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Five Reasons to Leverage Work-Integrated Learning in Your Business

Do you lack in-house expertise to tackle critical operational and strategic issues within your team? Do you feel limited by your budget and technological constraints? As leaders, we constantly have a list of goals for our teams, such as enhancing performance, improving quality, and boosting customer engagement and satisfaction. However, we’re often faced with the challenges of budget constraints, outdated technology, and a lack of in-house expertise, making the task of finding sustainable solutions or strategies even more daunting.

A tool that is becoming pivotal across various industries is the adoption of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) programs like co-ops, internships, business consulting projects, etc. Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada defines Work Integrated Learning as a non-traditional format that allows students across various academic pursuits to partner with organizations to support business objectives or solve organizational problems through strategic projects or initiatives1.

Drawing from personal experience, I can confirm the transformative impact that a WIL partnership can have on both the organization and the student involved. Let’s delve into some of those benefits in greater detail.


Accessing Innovative Solutions

During their academic journey, students engage with emerging industry and business trends and gain knowledge of diverse strategies and tools. They also have privileged access to contemporary research platforms. WIL programs bring this wealth of knowledge and pool of resources to your organization, resulting in innovative ideas, strategies, and tactics to overcome challenges, break through limitations, and help you achieve your operational and strategic goals.


Cost-Effective Expertise

For budget-conscious organizations, utilizing a WIL program is a cost-effective alternative to expensive consulting services. Collaborating with an MBA or Masters-level student combines their extensive practical experience with advanced academic insights, delivering consultancy-level value without the high cost. Additionally, research from the University of Waterloo highlights an amazing double return on investment; every $1 invested in the WIL program results in $2 worth of productivity for the organization.


Building a Talent Pipeline

A considerable number of students who participate in co-op or internship programs transition into full-time roles within their host organization. A survey of Ontario employers showed that 52% hired post-secondary graduates who participated in their firm’s WIL. This is an effective talent acquisition strategy, reducing the cost and risk associated with traditional hiring processes, including advertising, interviewing, and onboarding training.

There is also a smoother transition, the organization has evaluated the student for culture and work ethic fit, and the student is familiar with the company’s system and processes. Lastly, organizations benefit from higher retention and loyalty rates because the students experience a smooth transition from education to employment, reducing the stress and uncertainty of job hunting.

Increasing Diversity and Inclusion

WIL programs enable organizations to partner with students from various backgrounds, including cultural, professional, educational, socioeconomic, geographic, religious, and life experiences. This diversity enhances problem-solving capabilities, fosters creativity, and drives innovation. Moreover, incorporating a broad spectrum of perspectives and ideas results in business solutions and strategies that are more effective and equitable.

Strengthening Community Relationships

Communities gain with WIL programs because they facilitate meaningful connections between educational institutions, government organizations, and private businesses. By providing students with practical training opportunities and offering real-world experience to future professionals, your organization gives back to your community, strengthening your ties and corporate social responsibility profile. It also demonstrates a commitment to education, supports local workforce development, and contributes to a skilled community workforce.

Utilizing Work-Integrated Learning Programs in Your Contact Center

Here are some specific areas and projects a WIL program can be used within your contact center.

Customer Engagement: Use WIL to critically review, analyze, and refine your customer journey, including all touchpoints and communication channels, to build and maintain more meaningful relationships with your customers. This includes projects like enhancing the customer experience journey, improving Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES), boosting customer engagement rate and satisfaction scores, increasing customer referral rates and advocacy, and developing a customer loyalty program.

Customer Success: Use WIL to reassess your business methodologies, processes, and resources to improve the rate at which your customers achieve their desired outcomes utilizing your products and services. This covers onboarding, adoption, customer support, account management, and renewals. Projects under customer success are reducing customer churn, increasing upselling and cross-selling rates, elevating customer retention rates, and maximizing the customer lifetime value.

Employee Engagement: Use WIL to examine the level of enthusiasm, commitment, and connection your employees have toward their job and the company. This includes projects like determining the level of job satisfaction, obtaining feedback on performance management systems, increasing employee retention, improving recognition and rewards systems, overhauling training and development programs, and auditing your workplace culture (employee well-being and empowerment, work-life balance, etc.).

Project Management: Use WIL to develop, implement, or manage projects that require careful planning and effective change management to ensure successful implementation. This lightens the workload of your current employees7, freeing them to concentrate on their primary responsibilities, while also bringing in fresh perspectives. Some projects in this category include the integration of omnichannel communication platforms, onboarding a new CRM or contact center software, updating quality assurance tools, and developing standard operating procedures and unit manuals.

The Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) program provides a win-win scenario for organizations and participating students. Embark on this journey by reaching out to your local universities and colleges, many are eager to partner with organizations and often have an established process to facilitate it. Collaborate with WIL programs to tap into a valuable resource that supports your immediate operational needs and long-term strategic needs.