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Here’s why tech companies are investing in learning subscriptions

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. I just got back from our first company retreat, which we jokingly coined Protocol IRLFest. This was the first time I’ve met many of my colleagues IRL, including my very own editor, Meg Morrone! I was reminded of a piece I wrote a while back on the (sort of) return of business travel, which is taking a different shape in a post-COVID world. Even just a few days together with all your colleagues makes a world of a difference when it comes to boosting morale, building a sense of belonging and getting some big-picture strategy and ideas down. That’s all still pretty hard to do on Zoom.

Today, my colleague Amber Burton interviews an ed tech CEO on why companies are investing in learning subscriptions for their employees, and Issie Lapowsky digs into the responsibilities ride-hailing companies have when it comes to employee safety.

— Michelle Ma, reporter (email | twitter)

Choose your own adventure

When I think about subscriptions, I immediately think about my Netflix subscription, and my Amazon Prime subscription, oh, and that HBO Max subscription that I never canceled after watching the most recent season of “Succession.” I’m sure you get where I’m going at this point: I’ve accumulated a lot of subs. And I’m not the only one. HR leaders have been stocking up on learning and development subscriptions to offer employees as a benefit (and hopefully, to get them to stick around just a little bit longer).

Someone who’s noticed that shift is Andrew Barnes, CEO and co-founder of Go1, an ed tech subscription company that provides tailored libraries of course options for companies across the globe. Go1 doesn’t charge on a per-course basis, but instead offers a way for companies to create tailored libraries of learning subscriptions. The subscription service provides access to over 100,000 courses and services ranging from Pluralsight to Blinkist, the book-summarizing subscription service. Like many other ed tech companies, Go1 has realized L&D is now all about allowing employees to choose their own adventures.

“The data that we see is really interesting, because an organization will subscribe for their staff, and that staff member can access a wellness course or a leadership course or a Pluralsight course or whatnot in the same way that you sort of think of subscribing to Spotify,” said Barnes. “You don't need a pay per song genre that you're accessing. When we look at it, the individuals are often charting their own pathway as to what's important to them as opposed to it being sort of a top-down approach.”

Barnes views the top-down approach that HR leaders used to take for L&D as a thing of the past. Employees now prefer choosing the enrichment courses that they think can best advance their personal lives and careers rather than waiting for an approved course list from their employers.

Go1 gave us a peek at what employees and employers alike are most interested in when it comes to subscriptions.

What type of learning subscriptions are most popular among tech companies:

  • Courses related to the top cloud providers, as well as leadership and communication skills-related courses.
  • Barnes shared that in the North American market, Go1 has also observed a growing focus on content related to well-being.

The fastest-growing subscription content vertical at Go1:

  • Personal development-focused subscriptions are growing just as fast as the professional. Barnes shared in an email with Protocol that organizations are really focused on providing their employees with content that fulfills both their personal and professional needs. Because of the expanding demand, Go1 has added content around project management and improving communication, as well as productivity.
  • Barnes said there’s also an interest in courses that help develop the soft skills that make a person a better leader or teammate.

The top reason companies are investing in non-job related courses:

  • Retention, retention, retention: “We have seen a growing focus from organizations on what it takes to attract and retain quality employees. We’re no longer in an era where office snacks are the beginning and end of what businesses do to invest in their teams. Organizations need to be looking at innovative resources that allow employees to grow in their position and how they will be able to take those learnings to their next job regardless of whether it is with the company.”

And it’s not just about keeping employees engaged. There’s a real focus on engaging and supporting HR and L&D teams.

  • HR- and L&D-specific content is trending right now on Go1 as the platform features more courses about the future of work, The Great Resignation and how to retain talent. “Organizations can see what other organizations are doing, how they have succeeded and where they have struggled, and can take that knowledge and refine it so it works for them. Now more than ever, companies need to have conversations about what their people need from them and how they can help them achieve their goals,” he said.

— Amber Burton, reporter (twitter | email)

Today's tips & tools

Many of my Protocol colleagues flew to our company retreat this week, so I thought this AirPod travel hack from CNN Underscored would be fitting. AirFly lets you connect Bluetooth AirPods to the TV screens on an airplane that only have headphone jacks.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)


The speed at which security has been built up over the last 12 months has been a derivative benefit of what we’ve seen during the pandemic. Privacy, compliance and security are three legs of the same stool. What we’re seeing increasingly is that intersection continuing to happen. RingCentral has invested in all those elements.

Learn more

"Why didn't Lyft do something?"

A Lyft driver, Kristian Philpotts, was killed on the job, and now his mother, Marla Rice, is calling on the company to bolster its safety features and do more for victims and their families. Rice spoke to my colleague Issie Lapowsky about what happened to her son: “I want Lyft to get themselves together … There are so many things that went wrong.” Lyft told Protocol that it is working hard to develop security features to keep drivers safe, including sending texts, partnering with ADT and introducing a 24/7 safety team. Lyft isn’t alone in its issues with safety. Gig Workers Rising found that more than 50 gig workers have been killed on the job since 2017, not including those who died in traffic accidents. The majority were Lyft and Uber drivers.

Read the full story.


At RingCentral, we’re focused on making hybrid work simpler for organizations so they can best set up, run and manage their business. We’re asking ourselves what's the benefit that we can derive, or that we can enable, that is better than the best-in-class in the industry?

Learn more

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Anger at work is inevitable. Here’s how to manage yours and channel it productively.

More employers are offering financial well-being perks to attract and retain workers.

Fidelity is going to allow investors to put a bitcoin account in their 401(k)s. It’s the first major retirement-plan provider to do so.

This is why so many employers are ditching their four-year degree requirements.

Side hustles are booming. Here’s why, and what it means for the rest of the working world.

This just in: TechCrunch reports that PayPal is closing its San Francisco offices. A spokesperson said it's because the company is “evolving how we can work in the most collaborative and efficient ways possible.” An anonymous source on Blind surmised that the office closed because of San Francisco’s Proposition C, which charges some businesses taxes in order to fund homelessness services.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to Have a great day, see you Sunday.

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