Everlearning: The Key to Your People and Teams’ Growth

BY Christina Cook | May 31, 2023

In an era of constant change, how can business leaders keep up? Whether it’s collaborating in a hybrid environment, creating policies for the use of AI, or recalibrating benefits packages, leaders are reimagining the post-pandemic workforce. On top of it all, there are still organizational goals to meet. One approach offers a solution: Everlearning. A new way of thinking about learning, evergreen learning empowers individual teams and organizations to develop core competencies and grow their strengths.  

Everlearning puts learning at the center of every stage of the life cycle. This shift in mindset makes learning easier to absorb and administer, and creates long-lasting positive behavioral changes in individuals and strong company cultures.

SkillCycle combines the entire talent and learning ecosystem with performance management, engagement, and goal setting, all into one hub that drives personalized learning paths. At the From Day One May virtual conference, SkillCycle's CEO Kristy McCann said “Everlearning is a culture of initiative, it is not a point in time. It's meant to be evergreen. It’s meant to continue to help with the overall change and evolution of not only your people, but your organization, and to get them where they need to go.”  

To start, companies need to establish baselines. McCann said, “You need to look at the value that we're seeing within our company goals. It's not just about [accomplishing] a goal, it's about how you get there. And what do those competencies and values look like?”

Evergreen learning is successful when applied to the employee life cycle. McCann suggested that leaders can look at where they are hitting the most roadblocks in their hiring process. By identifying these gaps, HR can become revenue drivers because they reduce the turnover rate.

Kristy McCann, SkillCycle's CEO, spoke at the From Day One May virtual conference (company photo)

When companies begin to take action on changes in company culture, McCann said, “It’s all about instilling that communication, but also making sure that you have the accountability within the organization that is connected to people's goals and roles. I have been doing this in organizations where the turnover has been atrocious. But the minute that we took down the turnover, I was able to yield $10 million in revenue. In addition, because we brought down that turnover cost, people have the skills they need to do their job, and we are able to succeed within our overall revenue. This is how you get the buy-in from your leadership team. Drive it from an overall revenue perspective as to what you can do and what you can yield.”

Evergreen learning can then be tied to goals, and then tied to the accountability, competencies, and the values within an organization. 

McCann said, “You're never going to learn everything all at one time. It's going to be constant, even with everything that's going on with AI, and ChatGPT. If we don’t have the skills to do our job, this technology will not be an enablement, it will just be another distraction. We saw this happen within social media. Social media killed critical thinking and inference skills. These powerful and durable skills of empathy, situational leadership, change management, communication, and collaboration are at the heart of everything that we need to do. And if they're at the heart of everything that we need to do, it's going to yield that profitability.”

This perspective also measures success versus how many employees left and how much money was lost. Instead, goals and benchmarks are forward-looking. McCann said, “When you're trying to put in an everlearning culture that has a growth mindset, often what hinders organizations is their accountability factor is gone. So we want to make sure that we're providing that evaluation of progress consistently, and how it yields savings.”

Often, business leaders are hindered by budget concerns. McCann reiterated that this is where measures and accountability become important. As companies launch cultural changes, every HR initiative should be attached to the company’s bigger picture. 

She said, “Numbers are going to be your beacon. Engagement is going to be your beacon. Feedback and measurement [are] going to be your beacon. Showing the results of how the company is succeeding is going to be your beacon.”

Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, SkillCycle, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.

Christina Cook is a freelance writer based in Dallas, TX, where she covers a variety of topics, with favorites including Art, Film, and live Theatre. Her work can be seen on Rawckus.com, RedDirtNation, and DallasArtBeat.com. Christina is also a creative writer. Her children’s book Your Hands Can Change the World was a 2017 regional bestseller.


