YeeFong Ng, LinkedIn’s APAC head of learning and development, brings out the company’s focus on disruptive innovation, and how enabling employees to pursue further education is one way to make that happen, in this conversation with Jerene Ang.
Being part of the internet industry, a big part of LinkedIn’s workforce comes from a generation that tends to know exactly what it wants from its career.
“They are big on self-actualisation compared to the generations before them, which were more traditional in taking the career path their manager asked them to take,” says YeeFong Ng, the company’s head of learning and development for Asia Pacific.
LinkedIn, therefore, has a concept of the “next play” – which means if an employee is in sales today, and wants to get into a marketing role tomorrow, the company will help them make that jump.
One part of that learning process is further education.
Last year, the company introduced the education reimbursement programme as a benefit, giving employees the freedom of choice to pursue what they want.
“Available to all full-time employees who have been in the company for a minimum of six months, it will reimburse part of their costs in various courses, including those leading to a diploma, bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD,” Ng says.
The only conditions are the employee has to remain in full-time employment and they must choose an accredited institution.
Career growth on the monkey bars
To apply, the first step is for employees to discuss with their manager the course they have in mind, and how it will be relevant to their career path, be it within or outside of their current field of work.
“LinkedIn employees have the right to look at their career like monkey bars – progression is not just upwards, but sideways.”
Managerial intervention is a key piece of making this progression.
“Relevant projects have to be in place, for which accountability is placed on the manager to follow their employee’s career journey.”
LinkedIn employees have the right to look at their career like monkey bars – progression is not just upwards, but sideways.
Juggling full-time work and education is no easy feat, thus managers are coached on helping employees manage their time better and aligning educational commitments with their workload.
Employees are also easily able to seek advice from their peers who have been through similar experiences, through initiatives such as the all-hands event every Monday, which is a space for everyone to eat together and share their success stories.
Furthering the cause
For the programme to be really seen as a benefit, LinkedIn had to make sure employees’ voices were heard.
“We had a roadshow and various open houses with the employees. They asked questions and gave us feedback on what they liked and didn’t like about it, a basis on which we were able to tweak it.”
“LinkedIn is the kind of company where you don’t ever stop beta. We’re always collecting feedback to see if it is still relevant to them because we live in an ever-changing world.”
While it’s still early days for the programme, Ng says it was quite anticipated.
“It wasn’t a hard-sell, it was more like letting employees know the company is listening to them,” she says.
Learning is a good thing
The programme comes back to benefit the company in many ways.
For an industry that survives on “disruptive innovation”, allowing employees to go out and learn allows them to pick up different perspectives from classmates coming from different industries.
LinkedIn is the kind of company where you don’t ever stop beta. We’re always collecting feedback to see if it is still relevant to employees.
“It is an investment, but anecdotally we’ve found it very helpful for maintaining motivation, collective intelligence and mindshare of the company.”
“However, our measure of success is not a numbers game. We don’t need to have half the employees signing up for this benefit.
“It’s more about how this benefit is going to help people make a decision on staying in the company because they feel it is going to invest in them.”