Appendix: Continuous Learning Case Examples

These continuous learning case examples provide additional details about the learning principles pursued by the companies mentioned in chapter 7. These seven programs illustrate continuous learning models that testify to the serious investment that companies are making to support, encourage, and, in some cases, require upskilling and increasing digital proficiency. Some companies develop in-house curriculum and learning centers, others partner with outside organizations, and still others best support employee growth with a combination of the two. We consider these approaches to be best in class.

Capital One

Capital One, the American bank holding company, makes technology central to its business strategy by developing its software, employing innovative teams of software engineering talent, and reimagining traditional IT operating models. The company has built its own internal university, Tech College, that offers a comprehensive technology curriculum accessible to all employees. The college has the following key features:

· Built by engineers, for engineers. Capital One engineers design the curriculum to ensure the content is relevant and useful.

· Breadth and depth. The curriculum addresses twelve key disciplines that include software engineering, mobile, machine learning/AI, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and data.

· Blended learning. Online courses, in-person workshops, boot camps, and trainings from partners who are well known in the field of distance learning (such as Udacity, General Assembly, and Coursera) provide employees with a blended experience.

· Learning from leaders. Tech experts teach and inspire colleagues to learn and explore the latest advancements and teach them how to use those developments to enhance customer experiences.

· Learning for all. All employees, regardless of their previous experience or role in the company, have access to the curriculum to encourage the cross-organizational technology fluency that opens lines of communication and promotes agility.


The Swedish-based audio streaming provider credits its culture of continuous learning for the company’s success in essentially inventing an industry sector (the streaming platform) that has transformed the music industry. They take a “blended learning” approach to course offerings, which allows employees to pick and choose the format that works best for them. Options include in-person or streamed classroom training, online learning, sharing communities, and assessment. Very brief learning sessions can be integrated into the workday whenever employees have a moment while others take longer to process. Their approach includes six key concepts:1

· Vision and purpose. Citing self-determination theory, company leaders articulate a clear company vision so that employees can align their personal goals accordingly.

· Self-ownership. Peer-to-peer decentralized implementation means that all Spotifiers take responsibility for their own learning with the expectation that they learn from and with each other.

· Autonomy. Rather than micromanaging, Spotify points teams to specific goals. A robust central learning and development group (the GreenHouse team) helps groups of employees then decide for themselves how to reach those goals.

· Failure. The company culture not only accepts failure, but embraces the learnings that come from failure as crucial to creating an environment where great things happen. Because failure is not easy for anyone to accept, leaders make it psychologically safe by modeling their own failures.

· Learning to love chaos. Forgoing the stability of a fully structured top-down approach to learning, Spotify trusts that empowering employees to choose their own paths will enable them to make the unexpected connections and find new ideas that lead to the kind of company growth that is crucial for competitiveness in the digital age: innovative, agile, adaptive.

· Interaction. Collaboration and innovation are encouraged by empowering employees to choose learning paths that allow for organic exchanges, as employees share interests, curiosities, ideas, and learning from one another in the process.


Yelp, one of the leading platforms for crowdsourced reviews of businesses, made continuous learning a defining trait of its company culture years before it became the ubiquitous trend it is today. A 2017 profile, “Inside Learning: How Yelp Created a Successful Learning Culture,” identifies the following practices that make up Yelp’s continuous learning environment:2

· Employee autonomy. Instead of formalized and enforced training programs, Yelp employees are given the space to define their own learning curriculum. For example, the engineering team brings in a guest speaker of its own choosing for lunch every Friday. The guest is usually someone from within the company, thereby facilitating an organic and effective form of knowledge exchange across Yelp departments. On the sales team—the company’s biggest department—there is a fully developed certification program for the purpose of growing entry-level salespeople. The program, which is tailored specifically for the sales team, provides motivation for new team members in the unit and gives them a clearly visible path of upward mobility.

· Horizontal learning. In addition to highly individualized learning methods for each department, Yelp also invests in company-wide learning initiatives. A program called Yelp Beans—also voluntary—provides the opportunity for employees to meet someone they don’t know within the organization, and learn from them. The exchange might offer a new perspective on work projects, or just make employees feel more connected across the company.

· Servant leadership. Yelp’s guiding principle of leadership is “leaders who teach”: leaders are not just managers but mentors who invest in the growth of their team members as employees and individuals. The company also brings in leaders from outside the organization—“Yelp Extended Faculty”—to give teaching sessions. Guest teachers have included mentors from Stanford and Berkeley, and insiders across different industries.

