Commercial and operational executive with demonstrated track record of building winning teams across education technology, financial technology, information services, and B2B software and services. Charlie works successfully across product, sales, marketing, and delivery organizations to drive change and step-change revenue growth, in close collaboration with PE and VC sponsors.
He enjoys spending time in the arena learning from clients and shaping product vision and strategy, then building teams to execute and improve performance.Follow Follow
Welcome to The RecruitingDaily Podcast with William Tincup. This week, we’ve invited Charlie Schilling of Emeritus on to discuss the 2021 Global Career Impact Survey results and findings.
Charlie is president of enterprise business for US, Europe and Canada at Emeritus. He is a commercial and operational executive with a demonstrated record for building successful teams throughout education and financial technology, information services and B2B software and services.
Emeritus was founded in 2015 with a mission to create quality, affordable and accessible online learning experiences that allow individuals to learn skill sets to help boost their careers. They work with over 50 universities globally, offering short courses, degree programs, professional certificates and even senior executive programs. To date, Emeritus has helped over 250,000 people in more than 80 countries.
Each year, Emeritus conducts a Global Career Impact Survey. In turn, they analyze the impact of professional learning on individuals who participated in Emeritus’ small private online courses.
Questions we ask today: Did COVID-19 impact the effectiveness of online courses or student success? Do organizations use benefits like online courses as a branding strategy? What drives the desire to upskill in technology?
This is a great conversation with a lot to offer, so please listen in! Let us know what you think in the comments.
Listening Time: 31 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup. You’re listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today, we have Charlie on from Emeritus. And we’re going to be talking about a survey that they do annually, but more specifically, the one that they’ve done this year is the 2021 Global Career Impact Survey. So we’re just going to jump right into it. Charlie, would you do us a favor, the audience a favor, and introduce both yourself and Emeritus?
Yeah. Absolutely. William, thanks so much for having me on today.
My name is Charlie Schilling and I’m the president of the enterprise business in the US and Europe at Emeritus. Emeritus works with now more than 35 global universities, like Wharton, MIT, INSEAD, Cambridge, and so forth, to deliver now more than 250 programs around the world targeted at individuals, companies, and governments. So we believe that our mission is to make the world’s best education, both more affordable and more accessible.
First of all, that’s a great mission. Who can’t get on board with that? And some great schools, obviously. So the survey that you all do, take us into the methodology and what you’re trying to learn, and then we’ll get into what you actually learned.
Yeah. Absolutely. So it’s a survey that we do every year. And the takeaway is, or the punchline, is that we want to understand the outcomes that our learning programs produce. And so the survey this year was from a sample size of 2200 people or professionals across 75 different countries around the world that took our courses. And when we say courses, we mean our small, private online courses, or SPOCs, which are differentiated from other self-paced learning programs in that it’s all cohort-based learning facilitated by real-life, human being course leaders. And so we want to understand the outcomes that those courses produce, and that’s the point of the survey.
Well, I love this. So you’re asking the folks that went through it, first of all, “How’d we do? How’d you do? What’d you learn? Was it what you expected?” Et cetera. So you’re trying to ground yourself each year. You’re trying to make sure that you don’t drift too far away from what you purport to say that you’re going to do in a course, and then not be able to fulfill on it. So what did you learn? What did you learn this year? I mean, obviously this year, we’re still in a pandemic. So I’m assuming this year is a little bit different, although you all do with remote learning anyhow. So maybe it wasn’t that different for you. But what did you… What are some of the things… I love surveys and research in particular because there’s always something that shocks you or something that came out of nowhere, and there’s always something that’s just validating like, “Oh yeah, we kind of thought that was going to happen,” and it happened.
Yeah, no, absolutely, absolutely. I think there are two main takeaways. The first is a real desire on the part of, well, I guess it’s nearly 40% of survey participants who cited a desire to become more technically proficient as their primary motivator in taking courses. And that means disciplines like business analytics, data analytics, and machine learning. We certainly believed that that would be the case, which is obviously why we created the courses in the first place. But I think the big insight, and I’ll call it a confirmatory surprise because it is the point of what we do, is that our respondents saw on average a 17% salary increase after completing their program, which we believe to be a truly significant number and speaks to the efficacy of the training.
