Back in 2011, telecommunications conglomerate AT&T realized its employees lacked the skills needed to run a growing software infrastructure. As tech talent is limited and competition is aggressive, AT&T determined it needed to retrain its 265,000 employees.
Fast-forward to 2016. CEO Randall Stephenson appointed the company’s first chief learning officer, John Palmer, and invested about $250 million and 20 million hours in training its employees. In addition, the company spent nearly $34 million in tuition aid and collaborated with the University of Notre Dame to begin an online master’s degree with a specialization in data science.
“We want our employees to evolve with our company; investing in training is nothing new for us and we continue to work to build a culture of continuous learning at AT&T,” Palmer said. “Engaging and reskilling our current employee base is the right thing to do for many reasons, not the least of which is providing those who have helped to build AT&T an opportunity to grow and succeed along with the company. We want them to be prepared for software-centric careers.”
The majority of training happens at AT&T University using its flagship training program Leading with Distinction. The company also works with external partners including Udacity, Coursera and universities to offer additional degrees or certifications in specialized fields.
Since April 2017, the company has seen major improvements in training. After completing the Transformation Learning coursework, some 57,000 employees earned about 174,000 badge certifications, more than 2.6 million web-based transformation courses were completed, 2,000 employees enrolled in nanodegree programs and more than 400 employees enrolled in the company-initiated Georgia Tech-Udacity program.
“To make the transformation succeed, we’ve focused on transparency and empowerment — creating tools and processes that help empower employees to take control of their own development and their careers,” Palmer said.
For its efforts in engaging and reskilling its employee base and inspiring a culture of continuous learning, AT&T is the 2017 Optimas Award Gold winner for Training.