Creating a Continuous Learning Program 

A school network in West Africa wanted to determine how to improve the effectiveness and streamline costs of their continued learning program. The program was meant to further develop the skills of employees and serve as a retention strategy. However, despite the non-profit spending over $19,000 over the past three years on the program, it had not proven to retain employees (over 30% of employees that took advantage of the program were no longer employed by the organization) and there was no structured system to observe whether employees had gained new skills.


The Challenge

Restructure the learning program to (1) streamline the cost structure and (2) create a systematized way to manage requests and track the performance of  beneficiaries

The Process

1.     Understand current employee's concerns, thoughts, and ideas for a stronger, more effective program

2.     Synthesize those insights into a report 

3.     Prototype a program 

4.     Build and Iterate Program 

Data Collection Process

For this project, I created three guiding questions:

1. What does an effective education allowance program mean to our staff?

2. How can we create an effective education allowance program that translates to increased performance at work?

3. How can we create an effective education allowance program that increases employee retention?

In the end, I interviewed 12 individuals from three levels of the organization: operational and technical, professional, and managerial positions.


Key Insights

  • Easy Access: The organization needed to establish a clear and easy approval process that could be followed by any employee, regardless of position and education level

  • A Better Life: To the staff, the education allowance was more than a stipend but was viewed as a gateway to a better life.

  • Defining a Path: Interviews revealed a deeper opportunity for the non-profit to make connections with staff and heighten retention, if they better understood  where people were at and where they were going. 

  • Stronger Monitoring: Staff welcomed monitoring mechanisms to ensure that allowances were being used appropriately

  • Defining Learning: Staff were less inclined to take online courses because of electricity shortages and lack of Wi-Fi at home 

The Final Result 

I identified three core areas that were considered learning at the organization: on the job training, short courses + certificate, and degree-granting programs.  We created a thorough, streamlined application process for employees to apply for funding towards the short courses + certificates program and the degree granting programs. We were also able to create a suite of documents that answered employees' concerns as well as provided the organization with the necessary structures for success including but limited to an MOU and FAQ sheet. 

One of the most interesting results of this process was discovering employee's views on the program. Employees viewed the program as a necessary step needed to propel their careers forward. Thus, it was important for the organization to realize the perceived propensity of the program as well as the effect that it could have on individuals. It was essential to best understand employee's career desires and attempt to align those with the organization's goals—that was the key to retaining staff. As a result, I created a Personal Development Plan as a part of the application process  to provide a framework to discuss employee’s personal goals and the organization's goals. 

Senior leadership recognized the opportunities for investing in the learning program and expanded the budget for the learning program.