Well, there’s a couple things to unpack. Let’s do the first one. So technology proficient and being able to expand their skills. So it could be people that already have some technical learning and they just want to learn more or go deeper, and some of those could be people that are maybe outside of that and want to go sideways and get some contiguous skills. Do you find with that group of people, with all of your students, that it’s driven by the market? Meaning they see a massive amount of data analyst jobs open, let’s just say, or machine learning jobs open, AI jobs open, et cetera, and they see it as a way to making themselves more marketable? Or is it, is there curiosity? Like, “I don’t know anything really about data analytics. I should probably know something about data analytics. Seems that it comes up every day at my job,” and so it’s kind of based on that?
Or the last thing that came to mind, and this might be off track, but maybe older folks or folks that want to reinvest, and re-up, and up-skill themselves, and stay with the trends, and stay with what’s going on with what’s happening in work. What did you find? I mean, what comes to mind when you think of why? What’s the desire to make the choice of doing into technology in particular?
Yeah. I think it’s… The way you framed that is exactly right, and that it can be… Well, it is both things really. So in the survey, we found that a quarter of people were using what they learned to find a new opportunity for work.
I love that.
Which I think is very interesting. But that then the remainder or approximately 6 in 10 or 7 in 10, were using it to feel more confident in their existing field of work. And so really, it is both cases. But to your point on the motivation, is it curiosity? Is it people seeing news articles about how technology and AI are being used in new fields? I think it’s partly that, but partly because people see the jobs that are open just at their own existing firm or perhaps a new one, and want to understand how they can better position themselves to get that job. And so I think what we’re really seeing is individuals who want to put the time and money into developing those transferable skills, but then also employers who are making it possible to make these types of learning experiences part of a career journey that could keep someone at a given employer for longer.
Yeah. I mean, what’s interesting about the 25% is new, could be new… I mean, in theory, could be new internal as well. It’s probably external in the way that we’re looking at it. But if we put on our CHRO hats or chief people officer hats, if we did retention right, we would use this as a mechanism to grow their skills so that we could move them internally, not necessarily looking at the jobs externally. But I think that’s always been a fear, at least a historic fear of CFOs and CEOs of training in particular is, “Well, if you train them, then they’ll leave.” And I think we’re past that. I think by and large, we’re past that, that if we don’t train them, they’ll stay. So I love the fact that first of all, people get on board, understand. And I think this is… If you’re a savvy, both talent acquisition leader, this is something you can sell to a candidate. And if you’re a savvy-
I totally, totally agree. And I think you’re spot on on that point, which is I think we’re past the point of what happens if you train someone and then they leave? But a problem that still exists in the market is that education benefit programs, and this is a US specific point, but education benefit programs are still somewhat divorced from the career paths that need to be made internally.
To say that a different way, the talent acquisition side of the house knows that you need X number of data scientists who know Python. But the internal job board may miss the fact that you can take person from job role A, add a course in this topic, and then all of a sudden, become eligible for job role B. And so I think that’s the next step that has to happen.
Yeah. Connecting those dots. Someone’s got to do it. Technology obviously can help us with connecting the dots. It’s funny because people want to stay, especially if they believe in the culture and believe in the vision, mission, and they feel momentum, et cetera. Most people, by and large, they just, they leave because they don’t see that there’s an opportunity. And so they leave because someone else has presented an opportunity. But I think again, talent attraction’s always going to be difficult. I don’t think there’s ever going to be a moment where it’s not difficult. But I think retention is going to be increasingly, over the next two years, it’s going to be increasingly difficult because people hunkered down for COVID, and they’re going to want to do something new. And companies are going to have to get really creative.
And so this is a way of feeding that creative curiosity, and also getting them more money. I mean, I love the fact, which gets to the second point of salary increases, you’re investing in yourself. So if you do this, you’re investing in yourself, you’re learning something new. And there’s a payoff, which you don’t lead with… I guess you all aren’t leading with that, but it’s great that it’s there.
