Want to increase employee engagement? Invest in Training and Development


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This is a draft excerpt from the upcoming book, What’s Your Green Goldfish? Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Create Employee Loyalty and Reinforce Culture:


1st inchOnboarding

2nd inchFood & Beverage, Shelter / Space, Transparency / Openness

3rd inchWellness, Time Away, Modern Family


4th inchRecognition

5th inchTeam Building

6th inchFlexibility

The seventh INCH

The seventh inch on the 9 INCH journey to the heart of your employees involves Training and Development. Let’s look at a Baker’s Dozen of companies that go the extra mile to build employees through T+D:

evernote officer training green goldfish #83

Taken from an NY Times interview by Adam Bryant with CEO Phil Libin,

We recently implemented something called Evernote Officer Training (#83). I got this idea from a friend who served on a Trident nuclear submarine. He said that in order to be an officer on one of these subs, you have to know how to do everyone else’s job. Those skills are repeatedly trained and taught. And I remember thinking, “That’s really cool.” So we implemented officer training at Evernote. The program is voluntary. If you sign up, we will randomly assign you to any other meeting. So pretty much anytime I have a meeting with anyone, or anyone else has a meeting with anyone, very often there is somebody else in there from a totally different department who’s in officer training. They’re there to absorb what we’re talking about. They’re not just spectators. They ask questions; they talk. My assistant runs it, and she won’t schedule any individual for more than two extra meetings a week. We don’t want this consuming too much of anybody’s time.”

Chicago-based online advertising buyer Centro LLC (#155) focuses on the manager-employee relationship. Centro spends a lot of time training managers.

Let’s face it: People leave companies because of their boss. We try to remove the typical obstacles (between bosses and employees) by sharing more information, by providing great training and by making sure those bosses have the right skill sets.” – Scott Golas, VP of Human Resources (Source: ChicagoBusiness.com)

Ecumen’s (#316) Velocity Leadership program is another major way Ecumen honors and empowers achievement. Each year, up to 25 emerging leaders are selected for a very thought-provoking leadership development program that includes visits to other innovative companies to learn from them, guest speakers on innovation and leadership, and other learning and personal growth opportunities. It allows employees to step outside of their daily work and lives and focus on their personal growth as a person and leader. (Source: Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal)

Submitted by Eva Lipson. In Eva’s words,

One thing at Squeeze In (#780) we do every year is a 3-day off-site management retreat, which we call Format. We get all our Managers and Owners together to review reports and numbers, discuss management styles, refresh our techniques, review our menu and hear suggestions to make it better, and most importantly bond and team build. We encourage self development and management growth by offering up books to read (including your book: “What’s Your Purple Goldfish”) and then we have them write short book reports. When they turn in their book reports, they get a cash bonus. This year we had a number of books on their list to read, and when they finished them all (and wrote reports on each), we presented them with free iPads! Also, during the 3-day retreat, we take them out to eat at restaurants (always interesting for a group of servers to go out and be served), and imbibe in a few cocktails too. We know that our Format retreat increases camaraderie, reinforces our company culture and helps with employee retention. It’s a great way for us to show our Managers how much we love them and care about them, both professionally and personally.” (Source: Squeeze In)

Training as a Competitive Differentiator


Colliers University (#5) was founded in 2002. It was truly a novel concept within the commercial real estate industry. Built on the premise that learning is a competitive advantage, CU has grown to include more than 1,000 classes and has helped accelerate the professional and personal success of more than 7,000+ Colliers professionals. The curriculum offers a 360-degree approach to learning with courses in commercial real estate, business and personal development.

CU is not only a culture driver for the company internally; it is an outwardly competitive recruitment tool, raising the bar in terms of the expertise of our professionals. This expertise directly benefits our clients and their success through better results and memorable experiences. ” (Source: Colliers)

MyLearning, the global online learning portal for Accenture (#237), boasts 20,000 learning courses that range from core training to technical training. Accenture Learning BPO Services and Accenture work together today to annually serve more than 125,000 learners through more than 200,000 classroom learning days and more than 1,000 virtual learning sessions. The team discovered that for every dollar Accenture invests in learning, the company receives that dollar back plus an additional $3.53 in measurable value to our bottom line—in other words, a 353 percent return on learning.