· Gamification. The company has a strong tradition of hackathons, sessions that last two days, in which engineers divide into groups and come up with an idea to work on together. The experience always leads to new and innovative solutions; but just as importantly, it gives the opportunity for team members to meet new people, exchange knowledge, and learn from one another in an organic way.

· Stretch roles. Yelp keeps its job roles open-ended so that its hires are able to learn to wear multiple hats at once. This approach is challenging for employees at first, but it grows people much faster and invests them more deeply in the company mission.


AT&T invests $220 million each year in internal training programs, which offer almost 20 million hours of training a year and over $30 million annually in tuition assistance. As a result of this investment, at least 140,000 employees have been actively engaged in acquiring skills for new roles. The following three characteristics define the company’s continuous learning culture:

· Horizontal mobility. By learning new skills, employees are encouraged to explore career opportunities internally with roles in other departments.

· Servant leadership. Leaders who serve as mentors provide emotional support, strategic advice, and honest feedback as well as encouragement to risk new growth and learning opportunities.

· Upward mobility. Employees are able to select new learning pathways in consultation with company forecasts of future job roles, categories, and competencies that are the most likely areas of growth and risk.


One of Australia’s biggest banks has taken a platform-based approach with a training program rolled out to all employees. This is a social learning environment where curated content is distributed and employees cocreate and share their own learning material. People have been encouraged to build communities around the areas they are interested in and focus on those tasks that will be particularly valuable in the future. Furthermore, Westpac has partnered with an Australian education tech startup called Go1 to provide an even more specialized continuous learning platform for its employees.3 Go1 added a level of expertise that Westpac was unable to achieve within its own industry skill set. The platform, called Broker Academy, has two key dimensions:

· Employee autonomy. The platform is accessible on any computer or mobile device, and curriculum covers everything from compliance to business strategy, leadership, and well-being. Employees can thus take ownership over their own learning experience, choosing what they want to learn at whatever times fit best into their schedule.

· Curated content. The curriculum is refined through data from focus groups for each subject in order to ensure that the knowledge being offered is relevant and applicable.

The online travel and lodging agency operates under the following principles in building an environment of continuous learning:

· Horizontal mobility. Employees have opportunities to transition into completely different departments and roles through guided training.

· Psychological safety. The company culture makes it safe for employees to try new things even if uncertain of the end result by giving them the freedom to accept the accompanying inevitable failure.

· Vertical mobility. The company also strives to retain its employees by guiding their growth toward leadership roles. The company’s goal is to provide those who want to pursue leadership roles the opportunity to do so, instead of letting them move on somewhere else in their search.


The health technology company is a leader in consumer health, home care, diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, patient monitoring, and health informatics. The company’s values include employee autonomy, exploration, and informal on-the-job learning, values that are reflected in the characteristics of the Philips learning program:4

· AI solutions. Philips’s continuous learning efforts are a key feature of the company’s digital transformation journey. As the organization has transitioned from its identity as a supplier of health products into a provider of digital health services, AI has helped upskill its huge workforce.5 Their challenge is how to support the acceleration of those changes. Like Westpac, Philips turned to an outside source for expertise. Cornerstone, which provides cloud-based learning and human resources software, has provided the infrastructure for Philips’s continuous learning environment.

· Individualization. The AI-powered technology adapts to learners’ specific needs and pace, so that each individual is able to learn under the specific conditions most suitable for success in each case. One learner might thrive within a fast-paced curriculum that keeps her on her toes. Another might do better with a slower pace that allows him to chew on the subject matter.

· Socialization. Employees can also share their “playlists” of tailored lessons with colleagues, much like the sharing of music playlists on streaming services like Spotify. For example, a sales expert in the company can contribute to a training program by creating a playlist that includes a video, a short e-learning course, several questions and answers, and some real-life situations. The social media function of the platform also facilitates connection between new employees and more experienced members who can serve as mentors. The platform thus works as a more organic, bottom-up approach to peer-mentor relationships than formal matching programs.

· Mentorship. Coupled with the technology platform is an intentional cultural shift that emphasizes leaders as teachers above all else. Leaders adopt the role of developing team members’ futures—not just managing their work tasks. Leaders are also directed to share their expertise, knowledge, and passions for specific subjects in training sessions.

· Tracking progress. As the organization collects the data on employee usage of the platform, it can measure the correlation between continuous learning and high performance within the company. When they have sufficient data, they can track whether relationships exist between high-performance salespeople and how much training they do and whether creating playlists and learning nuggets means employees are learning in expected or unexpected ways.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!