Avoid Dead Ends to Increase ROI

Avoid Dead Ends to Increase ROI

Shutterfly-Dead EndWhy go down a dead end road if you don’t have to?  Most are clearly marked and easy to avoid.  Others are more difficult to assess.  Down a scenic country road, you might end up traveling a few miles, feeling good about where you’re going before you realize there are no outlets or opportunities to head in other directions.  You’re trapped.  It’s frustrating and disappointing.

Imagine working 60, 70, or even 80 hours a week.  You’re on time, work well with co-workers, and perform tasks efficiently.  You like what you do and see opportunities to apply what your skills to other parts of the business.  Managers see you as a model employee.  BUT, every few months you’re passed over for promotion.  Why?  Your English isn’t good enough.  The energy and enthusiasm you give at work only get you so far.  You’ve reached a dead end.

Companies in the service industry lose millions of dollars as this scenario plays out again and again.  Restaurants, hotels, retail operations, and home health care networks provide many rewarding employment opportunities for a diverse population of low-skilled and immigrant workers.  When these employees demonstrate a commitment and quality of work that goes above and beyond their peers, the natural thing would be for managers to leverage what they’ve learned on the job, promote them, and give them more responsibility.

But, they can’t.  The hurdle of learning English is too big.  It can be expensive and takes time.  And, if a company decides to cover ESL training costs, they have to wrestle with the big question: what are its bottom- and top-line ROI?

It’s no secret that increasing retention and reducing turnover are big priorities in the service industries.  Because these businesses typically pay low wages, offer limited or no benefits, and provide little training for occupational or career development, employees see themselves in “McJobs,” defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “unstimulating, low-paid” with “few prospects” for advancement.  Dead ends.

Ironically, McDonald’s has emerged as an innovator in helping employees challenged by English.  Through its “Under the Arches” program, the company not only leverages skills employees have learned on the job and promote them to manager positions but has developed a successful model for employee retention.  According to the Aspen Institute, McDonald’s reports 88% employee retention one year after graduation from the program, 84% two years after graduation, and 73% three and four years after graduation.  In addition, more than 95% of participants increase their wages following program participation.

While innovative and effective across a limited number of McDonald’s franchises — 2,500 employees at 45 sites since 2008, according to Aspen — the “Under the Arches” model is difficult to scale because it requires a significant time commitment (i.e., four courses over dozens of weeks) and financial investment from franchisees.  Businesses and others who have explored replicating McDonald’s program soon realize the challenges of cost vs. ROI, which is why “Under the Arches” has been one of the few noteworthy case studies in this space.

We aim to change that.  Our team has developed a low-cost English language learning solution that’s tailored specifically for restaurants, hotels, stores, and home care centers.  Our game-based approach engages adults in learning in new and playful ways, helping them gain confidence as they acquire and master new vocabulary and phrases that are specific to their jobs and beyond.  Coaching and instructional sessions are conducted in the workplace before or after shift so employees don’t have to travel.

In developing programs that are flexible and customizable for different kinds of service-based companies, our goal is to reduce the length of time between a business making an investment and seeing bottom- and top-line ROI.  Employees who participate in weekly programs over two, three, or four months immediately demonstrate changes behaviors and improved communication skills because Skylab programs are designed to enable transfer of learning to improve job performance.  Employees can also be tracked for the following six months to a year so businesses can calculate retention and turnover rates.

Our goal is to help businesses reduce costs while enabling employees to build on their skills and take advantage of new opportunities that drive growth and success.  We want eliminate the “dead ends” that are frustrating for companies and individuals alike.


Photo Credit: Christopher Ewing, Shutterstock