Yeah, no, it’s true. And look, I mean, that statistic, it’s important to think a little bit about causation and correlation. The people that are taking these courses found motivation to do so. And so it’s more likely that those employees would do well in any environment. So I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind.
But so I think the question though is if that’s true for the, call it upper quartile of employees, how much more effectiveness could an organization get out of the middle 50% if they made the learning opportunities more readily available? And what uplift might you see across an organization? So I think that’s the interesting thing to think about coming out of this.
Yeah. The technology proficiency, I get because I see the scarcity on the skill side. So I think you’ve got… You’ve got content there for days. I don’t think that that’s going to change anytime soon. Where do you think there’s growth for you all in your courses outside of technology proficiency? Which again, we don’t make enough software engineers to fulfill just on the needs we have today, much less the ones we have tomorrow. So I think again, that’s going to be a gift that just keeps on giving for you all. But what do you think’s… I guess if you were to just put on your futurist hat, what do you think’s something that’s next that you think that people are going to want to learn more about?
Yeah, it’s a really good question. So I think at a high level, you can divide what we teach into hard skills, like AI, computer programming, so on and so forth, and then soft skills on the other side. And what we see is that both are important, meaning you can’t just train everyone to be a software engineer and expect that a business is going to do well. You actually have to learn how to manage all of those software engineers. And so part of what we’ve seen is though the technology will continue to change forever, I think we’ll be talking about a completely different set of courses or at least specific programming languages in three to five years than we are now if history is any guide.
The management techniques need to continue to evolve as well. And I think COVID has been a forcing mechanism in that respect too, in that people need to learn how to do things like manage remote teams. A very obvious point. People have to learn how to learn how to sell in this new environment. And so some of the courses that we’ve seen do extremely well, Kellogg has a wonderful course, both short and long-form, called Mastering Sales, which in all of the noise and press about training software engineers for the next frontier, we missed the point that every enterprise needs people that are adept at selling their product and/or service. And so because we offer so many disciplines across so many university partners across so many regions, I think we see some pretty interesting things on that front as well. And that’s supported by the survey results.
And so companies… Just so the audience understands, companies that buy into this with their employees, their employees want to learn something, this is kind of in the training and development, learning and development realm, if you will. So there’s budget. There’s always budget there, especially for higher performers and high potentials. There’s always budget there. Again, this is just an opinion, do you think we should pay employees to take courses, not just pay for the courses, which I think that’s stated and covered? Yes, we should do that, which I’m sure some companies probably don’t even get that. But we’ll just bypass that for a moment. But do you think we should actually pay them to take courses?
Let me clarify. Do you mean pay while they are taking the course? Or pay them extra for taking the course?
I could go either way.
[crosstalk 00:16:00]. Sorry. Go ahead.
I could go either way. I love the idea. First of all, they’re taking time, money and energy out of their day to then learn something new. Right? Okay. Stated and covered. But even once they complete it… My mom, when I went to college, she would pay for As and Bs, not just out of the learning for learning’s sake. But she would give me money for all the As that I brought home, which I’m not sure if that was the right thing or the wrong thing to do. Time will tell. But there was an incentive. And I can tell you, especially at 18 years old or whatever, it was an economic incentive that I cared about.
So I’m looking at it from an employer’s perspective and I’m really thinking about retention, getting this, we call it a war for talent for 30 years, a war for retention. We’re going to have to get really super creative, and again, paying for the courses and allowing our employees to find the things that fit, which I want to ask you an assessment question about that in a second. But getting them on a path and paying for that, I think companies should just do that because that’s just smart. That’s stated for me. However, I’m also wondering what you think about, well, what if we just, if they complete a class, they get an A or whatever the bid is, we give them five grand or whatever the bid is. I mean, it could be days off. It doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary, but incentivize them to both complete it and complete it at a high level.
I think it’s a wonderful idea, and that there’s a really important point nestled in there, which is that employers need to proactively create the space for employees to take advantage of these opportunities.
