Panoramic Founder Story: The Building SkillCycle with Kristy McCann Flynn
“Everyone goes through performance management, but not everyone has the chance to learn.”
In most companies, the Human Resources (HR) and Learning and Development (L&D) teams manage between six and 24 programs in their human capital tech stack. The ideal number is four. And usually, these are disparate programs that are tricky for the learner and the HR professional to use.
For decades, that situation was the only option for the L&D world. That was until HR veteran Kristy McCann Flynn got fed up enough to fix the problem. She launched SkillCycle (formerly GoCoach) to improve the performance review, training, engagement, and career progression experience for everyone.
“I don’t just believe there can be more humanity in HR. I know it. I don’t want other people to go through the pain that employees and HR teams have endured for so long. I created SkillCycle to provide opportunities for all people to learn and develop. It will truly democratize and drive equality in development. And that will make companies and performance better for everyone.”
Kristy spent more than 20 years in HR in companies ranging in team size from small startups to massively distributed enterprises. During that time, she saw companies pulling back on investing in people. Especially when the economy was good, the attitude was that people either “had it” or they didn’t. If they did, they stayed. If they didn’t, it kicked off a “recycle and replace” process.
The Making of a New Human Capital Development Platform
The issue was partly due to an overly cavalier attitude related to investing in people. But it also was due to problems with systems and resources the L&D teams were forced to use. For the most part, the legacy systems aren’t built by or for HR and learners. Instead, they are produced by engineers. They were focused on back-office platforms and solving short-term problems with hiring, training, and retention.
The result of this feature focus means that if the tool produces data, it is focused on one issue in L&D (like performance) and holds the data specific to that issue within the program. In addition, most evaluation and learning programs work at a ‘point in time’ — like when an employee is being reviewed or trained.
Kristy and her team knew that connecting each piece of the tech stack into a holistic solution would transform HR. Combining analysis, development, engagement data, and performance reporting allows them to assess an employee’s gaps, build career-focused learning, and monitor it to keep the employee moving forward. That’s SkillCycle — a Human Capital Development Platform.
The Making of a Founder
Like so many founders, Kristy embarked on building a solution to solve a problem. She only later discovered she had become an entrepreneur.
“I was so focused on solving the problem that the parts where the company began to firm up, customers came on, and we raised money just seemed to happen. I had talked with so many solution providers that had the right idea but lacked the ‘how.’ I knew our mission and how to achieve it, and frankly, I was pissed off enough to put everything into getting our company to where it is and where it’s going.”
The company definitely is going places. It kicked off 2023 with the launch of its category-defining Human Capital Development Platform. As its name implies, it is a complete suite that works for every person in the organization. It connects data and development into an ecosystem that is simple for the learner and HR professional to use because it automatically connects performance data to the learner’s next step in their custom SkillCycle.
True Human Capital Development
The singular solution recognizes that human capital development is an HR manager’s biggest system. It’s comprised of multiple pieces, including development, performance, engagement data, productivity, and goals. By attaching them into one system, data can flow and offer a clear view of how an employee needs to improve. They also understand the mechanisms they need to implement, which is done automatically via SkillCycle too! It generates data that automatically delivers a personalized learning plan, so the learner can get going and grow, starting now.
The Old Scenario
An employee meets with her manager, who taps into review data that indicates she needs to improve her communication skills. The manager recommends a few learning resources that are currently available. The employee feels the sting of criticism but takes the recommendations and seeks out some learning. It’s not entirely certain whether the employee took the guidance or if the learning resources helped – at least until the next round of reviews exposes improvements or continued gaps.
The SkillCycle Scenario
An employee meets with her manager, who taps into review data that indicates she needs to improve her communication skills. The manager uses the data, along with SkillCycle’s personalized development plan to build a learning path specific to their employee’s gaps and career opportunities.
The employee has a path to develop starting right away. The feedback is personalized, applicable, and relatable to where they are at the moment. It shows how they can perform better in their learning journey. She takes the feedback, recommendations, and learning plan and embarks on her customized development process. Data shows how well the training is working as she goes through the skill work. With more data comes more opportunities for development, creating a continuous evergreen talent development process. When the next round of reviews comes up, it’s clear how much the employee has progressed and the next steps in her career path.
With the fully connected SkillCycle Human Capital Development Platform, more data drives more development. The HR team has an always-on tool that enables each person in their organization to do their job better at every step. It takes the pain away for the buyer and the learner. It ultimately drives the performance of the company forward as well.
The Path to Progress for SkillCycle
The team kicked off 2023 with a significant development path of its own, rolling out the Human Capital Development Platform with a dramatic rebrand. The process included renaming the company SkillCycle to signify that people are always in a cycle of learning that is relevant to what they are doing and where they are. The company also crafted an approachable new visual identity and a new website. It’s all part of their effort to make the talent development process friendlier and more productive for everyone.
And “everyone” represents a trillion-dollar TAM opportunity. To begin to capture that total addressable market, SkillCycle is focusing on mid-market companies (200-2000 employees) that tend to be resource-restrained.
Kristy empathizes, “We can take their pain away and make it easy to do their job. If I’d had this when I was in HR, I wouldn’t have quit. We are the only platform built by people who have directly felt the pain of using systems that crippled us from doing our job.”
As they move upstream to enterprise companies (2000+ employees), the pain is less about needing more resources and more about having too many systems. For those customers, SkillCycle leads with learning, quickly revealing the benefits of a system that can maintain a community of well-trained employees.
By building a platform that solves problems they have experienced, the company launched with and has maintained a 90% adoption rate (the industry average is 5-10%). They have a net retention rate of 175% because mobility, productivity, succession planning, and longer employee retention have a domino effect.
Propelled by Passion
Because SkillCycle helps them do their job, people are passionate about the company. And just like the customers they support, Kristy and her team — armed with machine learning — keep scanning the data to spot their gaps and innovating to fill them and build value and the category.
Ever the people developer, Kristy shared a piece of counsel for her HR colleagues and fellow entrepreneurs. She reminds her HR colleagues that retention is possible and more necessary than ever, saying, “There are still jobs available. The more people you let go, the more people you’ll have to build and grow.”
And for her fellow founders, she offers encouragement: “What got you here today won’t get you here tomorrow. This process will change you. I understand now why I hated some entrepreneurs. Don’t follow the shiny toys. Stay rooted in the vision.”