Picture this: Hundreds of graduates crossing a stage, shaking hands with leaders, moving their tassels and tossing their hats in the air. The image is a familiar one that we associate with personal growth and development. For many, it’s emotional and moving. It signals the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.
For the team at Guild, a mission-led Career Opportunity Platform for the American workforce, this was just one of the events held at the recent company-wide summit, known as Guild IRL — short for Guild “in real life” — and the graduates came from the company.
Having operated as a distributed workforce since February 2020, the team gathered to refresh their values, hold strategy sessions and acknowledge the professional growth happening internally. The graduation ceremony celebrated Guild for Guilders, the internal program that grants employees the opportunity to access education and learning programs, including degrees, certifications and courses available to their members at Fortune 500 employers.
Reflecting on the Guild IRL graduation, SVP of Talent Management Josh Craver noted the pride it surfaced. “It’s such a gift that we give our employees, and they recognize, feel and appreciate that,” said Craver. “It’s a powerful program.”
In their usual day-to-day work, Guild team members are focused on supporting the education, upskilling and career growth of workers across the U.S at employers like Walmart, Chipotle, Target, Hilton and more. But in order to really understand and evolve that mission, it needs to start internally. “Guild is about unlocking potential in people — not just our customers, but also our employees,” said Craver. “You have the opportunity to come as you are and be supported, seen and respected as you do meaningful work that helps the people in our country.”
At every level of the company, Guilders are living by their mission to empower the workforce, and, in return, are given the support, employee experience and benefits needed to thrive in their unique career paths and create career mobility. To explore the full scope of Guild Education’s impactful work, Built In sat down with Craver, as well as Chief People Officer Lorna Hagen and Software Engineer Blythe Pollard.
Josh Craver on the Guiding Values for Guilders
- Nurture a learner’s mindset: “We’re in the business of development and career mobility, so we need to have that mindset ourselves to be role models.”
- Build shared success: “We work together to solve challenges both in the market and internally to drive growth for the people that we serve. It’s the power of we, not me.”
- Be an owner: “Every Guild employee is an owner; we all have [the option to purchase] shares in the company. When you have this mindset, you look at things differently.”
- Create belonging: “We take an employee-centric approach to how we create culture to have a place where everyone feels seen, heard, respected, appreciated and valued.”
Tell me about Guild’s mission to empower the workforce.
We work with Fortune 500 companies and their frontline workers to support their education and career goals. By partnering with these companies and supporting learners in their education and learning programs, we allow people to reestablish the American Dream of falling squarely into the middle class and affording a family and an education for their kids. Every company is bespoke in a way, but the overarching goal is the same: How can we get as close to debt-free education as possible for their employees? We’re also building a program for our Guilders to continue their education trajectories in the hopes that they gain better economic momentum or more interesting careers. That’s what brought me into the company, and that’s what keeps me here.
How are you taking a human-centered approach to redefining the employee experience?
Employees aren’t waiting for you to make decisions anymore. They’re demanding time and space to be heard and for you to speak. What we’re trying to do for our employees is demystify our programs, processes and philosophies and give them the space to ask what’s on their mind. For example, we’ve set up a Slack channel called Leader Q&A, where employees can ask questions. We’re also thinking through people, process and technology in terms of today’s digital environment. Knowing that people miss connectivity — and that loneliness is a looming disaster in this country — how do we get together in a way that is both emotionally important and smart from a business perspective?
“We drink our own champagne and are our own best customer.”
What rewards are most positively impacting the lives of your employees?
From building a daycare next door to our HQ in the Denver metro area to offering Care.com and Cleo at no cost to our employees, we have a very robust child care portfolio — and we built those rewards in collaboration with our employee resource groups (ERGs). For our employees who are not in a heterosexual relationship, having access to build their families in different ways is really important. We took that into account and started offering benefits that spoke to a big part of our employee population. We’ve seen with our Guild for Guilders program that almost 50 percent of our employees are going through some sort of reskilling and education program. We drink our own champagne and are our own best customer.
