(From The Wall Street Journal) -- GoogleEDU is formalizing learning at the company in an entirely new way, relying on data analytics and other measures to ensure it is teaching employees what they need to know to keep profits humming.
Last year, Google offered more classes to more employees than it ever has before, with about a third of its 33,100-strong global workforce going through the in-house program. It cut classes that didn't work and retooled others. "What's important is that it aligns with our overall business strategy," says Karen May, Google's vice president of leadership and talent, who has led the revamping of GoogleEDU.
Companies have long sought to boost their employees' performance through training and leadership programs. U.S. businesses spent $171.5 billion on learning and development in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the American Society for Training and Development. General Electric Co., for example, spends $1 billion annually on training and education programs for its employees, according to its website.
Getting these programs to work, though, is tricky. Management experts say it is all well and good to send employees to classes, but to get the lessons to stick, employees need to apply them to their daily work lives. Employees often take a class and "say, 'Gee, this is great,' and go back to their jobs and do the same old thing," says Professor David Bradford, director of the executive program in leadership at Stanford University.
Google thinks it has found a way to make its learning stick. It has become more exacting about when it offers classes and to whom. It uses employee reviews of managers—similar to the instructor reviews that college students fill out at the end of a semester—to suggest courses to managers. Ever data-obsessed, Google uses statistics gathered from current and former employees to recommend certain courses to managers at different points in their career, say after a move to a new city or joining a new team.