How Guild Education Scaled Performance and Development in Hypergrowth
Guild is the leader in education & upskilling benefits, giving companies access to a global network of universities, learning providers, and other academic programs.
Micah Leinbach is the Sr. Manager of Learning & Organizational Development at Guild Education. Outside of Guild, he works as a coach, guide, entrepreneur, and the founder of BOAT: The Bus for Outdoor Learning and Teaching.
Maureen McGinnis is a People Business Partner at Guild Education where she facilitates Guild’s performance management and employee engagement strategies, helping to scale the people operations team throughout the company’s hypergrowth.
“It totally changed my mind about performance management software.”
Guild’s mission is to unlock opportunity for America’s workforce through education and upskilling. While it helps corporations like Walmart, Walt Disney, Chipotle, and Discover develop their teams, it wanted to leave no doubt that it was doing the same for its people. Those expectations weren’t lost on Micah Leinbach, Guild’s Manager of Learning & Organizational Development.
“Our whole mission and reason for being is to help other companies think about how they’re managing their talent. When we don't deliver on that mission internally, people notice,” Leinbach said. From prior experience, he knew that performance and development initiatives usually missed the mark when they didn’t feel like part of employees’ routine. The old-school approach of sitting everyone down for a once-a-year review or mandatory training doesn’t get anyone excited about career advancement.
“One of the things we spent a lot of time thinking about was how we could help people integrate learning into their regular ‘goings on’ at work. How do you build in that reflection time?” he said. In the company’s early days, it was easier for personal relationships to help drive career conversations. But after Guild’s headcount grew 1,400% and revenue 9,969% in just three years, the company needed structure and tools to accommodate performance and career growth at scale. Leinbach and Mo McGinnis, a Guild People Business Partner, knew that Cornerstone — their performance management tool at the time — couldn’t match the vision.
“I've found that roughly every 150 employees, you kind of need to revise your systems...and by then, we were just ready for something that worked,” Leinbach said. In his own words, the company’s approach to performance and development was overdue for a “lifesaver.”
For McGinnis, that much-needed support came just in time. “We’re growing so much that we’re a different company every three to six months. We needed something scalable and, above all, easy to use — especially on the user end,” McGinnis said. The company’s performance reviews were just weeks away, and she knew their existing solution couldn’t keep up.
“Whatever the new system was, I had to be able to learn it quickly because I was still the only person in People Ops,” she said.
Lattice’s intuitive approach to performance management caught her eye. After a speedy implementation, Guild kicked off its reviews. Rather than dig through months of emails, reviewers could easily reference past goals and peer recognition all within the review experience. Easily recollecting this information was critical for the fast-growing company, whose managers quickly went from having one or two direct reports to entire teams.
It was a breath of fresh air for McGinnis, who had seen her share of technological breakdowns, missing evaluations, and other review-season headaches in the past. “We loved it. Lattice totally changed my mind about performance management software,” she said.
A few months later, Guild was approached with the opportunity to test drive an early build of Lattice Grow. Leinbach, who was already impressed by the platform’s approach to reviews and one-on-ones, jumped at the chance.
“I was a hundred percent there because we're trying to build an environment where people have the freedom and resources to drive their own learning experience through intuitive tools. And it turns out that Lattice is really good at that,” Leinbach said. The tool empowered teams at Guild to share levels and competencies within their organization, helping deliver on his personal goal of making development more accessible to everyone.
“The functionality of having a central place to store competencies is so critical,” he said. According to Leinbach, doing so within the same tool you use for one-on-ones and performance reviews makes having career conversations a more natural part of the employee experience. It empowers direct reports to more easily see what their career next steps look like and to set growth goals. The pathway to a promotion isn’t just clearer, it’s spelled out in an easy-to-read competency matrix employees can reference at any time.
Bringing performance management and development together this way wasn’t just convenient, it was an epiphany — even to a Learning & Organizational Development veteran.
“Even before Grow, I considered Lattice an L&D tool because of how intuitive it made performance...But this is going to be a big, big game-changer in our ability to understand what people need to grow,” Leinbach said.
Hypergrowth has a knack for disrupting HR’s best-laid plans. Culture can shift with every new hire class — forcing People teams to reevaluate performance management processes and the way promotions and career conversations are handled. Lattice’s software gives Guild the structure they need for the long haul, no matter how high their headcount soars.
“When I came to Guild, someone told me that structure sets you free. Back then, I found that a little annoying, but they were totally right. Like totally, totally, right. And the best way to do that is to create shared systems, Lattice being one of them,” Leinbach said. If the platform wasn’t intuitive, it wouldn’t have been able to embed itself into the company’s culture the way it did.
After all, the hardest part of performance management and development shouldn’t be technology. Yet throughout McGinnis and Leinbach’s careers, navigating legacy software providers had always been a barrier to entry for teams looking to get serious about performance and growth. Leinbach was effusive over Lattice’s intuitive interface — not because it makes his job easier, but because it makes it feel more meaningful.
“I approach L&D from a perspective that if you have to run a training, you've already failed,” Leinbach said. Neither he nor McGinnis became People leaders to record software tutorials. “For the first time, I can focus less on telling people where to click and instead focus on how to actually have that big conversation.”