Learning! 100: New York Life Is Fit for the FUTURE

Learning! 100: New York Life Is Fit for the FUTURE

Three years ago, New York Life started formulating a plan that would address the need to build new capabilities in addition to supporting its core strengths; including Actuarial Science, Product Development & Pricing, Agent-led Sales and Distribution, which had allowed the company to see nearly 175 years of success, and those identified as new capabilities needed for future success. The company realized that the future skills needed to develop its business strategy would have to include all of these “legacy skills” with an additional focus on new emerging capabilities, including:

>> Data Science – A newly emerging field that uses scientific methods, processes, algorithms and machine learning to extract knowledge and insights from its rich collection of available data.

>> Digital Media & Digital Marketing – Including an external digital social presence, the ability to deliver digitally enhanced consumer and agent experiences, and the technical capability to deliver and manage the IT platforms to support all this.

>> Operational Risk – Beyond New York Life’s financial and product risk capabilities, the new risks associated with technology, including cyber and model risk present new challenges.

>> Human-Centered Design – Insurance product design is complex. Yet, there is a growing consumer demand for a more simplified, easy-to-buy, easy-to-understand and easy-to-service product. New York Life contends that “Design Thinking” or “HumanCentered Design” will play a large role in New York Life’s future customer and agent experience.

New York Life also realized an opportunity existed to re-position its substantial learning capability to close any potential skills gap by creating a new Learning Exchange platform, using the following approach:

1 Providing standardized rich learning experiences that re-enforce the basis for the company’s culture (derived from Mutuality), as well as its deep connection to its customers (resulting from its agent field force).

2 Promoting required education in the industry, products and its own sales and customer support practices.

3 Building skills in emerging talent capabilities mentioned and supporting changing skill requirements based on New York Life’s transformations (Tech, Finance, HR, Service, etc.) became chief strategic learning objectives.


During the early stages of developing its Learning Exchange platform, New York Life quickly learned to consider this a change management project. In any large organization, it’s important to align the stakeholders involved by having a say in the approach, design, curation rules, etc., for the final product to be a success. New York Life set up a Learning Exchange Governance committee early on that met on a monthly basis. In fact, the group still meets quarterly to discuss and develop approaches that will work for stakeholders across the company.


After 18 months of pilot testing, New York Life launched its solution in 2018, to deliver the strategy the company had crafted. However, when it came time to actually unveil its learning platform, the company deliberately took a slow, staged approach to rollout. Rather than a company-wide “big bang,” New York Life deployed the Learning Exchange platform via departmental rollouts and local communications. This approach proved exactly right. After all, it was important that this be treated as a change management activity, rather than just a program launch.

The New York Life Learning Exchange (LEx) is a unified digital approach into a world of learning and development experiences designed to help its employees:

>> Understand and thrive through appreciation of New York Life’s history, values and culture.

>> Keep skills current for their job today and develop skills emerging in the company’s business.

>> Grow, progress and be ready for their next job.

LEx brings to a single point all New York Life’s internal classroom training, e-learning and third-party programs, as well as reference documents from its Jive and Sharepoint sites. It is delivered through the company’s partnership with Degreed.com. LEx is considered a new operating model for learning, integrating the elements of New York Life’s federated L&D community into a single unified body for learning delivery.

LEx is organized around Academies and Pathways:

>> Academies – Domains of expertise, content curators and representatives of best practices for various subject-matter areas. These mostly reflect existing learning organizations.

>> Pathways – Role or function or skillsbased curricula. They are curated from any source and linked to success in a particular subject-matter area. Pathways in areas, such as Leadership, Change Management, Customer Service, Man aging People, Data Science, Accounting and more, provide learners with guidance and direction on what learning is most important for their development. These Pathways can comprise a combination of internal New York Life training, New York Life reference material articles, videos, external courses, etc.

Business units can tailor existing Pathways to their respective needs, or develop new ones as needed through the applicable Academy. LEx uses Degreed’s machine learning capability to customize and delivery a “learning feed.”

An additional business strategy the Learning Exchange model needed to address was the continual and rapid pace of change in technology skills underpinning all the company’s business changes and the extent to which the team can keep technologists’ skills as current as possible. The “Flex-Ed” program was designed in 2017, and fully implemented in 2018, to specifically help technology employees learn what they need, when they need to learn it, using just-in-time learning assets. The initiative was also designed to empower technology employees and to help them feel that the company is investing in their professional growth and development.

Through “Flex-Ed,” all technology employees were given a pre-loaded debit card with a $2,500 “Learning Stipend” that they could use to purchase fee-based learning and development resources and experiences through New York Life’s LEx platform. Technology employees who utilized the stipend reported feeling highly empowered by the opportunity to make their own decisions about development and learning.

Most importantly, as a measure of success of this Flex-Ed model, 97% of the stipend spend was directed towards growing new skills, rather than remediation of legacy skills.

To ensure priorities continued to be met, even as skills needs evolved, New York Life formed a “skills advisory board” to provide guidance on what skills would be most needed and to bring new technology skills into discussion. In a study published by Gartner CEB in 2018, New York Life’s Technology Skills Advisory Board model was cited as a best-practice approach to dealing with the challenge of rapidly evolving workplace skills.


When New York Life launched LEx across the entire company, it had a well-structured communication and support strategy in place. This included communication from business leaders on the importance of learning and development, and how LEx supports rich career development conversations. It also featured Open House sessions, where employees could drop in and meet with learning experts from across various businesses, have a 1-1 demo of the LEx platform, build their own personal skills profile and even download the mobile app to their phone. In addition, a “landing page” on the company’s social media platform provides FAQs and additional support. Lastly, LEx offered an e-learning course, “Getting Started with Learning Exchange,” which provides step-by-step guidance for the best use of New York Life’s new digital learning platform.

After 36 months of testing and implementation, New York Life’s carefully planned and executed solution to enabling a rich digital learning platform represents not only the first in its industry, but it’s also what has set the company apart as a Learning! 100 company.

— Michael Molinaro is Chief Learning Officer at New York Life.

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