RELATED STORIES

Elevate Employee Engagement: Smart Strategies for Thriving Teams on a Budget

Employees crave meaningful experiences. But with limited time and budgets, how can companies build more purpose into the work experience? Fifteen minutes at a time, says Ben Sampson.Sampson is chief evangelist of social impact and employee engagement at WizeHive, which offers software platforms for managing scholarships and workplace giving, as well as immersive volunteer experiences via WeHero. At a From Day One’s webinar, Sampson spoke to the idea of how turnkey volunteering can increase employee engagement on a budget. Kelly Bourdet of Apparata Media interviewed.Coming from a volunteer background, Sampson knew how engaging it can be to help others.  One thing led to another, and he eventually co-founded WeHero to help facilitate opportunities for employees to engage in volunteering experiences through their workplace. “We're constantly looking at what employees need,” he said. More and more, he’s learned that employees want to work for a company with purpose. They want to go to work and feel like it makes a good social impact. Some potential employees even ask about those opportunities during hiring. On the flip side, employees are also extremely conscious of their time. “How can we be time sensitive to get employees engaged in our companies, and give them a good experience of continuously engaging over and over again?” Sampson asked. In the past, companies would typically ask employees to go out and find their own volunteer opportunities, then spend time out of the office. While employees love giving back, putting the burden of doing all the legwork doesn’t fit within time constraints or even company budgets. The key, Sampson and his team have learned, is meeting the company and the employees where they are and giving back their most valuable resource: their time.Journalist Kelly Bourdet interviewed Ben Sampson of WizeHive during the From Day One webinar (photo by From Day One)Companies big or small, hybrid or in-office, local or global, all can better engage through impact experiences. Having WizeHive take care of the burden of logistics allows employees to enjoy the process of volunteering without a lot of extra time while maximizing their impact. “Bite size volunteer opportunities make a lot of impact,” Sampson said. “Maybe that's building a water filter for 15 minutes out of your workday, maybe that is answering a video call from someone that’s visually disabled that needs help finding the bus stop. Volunteering can be a great way for engaging employees in a low-cost mechanism.”At one company with an office and a warehouse, Sampson says the warehouse personnel generally didn’t have the time to participate in volunteer projects. So they set up a station where all employees could put together backpacks with supplies for kids during lunch or a break. Warehouse employees felt more included and engaged.“They even got to see the kids picking up the backpacks, so that was really special,” Sampson said. Even though the project took very little time and employees didn’t even need to leave the workplace to do it, the project still had a big impact on the community.One thing to focus on when rolling out opportunities is showing the clear path to impact. What will be the result of putting in their time? Virtual events are especially popular, Sampson says, as more people can participate in them and they fit most budgets. Sampson’s team can also help match people with specific skills to volunteer opportunities. Doing transcription work for the Smithsonian or Ancestry are just two examples of something people can do that have a clear path of impact—saving pieces of history and helping people connect with ancestors. Leadership buy-in is crucial for success, Sampson says. Companies where leadership is engaged and participating in impact projects correlate highly with employee participation and engagement as well. Mercedes is one company where the CEO works alongside employees during their volunteer experiences, connecting employees with leadership and allowing them to see each other outside the typical work setting.But sometimes getting that leadership buy-in can be challenging. “What is something the HR side can use to argue for the value?” Bourdet asked Sampson.To understand what’s most important to that leader, likely profitability for the company, then offering metrics or other reasons why volunteerism is the answer. If that leader is focused on employee retention, Sampson has a metric for that. “What are the costs of employee turnover? For a lot of businesses that we work with, it’s millions of dollars.” So, if employee engagement improves through these impact projects, it could save the company money. For one company they were working with, Sampson predicted a $26 million savings over 12 months, if done effectively. “There is so much positive emotion when people volunteer.” One employee who was able to volunteer for the first time told Sampson, “It’s cool that my employer has given me the opportunity to do this.” Now that’s employee engagement. Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, WizeHive, for sponsoring this webinar.Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | May 17, 2024

