FedEx is bestowed the 2020 Learning! 100 Award for learning culture.
Federal Express is the largest business unit of FedEx Enterprises with over 240,000 employees globally. The Memphis Hub was experiencing massive turnover which cost FedEx $3500 per team member lost according to Robin Page, Vice President of Human Resources. Like most package and logistics companies, loading, unloading, and moving packages is demanding work. The work in the Hub was physically demanding, required late night shifts in all weather conditions. How could FedEx stop the talent turnover?
Career development was the answer. Gallup reports that 87% of millennials value professional development and career opportunities as a top priority. However, FedEx already offered tuition reimbursement. Why was it not utilized? The answer is the sum was capped at $3000 per year, insufficient to cover average college costs. So, the first step was to remove the tuition cap and remove time limit on its use.
FedEx determined having talent pursuing advanced education provided it a steady pipeline of talent to fill future workplace needs. FedEx pursued an academic partnership with University of Memphis to help frame a solution. Dr Richard Irwin, Dean of University of Memphis Global shared:
“It really started with the chairman of our board Alan Graf, CFO at FedEx, telling our president that I had made a couple of presentations to our board about Global and its growth. He said, ‘We’d like to initiate some discussions about Global helping us address this attrition problem.’ In March of 2018, I met with FedEx Express to discuss their challenges and hopes for a program that would help them address their retention problem.”
Over the next six months, the program named Learning Inspired by FedEx or LiFe, started to take shape.
• LiFe needed to be scalable and accessible across the U.S.
• LiFe had no out-of-pocket tuition costs to the employee; charges must be direct billed to FedEx Express.
• LiFe had to be accessible and flexible to accommodate employee situation both in time to complete degree and previous experiences.
• No entrance exams were required.
• LiFe was timely with shorter terms.
The goal of LiFe was to remove barriers- cost being the primary one. Entrance exam requirements were eliminated. Realizing each employee may be at a difference level, LiFe offered two tracks for entrance. The College Degree track for those that have already completed 30 units and the LiFe Prep track for those that need pre-college course work. For those needing a high school diploma were referred to a local education agency for assistance.
Most LiFe candidates had not started college courses and were entered into the LiFe Prep academy. The academy consisted of 4 sets of prep courses. Upon successful completion, the graduate would then enter UoM Global LiFe College track.
Get the Word Out
“Results, Order, Caring and Learning are the four tenets of the whole FedEx People Service Profit culture, and we needed our program to align to those aspects,” Page said. To make the LiFe program successful, FedEx had to get the word out. The marketing efforts included messaging in the Hub. “Learn to Earn” flyers were posted documenting the earning power of learning. “We did a ribbon cutting and made the process very ceremonial. Now, one of our goals is to return to each of those spots and keep that enthusiasm going.”
It took six months to develop and launch the LiFE program. More than 3,000 employees enrolled in the program. With the initial early success, the LiFe program expanded beyond Memphis. Hubs in Indianapolis, Newark, Oakland, and Los Angeles all wanted in. Despite the timing in November, peak season for FedEx, UoM Global was able to accommodate the requests.
In LiFe’s first year, employees have graduated college, earned HS Diplomas, and are advancing in their college courses. One of LiFE’s graduates was a long-term employee who dropped out of college 25 years ago with 100 earned credit hours. Thanks to LiFE, the employee was able to apply those credit hours toward a fee-free degree and graduate this year.
FedEx and University of Memphis are the two largest employers in Tennessee and LiFe’s success will have a lingering impact on the communities at large.
FedEx is a two-time Learning! 100 winner.