Education firm Learndirect earns a dubious distinction: They have Glassdoor's absolute worst rating

4 months ago by Joel Santo Domingo in Facts, Trends

We’ve been tracking Glassdoor’s ratings for a while here at Thinknum. While it’s interesting to see which CEOs and companies are treating their workers right, it’s sometimes even more fascinating to report the opposite. Take this week, when Learndirect, the largest vocational education firm in the UK, got the ultimate failing grade: they become the lowest-rated private company worldwide, trading places with the non-profit Financial Ombudsman Service with an overall satisfaction rating of 1.7 points out of 5.

Learndirect (or "learndirect" as they style themselves) grew out of a government-funded non-profit organization for teaching English, IT, and mathematics to adults entering the workforce. As of 2011, it’s been owned by Lloyd’s Development Capital, the private equity arm of Lloyd’s Banking Group (unaffiliated with Lloyd’s of London). During this period, the reviews have been some of the worst on Glassdoor.com, with few bright spots.

Common positive threads in the reviews point to instructors and low-level managers that have “amazing team[s] who did so much with so little”. Esprit de corps and the satisfaction of being an educator are among the few pluses cited in employee reviews.

Just four years ago, Learndirect aced their Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) report, and were "awarded Grade 1 [top marks] for leadership and management”. But after deferring evaluation for two years running, FEweek reports the company received a failing grade of 4 in their 2017 assessment. 

This capped off a period marred by:

  • A significant drop in profits.
  • Failures in their apprenticeship program.
  • An increasing student failure rate.

Reviews over the past year are littered with reports of “out of touch management” setting “unrealistic targets that demotivate staff” for “no reward or recognition”. Entries from as far back as 2014 have mentioned “benefits being reduced” and “so many people trying to deliver so many things and fail at them so spectacularly.”

Incredibly, almost 80% of their ratings are 2 stars or below.

To my ears, that sounds like a company circling the toilet bowl, and about to go under.

As one of the UK’s largest vocational education firms, which claims to have educated half a million students over the past six years, is Learndirect too big to fail? Perhaps not, as both the Guardian and the Financial Times have reported that the Department of Education has decided to stop funding Learndirect as of July 2018.

Background: Glassdoor.com is populated with workplace reviews from current and former employees. Its scale ranks companies from 1 to 5 on company culture, compensation, management, and business outlook. I.e., the things that can make an employee happy or miserable. The average overall satisfaction rate for all companies is 3.3 points out of 5.0. Think of it as a Yelp or Zagat to gauge labor satisfaction at an employer, and you won't be far off.

Joel Santo Domingo

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