Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for joining us on a brand new episode of the Leader Show with Lou Carter. Joining us today is Gregory Marino, CEO of Kaplan North America, a premier international educational services company that delivers high-quality educational and training programs to a diverse range of clients across the globe.
With that said, let’s learn what makes Kaplan a Most Loved Workplace®
Lou praises Kaplan for revolutionizing the education management industry, especially in the online space and asks Gerg what makes Kaplan a Most Loved Workplace®. Greg highlights that Kaplan is a large and diverse education provider with over 80 years of experience serving students.
It is known for preparing standardized tests, helping students get into their dream colleges and universities. Kaplan also serves professionals in various fields, such as medicine, law, and finance. According to Greg, the company’s success can be attributed to the core values of expanding educational access and leading academic innovation.
He also emphasizes the importance of a true partnership with students and educators, investing in their success and making a positive impact on their lives.
Next, Lou expresses his admiration for Kaplan’s mission and purpose, especially given the time it was founded when access to higher education was limited for women. He also highlights the vast number of students and professionals the company has served worldwide. On this note, Greg adds that Kaplan has transformed many lives, partnering with universities and K-12 institutions to help students prepare for online learning.
According to him, it may not be uncommon to encounter someone who has come through Kaplan’s programs in a social gathering or at a doctor’s office.
Moving on, Lou commends Kaplan for successfully transitioning to a remote work environment during the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining a customer focus and increasing productivity and engagement. Greg credits the team for helping with the transition and emphasizes the importance of co-authoring the transition plan, ensuring access to necessary systems, and accommodating feedback from employees to maintain engagement.
He also highlights the importance of maintaining fun elements in a remote environment, such as costume contests, trivia tournaments, and talent shows and involving families in the process to keep the employees engaged.
Lou asks Greg how Kaplan’s family values contribute to employee engagement and longevity. In reply, Greg explains how Kaplan consolidated its three major business units into one integrated organization, which posed challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The previous organization had internal constructs that did not align with customer needs, and consolidation enabled Kaplan to offer a wider range of products for the entire educational journey.
He mentions that Kaplan now operates as one organization, and customers have access to all offerings throughout the portfolio.
Subsequently, Lou highlights how Kaplan’s consolidation of business units aligns with the company’s values of inclusion, innovation, and transparency. Greg mentions the importance of prioritizing the customer and student experience by removing administrative tasks and focusing on their academic outcomes. He also mentions that most enhancements and optimizations are driven by the voice of the customer, which was a key factor in the decision to reorganize.
Finally, Lou Carter asks how recognizing Kaplan as a Most Loved Workplace can help the company grow. Greg highlights that in the current corporate culture, with many employees resigning, being recognized as a Most Loved Workplace can help attract and retain talent. The certification helps validate the hard work the employees put in to create a great workplace culture.
Lou and Greg go into much greater detail throughout this conversation. Thank you for listening!
Lou Carter : It's great to have Gregory Marino here with us today, CEO of Kaplan North America. Greg, welcome.
Greg Marino : Good to be here. Thanks for having me, Louis.
LC : Well, it's wonderful. Congratulations first, on becoming a Most Loved Workplace.
GM : Well it's great to be, you know, recognized well for the, you know, with the award, especially during the, you know, the times we're in. So, glad to be with you and also to be recognized as one of the Most Loved Workplaces.
LC : There's so many reasons why Kaplan is a most loved workplace, right? Because you really revolutionize the entire education management industry, the whole education industry, especially online, right? You know, and this kind of feeling throughout Kaplan that that's a part of your mission and vision. Tell me in your words what it is that makes Kaplan a most loved workplace.
GM : Sure. Well, you know, first just a, you know, a little bit, you know, about Kaplan. I mean, Kaplan is one of the world's largest and most diverse education providers. We've been around for over 80 years and, you know, core to what we do, it's very much about expanding educational access and leading academic innovation. A lot of people know Kaplan for our preparation for standardized tests.
So we help high school students get into the, you know, the college of their dreams so that they go on, become a, you know, a teacher, or engineer or whatever it is that they dream. The vast majority of doctors have prepared with us, as has nurses and lawyers and financial advisors, as they've studied with us, for their, you know, their licensing exam.
And of course, we've got a global presence, as well as, students come to the states through one of our Kaplan programs or one of our experiences, you know, such as, language learning. So we've got this, you know, long history and deep experience in providing educational services that not only students, but corporations and universities as well.
And I think the what we do is a core part of what makes Kaplan, a place that, you know, that people love. I've been with the organization for close to 30 years. I've worked in many of the different parts of the organization, and I, you know, personally know the functions have moved up through the ranks, but it is what we do, I think that, and how we do it that drives this attraction to the, you know, to the workplace.
We love our students. We love our partners, and there's a true partnership, an investment in ensuring that our students and partners are successful. So when you go home at night, I think that really, you know, really, that impactful work resonates because, that you know, made a difference in somebody's life. And, possibly for generations to come.
LC : It's really a great thing to hear that connection to your company's mission. Kaplan was founded 83 years ago, in 1938, when access to higher education, especially for women, was limited. And to have that kind of inner core purpose is just incredible. And the breadth really too, 1.1 million students and professionals around the world. Wow!
GM : There's a lot of students, that have come through the Kaplan doors, and, you know, lives that have been changed. As a result, we partner with, you know, universities to help them go online, K through 12 institutions to help prepare their students. It's not that all that, you know, uncommon to be at a social gathering and run into a Kaplan Lawnmower, you know, if you're in a doctor's office, to hear that the person that's treating you or getting ready for you to see the doctor has come through the Kaplan doors as well.