Learning at Accenture is changing people’s lives; it’s giving them more reason than ever to stay with us and grow both personally and professionally.” — Jill Smart, Senior Managing Director – Human Resources, Accenture (Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle)

The Container Store (#460) puts an emphasis on training. Employees receive on an average 160+ hours of training per year. Typical annual turnover in retail is 100%, but at Container Store it hovers around 15-20%. (Source: AchieveMax.com)

Wegman’s (#507), a popular grocery store chain that started in upstate New York, trains their employees 2-3 more times than other grocery stores. In turn, turnover at the chain is only 7% compared to 19% industry-wide. (Source: Jeanne Bliss)

Tuition Reimbursements and More

hoar construction green goldfish project #56

Hoar Construction (#56) puts an emphasis on personal and professional development. Employees receive up to $10,000 in annual tuition reimbursement, plus Hoar offers employees a variety of courses through their internal university ranging from money management and stress reduction, to tips on building a nonprofit. (Source: greatplacetowork.com)

Boeing (#327) pays for college degrees pertinent to position and provides stock awards for degree completion. (Source: St. Louis Business Journal)

Monsanto (#481) encourages ongoing employee development with generous tuition subsidies (to $10,000), financial bonuses for some course completion and subsidies for professional accreditation. (Source: eluta.ca)

The Canadian crude and natural gas company Nexen (#668) invests in ongoing employee development through generous tuition subsidies (to a maximum of $35,000), financial bonuses for some course completion and subsidies for professional accreditation. (Source: eluta.ca)

Staying Current and Curious

Nina Hale (#284) strives to create a culture of curiosity and passion, even going out of its way to encourage employees to share information with each other. As part of that push, the company hosts weekly “shared education” meetings where an employee picks a topic to discuss.

There’s a lot of new and different skill sets, so each person brings a new area of expertise to the table,” Senior Account Manager Leslie Gibson said. “Everyone’s willing to share what they’ve learned, and no one ever makes anyone else feel stupid.” (Source: Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal)

One program at Automation Direct (#704) is called Wake Up and Learn. Between 8 and 9 a.m. four times a year, the company hosts a variety of speakers to discuss personal and professional development topics including budgeting, managing stress and healthy eating. (Source: Entreprenuer.com)

Horizon Media (#747) has introduced the “Knowledge Café,” an educational series inviting media and tech executives to talk to employees and clients. Recent speakers include Hulu CEO Jason Kilar and Pandora CEO Tim Westergren.

We program our space in a way that’s meaningful to employees. We’re always trying to figure out how to stay current with the evolution of the business, but in a timeless way.” (Source: Ad.Age.com)

Visual Training

Twice a month for two hours, employees at XPLANE (#709) meet to discuss various topics of personal and professional interest and work on collaboration, storytelling and presentation skills. “The Visual Learning School is about using pictures to help people better think about complex issues, solve problems and communicate more effectively,” says XPLANE creative director Matt Adams. “The most valued result is team building and the strengthening of relationships through learning, spontaneity and improvisation.” (Source: Entreprenuer.com)

Training while Bouncing Around

There is one program at Semco (#787) that allows people to act like entreprenuers at the company. Called ‘Lost in Space’, it assumes that young recruits don’t know what they want to do with their lives. The program lets them roam the company for a year. They do what they want to do, move when they want to move, go where their interests take them; work for one, two, or six different units. At the end of the year, anyone they’ve worked for can offer them a job, or they can seek an opening in an area that interests them.

If neither happens… we thank them for the year.” (Source: Ricardo Semler, The Seven Day Weekend)

A Funny Take on Training

peppercomm green goldfish

About six years ago, Steve Cody, one of Peppercomm’s (#846) founders and a managing partner, started taking stand-up classes for fun. He worked with (Clayton) Fletcher, a touring stand-up comedian, to build his chops.

“As he started doing more and more stand-up, he started to recognize that, although he was very good at client meetings and presentations, he was getting a lot better” says Deborah Brown, Partner and Managing Director, Strategic Development.

It wasn’t long before the entire management committee at Peppercomm was taking comedy training. Soon after that, everyone in the company was involved, all the way down to interns. “For the past five years, it’s become part of our culture,” Brown says. In fact, comedy training is now mandatory at Peppercomm. (Source: Matt Wilson, Ragan.com)

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – SCUBA is an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Chesapeake Energy (#78) provides employees with the opportunity to get certified for scuba diving for free. (Source: The Daily Finance)

chesapeake energy scuba green goldfish #78

All of the examples in this post were taken from the Green Goldfish Project. The Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, reinforce culture, increase retention and drive positive WoM. The book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on March 29, 2013.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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