It’s all well and good if you provide an education benefit from a reimbursement standpoint to an individual, but then expect that person to work 40 hours a week, pick their kids up from school, take care of them on the weekend…
And then, take a learning program. And so unfortunately, what you see… Inside Higher Ed published some work on this a couple months ago. Unfortunately, what you see in the US is that only 5% of eligible individuals take advantage of those employee benefits even when they don’t need them.
Yeah, of course.
And so that is… The intrinsic and extrinsic motivation question, I think, is a really important one to get people to actually avail themselves in some cases of these benefits that already exist. I think part of it is really painting the picture of what the reward might be. Meaning if you take this course, you can get this job, is part of it.
Right. That is.
But attracting people to the program, making it clear that there are other benefits including time that might be granted by your employer is a really, really important piece of the puzzle that’s just being thought about, I think for real, for the first time.
Right. Right. We’ve talked about it, and CLOs have talked about it for 20 years, but actually doing something about it. A friend of mine who worked at ENY, or do they call it EY now, years ago and he was on the bench in between consulting gigs, and they put him in the courses. And like 40 hours of his week, that’s what he did, is he took courses on different things. But it’s like, they gave him that time. So in between those consulting gigs, they gave him both the time, and then the opportunity, and the incentive to just say, “Keep building. You’re not billable, and that’s fine. We’ll get you billable with the next project and all that other stuff. But in between, get better.”
Oh, absolutely. Well, and I think it’s… You’re exactly right. It’s not a new concept, right?
The military has been training people to do these or to do jobs that require lots of training and paying them to do that training for years on end or maybe forever. Same thing for American Airlines or United Airlines. You want to be sure that your 777 pilot is up to snuff on all of the latest, on all of the latest procedures. And so they pay them as part of those jobs, to take those programs, and it really is just part of the job. So I think that needs to be rethought in a way.
Another thought that’s on my mind there is, and so it sounds like, like your friend, my first job out of business school was in consulting. I was at BCG. But across the professional services landscape, the financial services landscape, I mean, it’s automatic. You join either as an analyst or after business school, perhaps as an associate, but your first several months are training.
And so I think that needs to be rethought on a continuing basis.
Yeah. The one-and-done, it’s continuous and bespoke training. And I think getting HR, again and talent acquisition, because the tie-in there for the TA folks is they’re going to have to attract talent. So they’ve got to have something that’s differentiated that helps them just attract the talent, just get them in the door. And I think so a continuous learning, and again, transferable skills and contiguous skills. What do you think about assessments in terms of… Not the career assessments we did in high school, “I think I’m supposed to be a garbage man,” or something. But what courses they should take?
I could see sitting in an office at Oracle. And the company’s going to give me time, they’re going to pay for it, and I now open up the brochure of sorts, and there’s thousands of courses. What do I know? Where do I know what I should do? Do you all already think about that and have an assessment of ways for them to sharpen their focus on what they should do? Or do you think that there’s another way to get them on the right path?
In a word, no.
In that, we do not do that. And the reason is, and I may be giving Charlie Schilling opinion…
No, no, fair enough.
The official Emeritus view, but aptitude tests are really hard, right?
Oh yeah. Oh no, no.
And I’m highly skeptical that you can take someone either at age 17, or 18, or even you age 40 and predict through a general set of questions that you give to literally everyone, who ought to do what, when you’re talking about fields that are as different as digital marketing or garbage truck deliverer or garbage truck driver. So I just sort of don’t buy it. I think part of it goes to, well, two points. One, how are organizations assessing the performance of their existing teams? So if you take a discipline-specific approach within even just one organization, how strong or not strong is a given enterprise sales team? And that might force you to then come up with a construct of the critical skills for those sellers to have, and then you could imagine a learning path that helps people get better at the areas than where they are deficient. Same thing. You can-
So there’s some type of self-realization or even the leader then does some type of performance and says, “Okay, you’re really great at harvesting. You’re not really great at closing,” et cetera, et cetera. And then, “Okay, so now if we agree on that, now let’s get you the skills to help you with that.”