LC : One of the things that really struck me as well was what you've done to really foster this collaborative and caring environment during what has really saddled all of us during the Covid era, which is going back to work. And you have made this swift shift of the entire company to a remote work environment, well, really maintaining the customer focus and increasing productivity and engagement all the while. Tell us how you did it.
GM : Yeah, I mean, kudos to the, you know, to the team for helping with the, you know, with the transition. And, you know, I think a big part of the fact that a large part of the organization and our student facing functions were already in a digital format, allowed us to help facilitate the transition for our back office functions to an online environment. I mean, for starters, it was co-authored by the team, you know, so there's some, you know, fundamentals that need to be in place, you need access to the systems, and not underestimating the importance and the amount of work that went into that, and being able to, receive phone calls or, you know, chats from our, you know our customers.
But there were some other, you know, elements that needed to be accommodated, in a successful transition to the online, remote environment. And getting that feedback from our employees, on what would make a highly engaged remote environment successful allowed us to be able to incorporate that feedback, and make the necessary changes that were important to keep engagement high.
If you think about the amount of face-to-face time that we had, the fun elements that were incorporated, as well in a face-to-face environment, we had to figure out how to bring that online. So the, you know, just coming off of, you know, Halloween last month, that costume contest that we had in a face-to-face environment, we replicated as best as possible in an online environment. We, our trivia pursuit tournament that we had in the past continued, our talent shows that were in place previously have moved to a virtual environment.
So, those softer elements, were also key parts of our remote transition, in addition to ensuring that we were there for our customers
LC : And the really important question is, what did you dress up for at the [laugh] costume contest?
GM : Yeah, me, when I dressed up, we tend to have [inaudible] costumes. So, this year we went with the Top Gun theme. So we were all in our flight suits as we were dressing up,some really fun ones in years past. I think just not too long ago we all took on a character from Greece. It's a lot of fun, but quite honestly, our team, our employees had some really, really creative costumes. And one fun thing this year was the whole family was able to participate. So from infants dressed up, in costumes to teenagers that were still in a remote classroom environment, participated in our Halloween costume contest this year.
LC : That speaks volumes about having the family involved. I can kind of imagine at that moment exactly what you meant by authoring, right? You co-authored this new environment and people became part of it. No wonder why engagement and productivity went up
GM : If the significant other, and the kids or the mother and father are fans of you know of Kaplan. We also know that our team, our employees, will be highly engaged in long tenured employees. So family is certainly core to our value system.
LC : So tell me more about this. You consolidated Kaplan's three major business units into one integrated Kaplan North America organization. That's another, wow. You have these really huge things that you've accomplished as someone who really manages and transforms and changes the company.
GM : What made it interesting and probably a little more difficult than your normal restructure is that also happened in the backdrop of, you know, COVID. We were previously, organized in these three separate business units, our Kaplan Test Preparation division, our professional division, and our higher education division, which was very much a internal construct, but when our customers thought about Kaplan and reach, and they weren't thinking about those, you know, those units, in a distinct way, but there was a lot of overlap in terms of products that universities and businesses were very much interested in, that went across, you know, those lines. And, we weren't able to completely solve the complete solution for our customer because of our internal organizing. You know, we consolidated into one unit, under an internal holding unit of Kaplan North America. Still part of the larger Kaplan portfolio. But, you know, we now go to market as one organization.
We operate as one organization. And most importantly, our customers have access to a wide range of products. You know, we have products that go pretty much from cradle to grave. You could prepare with us for an SAT, to get into college. And then if you're thinking about going to medical school, prepare with us for your MCAT to get into medical school. But then when you have to sit for your boards, you can prepare with us for USMLE for your United States Medical licensing exam, and then continuing education. You know, that's required or if you wanted to go for, you know, a different degree or add another credential, those typically happen in different business units. But it's not necessarily the way the student educational journey transpired. So we, you know, made that a little bit different so that you could take advantage of all the products and offerings that we have throughout the portfolio.
LC : It does a lot too, with the concept of inclusion and innovation, transparency. You can do it all in one rather than all these separate units, and it is consistent with the lens of your company and your values, really.
GM : Yeah, definitely very much the case. The student experience, the customer experience you know, is important. We want to try to figure out to, you know, how best to remove as many administrative tasks as possible so our students can stay focused on, you know, their student outcomes. So most of the enhancements, the optimization comes from the voice of the customer. And this was, one of the reorganizing was one of the pieces of insights and feedback that we heard from our customer.
LC : Brilliant. And you don't often hear how the connection of people operations, HR, and business makes sense. That just made sense, very strongly. And has the people focus is enormous. How did Most Loved Workplace come at a good time for you?
GM : If you think about it a lot, you know, a lot of change, happening throughout corporate America year and read a lot about the, you know, the great resignation that's you know, that's taking place currently. We want to be on the other side of that. We want to be a beneficiary of what's going on, you know, in the marketplace and being recognized as a Most Loved Workplace, you know, as you see this movement, you know, within the industry, couldn't come at, you know, a better time.
There's engagement surveys that you know, we do regularly to, you know, collect feedback or various forms, you know, that we have. We don't participate much in the external recognition items. You know, maybe we should do a little bit more of that. And this was one of those early entrees in that. But, you know, as you start to calibrate and baseline against other organizations, it was just a good support point, proof point to help show that, all the work that we put in and more importantly, all the work that our employees put in to making this a great place, a loved workplace, was certainly appreciated, and something that we celebrate.
LC : Greg, you're great. You're a great CEO. We really appreciate having you on the show today and you being a Most Loved Workplace. Thanks so much for being on Most Loved Leader Show today.
GM : Appreciate the time. Thank you.