professional development needs, their career development needs, and allowing them opportunities to explore different ways of upskilling. You're showing that the development of your employees is at the top of that priority list." 

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Professional development Employee benefits Employee retention