Learn In thinks a solution to layoffs is more sabbaticals

The COVID-19 pandemic has spun up a storm of layoffs across all industries in response to a decline in sales and consumerism. In the tech world, layoffs have impacted 24,000 people across all industries, according to one tracker.

As companies of all sizes scramble to stay afloat and extend their runway, one company thinks that sabbaticals could be a potential alternative to the massive layoffs across the Valley.

Learn In, a new venture launched by the co-founders of Degreed, today launched with a $3.5 million seed round from Album, GSV and Firework Ventures. Village Global and angel investor Michael Levinthal also participated in the round.

Learn In is taking sabbaticals, which are traditionally reserved for longer-tenured employees, and making them an option for employers who want to retain employees from all levels, entry to senior.

The business works as both a SaaS platform and a marketplace.

First, Learn In sells companies software that helps them determine whether they can afford a sabbatical per employee.

Learn In’s set up for how it conducts sabbaticals is flexible. For example, some employees can continue to work at their company for part of the week, and spend the other part of the week at a learning bootcamp. Other setups could look like a more traditional sabbatical, where employees can be taken off payroll or receive a partial salary, while remaining on benefits.

Once Learn In secures buy-in from a company, the startup connects employees to educational resources, or online bootcamps. Learn In has partnered with other edtech companies like Podium Education, FlatIron School and Foundry College to bring employees online training programs and traditional degrees so they can upskill.

Learn In charges the employer a SaaS fee, as well as a tuition fee per employee it supports. David Blake, co-founder of Learn In, noted that the bill for one Learn In program is around $7,000. Employers usually cover $5,250 of the Learn In program, so employees must cover around $1,750 out of pocket.

Learn In is launching during a time when companies, from small startups to unicorns, are laying off large percentages of their staff. It’s unclear how many startups are thinking about new benefits during this period of economic stress, or new SaaS platforms to license. Benefits, like the one Learn In is offering, are most likely not top of mind for startups struggling to stay afloat right now and extend their runway.

Blake thinks that Learn In-powered sabbaticals will help a company long-term versus the short-term benefit to the bottom line of layoffs.

He pointed to the price tag of rehiring talent once the economy bounces back, when companies all of a sudden need their talent back.

Talent acquisition and onboarding is expensive, and Learn In estimates that hiring a data scientist can cost above $30,000. Reskilling an internal employee, like an entry-level engineer, to do that same job can save a company 40%, according to Learn In.

Those savings account for the costs of a Learn In bootcamp, recruitment of a replacement for the lower-level employee and offering the internal employee one day off a week for learning purposes.

Blake thinks employee education is becoming an increasingly important benefit as the job market dissolves before us through massive layoffs.

“Would I rather have my company spot me for my $22 haircut on campus,” he said. “Or do I want my company to meaningfully materially invest in my future and my skills.”