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Giving employees a new lease on LiFE
Case study: FedEx Express and the University of Memphis Global created a successful business-academic partnership designed to reduce attrition and drive growth
By: Tim Harnett

With low unemployment and flat university enrollment rates, both businesses and academic institutions need new tactics to boost attendance and drive recruiting and retention efforts. This environment is driving the need to new business-academic partnerships to give employees the skills they need to thrive in the workplace.

One such partnership is the one between FedEx Express and the University of Memphis Global. The two organizations recently teamed up to create several academic programs that would boost retention rates at the Memphis Hub of FedEx Express and increase enrollment numbers for the University of Memphis. Along the way, both organizations disrupted the traditional models of adult education and tuition assistance.


FedEx Express faced a retention challenge with its employees at its Memphis Hub location. Work at the Hub can be grueling, with overnight hours and harsh outside working conditions—all of which was affecting turnover. It cost $3,500 to replace each employee who voluntarily left the Hub, which affected the bottom line. The higher the turnover, the more money was spent on worker replacement and onboarding costs.

To address the retention issue, FedEx Express explored a novel approach: overhauling their tuition assistance program. While there is a positive correlation between earning a college degree and making more money, FedEx Express’ legacy program wasn’t pulling in the numbers. Robbin Page, vice president of human resources for FedEx Express, wanted to increase the number of employees taking advantage of getting a college degree, with an eye on leveraging a college education as one way to reduce attrition. But she needed a new solution to increase the numbers.

Forming the partnership
FedEx Express found the perfect academic partner in their own back yard in the University of Memphis Global. Dr. Richard Irwin, executive dean for the University of Memphis Global, saw the partnership as a win for both parties. “Our president identified UofM Global as the way to grow the university with nontraditional students. I see business partnerships as a major component of achieving that outcome,” Dr. Irwin said.
Creating a LiFE
FedEx Express knew what it wanted: reduced attrition among its Memphis Hub workforce. Page outlined the following requirements for her new program:


“Our goal was to remove the barriers to a secondary education, and money is one of the largest barriers,” Page said. FedEx Express flipped the tuition model that was in place at its legacy program—moving from reimbursement to direct billing.

Although the requirements were daunting, Dr. Irwin’s team at the University of Memphis rose to the challenge. In less than six months, UofM Global designed LiFE (Learning Inspired by FedEx)—a custom degree initiative designed with the needs of FedEx Express’ workers in mind. LiFE has two major components: the college track and the Prep Academy. Depending on an employee’s education level: (from some high school to advanced college standing), LiFE has several entry points.

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Internal UofM Global data revealed that 70% of its students access content from their mobile devices, so it was essential for LiFE content to be responsive and mobile forward. FedEx Express agreed. Having the content accessible on mobile was crucial to keeping employees invested in (and moving through) the program.

Since its first iteration in August 2018, LiFE has far exceeded FedEx Express’ expectations. In its first year, LiFE quickly blew past initial enrollment projections and expanded to other cities and FedEx Hubs beyond Memphis. One of LiFE’s biggest successes is its ability to give FedEx Express workers closure on their education. For example, a long-term employee dropped out of college 25 years ago with 100 earned credit hours. Thanks to LiFE, the employee was able to apply those credit hours toward a fee-free degree and graduate in 2019.

By working together, FedEx Express and UofM Global adapted their approaches to education. These changes addressed barriers to education employees might face. The partnership outcomes have been positive for both organizations. LiFE has exceeded FedEx Express’ expectations over the past year, with reduced attrition and a boost to recruitment. Program enrollment has also contributed to increased growth for UofM Global.

To read the full case study, visit https://www.d2l.com/resources/assets/giving-employees-a-new-lease-on-life/.

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D2L is the software leader that makes the learning experience better. The company’s cloud-based platform is easier to use, more flexible, and smart. By using D2L, organizations can personalize the learning experience to deliver real results. The company is a world leader in content creation and curation and enables employers to act in real-time to keep workers on track. D2L is used by learners in higher education, K-12, and the enterprise sector, including the Fortune 1000. D2L has operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil, and Singapore. www.D2L.com.