Exactly. And actually give people the tools to help make themselves better and improve the team versus the old model, which is, to continue with the sales example, “You’re behind on your quota. We’re going to find someone else.”
Yeah. Yeah. “You’re drowning and we’re just standing here watching.”
“So good luck.”
So that, that type of assessment inside an organization, I think, works very well. But then the other thing, at the front end of that system, if you will, I think part of the assessment, you sort of work the assessment backwards, which is like, “Okay, we’ve got a bunch of software engineering jobs that need to be filled including by people at entry level.” So the first assessment question that you might ask someone who’s 17 or 18 is, “Well, do you like video games? What do you like about out these video games? How can you gamify very small exercises and see how people do better or worse?”
I like that. I like that. And I think that should be built not just for you all, but just in general. Because it explores curiosities, passions, and it gives people some type of idea of paths. I think that’s where we… Generally speaking, I think that we fail, especially entry-level talent, is we don’t give them… “Yes, you’re starting here,” but there’s 15 different paths in front of you and maybe even more, depending on things that you do with experience, and success, and adding additional skills, et cetera. Like making a game out of that whole career, if you will.
Again, I think if corporations don’t do that, they do that at their own peril.
Yeah. I think you’re right. And I didn’t, I genuinely didn’t choose to be Emeritus-serving specifically, but we did buy… So we bought iD Tech earlier this summer in part for that reason, which is we really do believe that there’s a continuum that exists between the skills that you can learn in K12, what you ought to be learning in college or not for that matter, and then the skills that the workplace actually desires. So to your point, it really is, it’s the curiosity element. And then showing people who may not have the luxury of being able to watch a parent who’s already in one of those fields, but being sure that you expose people to what those career paths actually are early so they can make some of their own choices to get to that spot.
It’s fascinating. Pre-COVID, this is December of ’19, I went to HR tech and I did a podcast from there where I’d have three guests on at a time. And the question was five years from now, what’s the most desired skill? And by and large, it came back soft skills. I can teach them this, that and the other. Okay? All that other stuff, especially with recruiting and things like that. There’s a lot of stuff I can teach or they can learn. But soft skills, I’m going to need some raw material there. With the students that you all interact with or even the companies and their desires, where do you all see soft skills?
Super important, and I like the way you just framed it. It is… I’m not going to say it’s easy because all of these courses are difficult.
Yeah, exactly. A class at MIT. Sorry. Sorry.
The word easy doesn’t come along with that. But yeah, I got it.
That’s right. But you can imagine that it’s relatively straightforward to teach someone, in the software engineering realm, Java, but then teach them Angular, or then teach them React, depending on how the languages change over time, because those people are adept at learning. They’re in the practice of learning highly technical skills. I would say, well, it’s much harder, I think, to take someone from zero to 60 in empathy.
Care about the other person.
Let’s start with a simple exercise.
But in particular, in COVID… And I know we’re out of time, so keep me honest here. But particularly in COVID where you don’t have the natural, organic way to build trust in an office with your colleagues while you’re getting coffee, that’s something… There’s going to be a deficit.
And that’s something that I think organizations really do need to be quite proactive about. I mean, there have been benefits. I mean, I remember I was talking with our head of HR the other day. And he told me that among our employee base in Mumbai, and that’s hundreds and hundreds of people, the average commute time each day pre-COVID was three hours. And so that’s three hours now that people have gotten back to do things that are more useful.
They could take three courses.
Being with their family, and perhaps learn something new, like [crosstalk 00:30:02] dog food. Exactly. So there are elements of that, that I absolutely do hope persist as the world emerges from the COVID crisis, but there are others where we’re just going to have to rethink it. Right?
It’s just soft skills, and interpersonal interactions, leading teams is definitely one of those areas.
Well, we’re going to have to check in again because I love this. First of all, I love what you all do, period, hard stop. And I love the way you go about it, and I also love the results. So Charlie, thank you for carving out time for us and schooling us. And thanks for everyone that listens to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.
Thanks, William. Talk to you soon.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.