Navigating the Future of Business With Resilience and Innovation

When Amy Letke, national practice leader, HR consulting at Marsh McLennan Agency talks about innovative HR strategy, she points to one of her clients as a perfect example. This company has a workplace with harsh conditions that most of us would find unattractive. It’s a meatpacking company where employees often find themselves working in below-freezing temperatures and less-than-competitive pay. Yet its attrition rate is remarkably low.The client told her, “We’ve invested in our people, we’ve conducted leadership training, we’ve had to reorganize. We’ve [also] had to go back to our leaders and say, ‘You’ve got to like your people, to talk to them, and be compassionate to their needs.’” Letke shared this story in a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s D.C. event. By offering a holistic benefits package and engaging not just the employees, but also their families with a welcoming company culture, this organization convinced workers not only to stay, but to thrive in a very tough job.In a dynamic business environment, adaptation is essential to stay competitive. Organizations face unprecedented challenges and opportunities, demanding a blend of resilience and innovation. Letke offered an enlightening presentation on how to navigate and excel in this landscape, with insights, strategies, and actionable advice to thrive amid evolving industry trends.Workplace Challenges in 2024Letke says employers face three major challenges this year, each of which offers opportunities to be more effective with your HR benefits strategy. First, is attracting and retaining talent. The second, she says, is getting more done with less. And finally, the third is the rapid technological advancement happening.Covid prepared HR teams to deal with rapidly changing circumstances, she says. “HR teams have to be resilient. And we always are renewing and invigorating ourselves.” She offers several hallmarks of a resilient HR structure, including a coaching for leaders, a handbook that addresses time off and other work policies, up-to-date job descriptions, and a readiness to handle tough conversations, among others. By consistently analyzing your infrastructure and making sure the latest trends and policies are incorporated, you can stay ahead of any challenges coming down the line.Creating an Effective StrategyIn addition to staying on top of trends and keeping HR infrastructure updated, it’s also about attitude and company culture. “When we become a leader, we’ve got to realize what we’re signing up for,” Letke said. “It means we have to be compassionate, caring, [and] we have to listen.” This sometimes requires training, she says.Amy Letke,  National Practice Leader, HR Consulting at Marsh McLennan Agency led the thought leadership spotlight in D.C.Resilient infrastructure can create a resilient culture with exceptional supervisors. These leaders give the frontline workforce the support that they need and can often make an organization more attractive even when the pay is not as competitive due to budget cuts in a challenging economy. It also means that leaders should be held accountable for employee turnover, as their attitude and care should be driving the culture that inspires retention and loyalty.Workers satisfied with every element of the employee experience are happier and feel more successful, appreciated, and have a greater sense of belonging, Letke says. These elements include pay and compensation, purposeful work, culture, and flexibility. “This list shows how we as leaders can deliver care throughout our organization,” Letke said, and should be a guiding principle behind HR strategy.Having an Effective Benefits Strategy“Offering good employee benefits is just basic, everybody expects it,” Letke said, especially post-pandemic. So she encourages leaders to be more creative with their benefits strategy in order to stay competitive. A recent Marsh McLennan study showed that one in three employees would forgo a pay increase in return for additional well-being offerings for themselves and their families. “Being able to support your employees’ well-being is something we are seeing as an emerging trend, so thinking about those benefits is a way you can differentiate your company from others,” she said.Letke identifies four key areas of focus as opportunities to be more effective with your benefits strategy:Personalization: Give employees choices.Segmentation: Understand the different segments of employees and their needs. Centralization: To curb spending, there will likely be a centralization of tech platforms and human support options for HR teams. Empathy: Be there for your employees.A comprehensive benefits program incorporates the needs of every generation in the workforce, whose needs can look quite different. For example, Gen X might want remote work, flexible scheduling, caregiving benefits, and retirement planning, while Gen Z might prioritize student loan repayment, financial planning assistance, and training and development.Many workplaces have multiple generations represented among the workforce, so “managing to the needs of these generations is critical,” Letke said.Ultimately, HR success is about cultivating a mindset of innovation, Letke says. If HR has become a “check the box” compliance function, you’re doing it wrong. “Our job is to lead, inspire, and help others understand the impact they can make on the employee experience,” Letke said.Intention, compassion, and empathy is how winning organizations do it. A holistic approach to leadership that includes every element of an employees’ experience – both at work and at home – can make for a sustainable, forward-thinking, and highly attractive workplace.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Marsh McLennan Agency, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Katie Chambers | May 09, 2024