How does the learning and development team create career mobility and upskilling opportunities for Guild employees?
We want to mirror the market in many different ways, so we’re building out an internal recruiting team to put time and resources into identifying talent in our organization and facilitating them in their career discovery. Career discovery helps people see all the available opportunities — that looks like panels where people tell stories about their career journeys, office hours to talk with recruiters or hiring managers about roles, and expanded aperture on all the incredible opportunities we have. Being employee-led is important because what we’re saying to our employees is, “You get to drive your career, and we’re along for the ride to help you steer.”
What learning and development resources are you planning for next?
We’re starting to pivot on how we look at performance management and the rhythm of business. The other day, someone said, “The speed of change is never going to be as slow as it is today.” The whole idea is: We need our people to get aligned on their goals on a much more frequent basis. We’re introducing a 30-30 concept, which is where employees spend 30 minutes every 30 days to check in with their manager on what they’ve achieved, calibrate on where they’re going in the next month, and get feedback and coaching. It’s a progressive way to keep up with the fast-paced rhythm of our business. When we surveyed our people, 98 percent of them said they meet with their manager every other week at a minimum. Rather than adding more onto their schedules, we’re taking one of those meetings and putting some structure in place to make it as beneficial as possible.
“What we’re saying to our employees is, ‘You get to drive your career, and we’re along for the ride to help you steer.’”
How did you know that Guild was the right fit for you when you joined the team?
Prior to joining Guild, I taught a course at the University of Denver with employees and aspiring and current managers at Walmart. The experience working with these frontline workers — who have incredible stories of not being dealt the best cards in their hand, but making the most of their opportunities by doing the education at night or early mornings while working — was inspiring. After teaching the course, I networked and connected with Guild, recognizing this was the population that the company serves, and here I am today.
What has your experience on Guild’s tech team been like?
This is my first tech team, and it has been awesome. It’s continuously challenging and interesting, and there’s a lot of collaborative work. You never feel like you’re too siloed or isolated. We occasionally have joint stand ups with other teams to see what they’re doing and learn from them, which always brings new ideas. I’ve also had freedom with my time, which means I get to build my day and what I do around that, like scheduling heads-down time or picking up my kid from daycare. It touches on what Lorna mentioned about employee respect and how powerful that is to employee happiness, retention and engagement.
What value do you most often see your colleagues embodying?
“Build shared success” is closely intertwined with belonging, and that’s something I experience a lot at Guild — whether through being part of the women ERG or the mentorship program or having other teams reach out to ask how I moved from coaching to engineering because they’re looking at doing the same thing. There’s an openness where you can say, “I’m interested in this, I want to do this,” and everybody around you scrambles to help. On the day-to-day within my engineering team, there’s a pervasive sense of, “What’s good for you is good for me.” I definitely haven’t felt that in all jobs.
“Guild is a place where you’re encouraged to learn and grow, however that looks for you.”
What makes you feel supported by Guild — both at work and in your personal life?
Guild is a place where you’re encouraged to learn and grow — however is best for you. I was able to go to a coding boot camp that was paid for through our Guild for Guilders program and used that experience to get a job in a different part of Guild that I was more interested in. When education is so expensive, you feel like you have to make the right decision or else you end up in debt for something you don’t like. That’s actually how I got into coding — I took an HR class because I wanted to get my master’s in HR, but I didn’t enjoy it. During that time, I started messing around with code on my computer and got really into it.
I also take advantage of The Beehive, which is Guild’s onsite daycare next door to our office in downtown Denver. All of my kid’s friends are my coworkers’ children, which creates an outside community — you work with people, but you also get together with them. The women ERG has also been great for me; I’ve made some close mentor-mentee relationships there. I meet with those people regularly, and we’re there to support each other.
“Guild is supporting me in all facets of my life.”
How do these rewards enhance the employee experience for you?
Rewards are not something you see on a paycheck; they’re a quieter thing in the background that makes your quality of life better. When I start thinking about the ways that the benefits package at Guild makes my life easier and less stressful, it’s significant. Guild is supporting me in all facets of my life.