How to Keep a Hybrid Workforce Engaged and Productive

As of February 2024, more than half (54%) of employees in the US who can work remotely adhere to a hybrid schedule, and 27% are exclusively remote, according to data from Gallup.Yet many employers remain suspicious of remote and hybrid arrangements, fearing lack of productivity, weakening engagement, sagging performance, and lost opportunities for employee collaboration and innovation. Hoping to understand employee movements outside of their offices, some employers have invested in employee-monitoring software, capturing everything from hours worked to keystrokes.Yet privacy is a major concern for workers, and invasive employee monitoring can feel like Big Brother is breathing down their necks, rupturing trust and putting workers on guard.“It’s really important that we think about [employee productivity] insights not as a mechanism to scratch an itch of curiosity, but a mechanism to provide continuous improvement as it relates to the way that we work together,” said Gabriela Mauch, head of the productivity lab at workforce analytics software platform ActivTrak.Mauch understands why the itch is there. “This conversation started three or four years ago when [companies] abruptly transitioned from being a fully in-office organization to a fully remote organization,” said Mauch. “So many of us felt the pain of lacking visibility into the time worked and schedule adherence that are critical to running the business.”Yet many employers are asking the wrong questions, misinterpreting data, and failing to trust their workers to spend their time efficiently. During a recent From Day One webinar on engaging a hybrid workforce, Mauch and her colleague Sarah Altemus, ActivTrak’s productivity lab manager, talked about how employers can better and–more responsibly–use employee productivity data.Speakers from ActivTrak discussed the topic "How to Get Hybrid Right: The Cornerstones of Success" (photo by From Day One)Employers are susceptible to misuse of employee productivity data, and not just because they may want to obsessively monitor every click of a worker’s mouse.There is plenty of room for misinterpretation. For example, working long hours doesn’t mean someone is more productive or engaged, it could mean that they’re overloaded or barreling toward burnout. Likewise, a light schedule may not indicate laziness or disengagement, it may be a sign of underutilization. “These can quickly become attrition risks,” said Altemus.This has been a common struggle for employers, according to Mauch. “While we maybe had clear expectations of how we expect people to work, what we managed to struggle with is whether people are working too much or disengaging.”So some employers have responded by grabbing at details they hoped would illuminate those patterns. But a closer look doesn’t always make things clearer, and good information can get buried in the minutia of massive data reports. Shrewd interpretation of data at a higher level provides a more accurate picture. “The right information can help your managers act as coaches and provide guidance without infringing upon the comfort of your workforce who want to make sure that they still have those critical levels of privacy,” said Mauch.Altemus encouraged employers to examine productivity data at a higher level, in the form of general activity logs. “Think of it as just a glance around the office that you would otherwise get if you were in person,” she said. “How many employees are working today? How are productive hours tracking relative to goals? Is engagement and productivity trending up or down? Are there teams that are at risk of burnout, disengagement, or misalignment?”Better information can help managers categorize working time as productive or unproductive and make sure workers are actually signing off from work at the end of the day–not burning the midnight oil until they burn out. It can help managers avoid proximity bias that favors in-office workers over remote or hybrid workers for promotions and raises. And it can help leaders make the most of face-to-face time and office reconfigurations.To this end, Altemus recommended clear expectations. “The success of a flexible workforce requires clearly delineated responsibilities and communication protocols,” she said. And it needs a performance management strategy.Employers don’t set arbitrary guidelines for guidelines’ sake, said Mauch. “At the end of the day, the intent of company policy is not just to ensure that people are following it, the intent of the policy is to optimize productivity, take care of your employees, and retain them.”That’s when activity reporting becomes invaluable, she said: When you stop trying to answer the question, “Did people badge in and did people badge out?” and instead answer “Does my hybrid policy fully maximize my ability to engage and reach my productivity goals?”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, ActivTrak, for sponsoring this webinar. Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | May 01, 2024