Essential Support

State Compensation Insurance Fund consistently provides crucial learning support to create a more engaged workforce, better-quality audits, and happier customers.

When the reason you exist is essential—ensuring the workers’ compensation system in California works—you need the support of an outstanding Learning team to make sure you are successful.

At State Compensation Insurance Fund, the past year saw the organization’s Learning team deliver programming that better prepared employees at all levels for that success. It wasn’t enough to train employees to do their jobs well—the organization also wanted to nurture a more engaged workforce. The results of the support provided by trainers at State Fund are employees who are more satisfied in their jobs. They also are able to do their work with greater precision and efficiency.. .and their customers have noticed.

State Fund’s crucial training and learner support earned it a fourth consecutive Top 10 ranking on the Training APEX Awards, making it eligible for induction into the Training Hall of Fame in 2025.


“We focused on improving three enterprise goals for 2023,” says State Fund Vice President of Corporate Learning josh Hinkle. “The first was to improve how our employees felt about their work as measured by three engagement survey statements.” These statements are:

  1. My work motivates me.
  2. I find my work engaging.
  3. I am inspired by the work we do.

By the end of the year, Hinkle notes, those measures increased 4.3 points, 2.7 points, and 4.1 points, respectively. “We also focused on Claims and Legal quality scores, aiming for a score greater than or equal to 90 percent on all of our quality audits, which we consistently achieved throughout the year,” he adds. “A third goal we emphasized was to score higher in our customer satisfaction survey than the insurance industry benchmark, which we exceeded by 12 points.”


Employees’ satisfaction and engagement increase when they feel they can achieve their goals. At State Fund, employees are better able to do that now, thanks to the organization’s Emerging Professional Program (EPP), which Hinkle describes as “a yearlong, blended learning curriculum designed to equip participants in specific front-line classifications with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to successfully compete and get promoted for internal career opportunities.”

With an emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion, EPP aims to upskill and train employees in historically lower-paying classifications. The curriculum comprises workshops that teach in demand skills, along with reinforcement activities to aid employees in applying their learning in the course of their jobs,job shadowing, and mentorship. “All components of the curriculum are virtual. We opted for this method of delivery to enable as many people as possible to participate,” Hinkle explains.

In 2023, State Fund launched two cohorts of EPP, serving a total of 34 employees. Participants achieved a 37 percent average promotion rate across both cohorts launched in 2023, beating the 25 percent goal. Prior to participating in EPP, Hinkle says, employees indicated they had applied for an average of five internal opportunities (per employee) with no success. On the engagement survey, 100 percent of respondents agreed that this program made them more motivated, engaged, and inspired in their work.


Being able to hire virtually during the pandemic was a business lifesaver, but State Fund decided it was time to take hiring and onboarding back to being an in-person experience.

“Our two biggest challenges were increased hiring and the subsequent challenge of emphasizing the new employee’s experience with the organization in a virtual environment. We hired 364 new employees in 2023, which was a 38 percent increase from 2022, and represented roughly 9 percent of the organization,” says Hinkle. “The Training department—in collaboration with Talent Acquisition, IT, and Business Services—is responsible for coordinating new employee onboarding. While we continue to be a virtual company, we decided to transition onboarding back to an in-person experience with the goal to facilitate a more personal approach for the employee’s first week on the job.”


Adds State Fund President and CEO Vern Steiner, “Our strategy is to make a great first impression on every employee. We leave nothing to chance.”

The dramatic increase in hiring numbers flowed into State Fund’s new employee academies, which are used to train employees going into its core business functions. For example, in its Claims department, the company held six sessions of its new employee training academy, which required its trainers to conduct training for 42 weeks last year. “We trained 213 employees and garnered a 96 percent average satisfaction score,” Hinkle points out.

It wasn’t enough to hire and train a high number of new employees. To ensure its culture of employee satisfaction and engagement would be maintained and stay consistent, State Fund needed to integrate the new hires with those hired in the previous year. The company conducted leadership training and hiring manager orientations, providing tools for how to connect with their new employees.

The Learning team also built leader connection points into the new employee academy curricula. “To determine the efficacy of our efforts, we surveyed new employees 30, 60, and 90 days post-hire. One statement in the 90-day survey serves as an example of the impact of these efforts. InJuly 2023, the statement, ‘I have been able to establish a good working relationship with my supervisor,’ received 83 percent positive responses. By November, that score increased to 95 percent,” Hinkle says. “It should be noted that training played a part, but these positive results are due to the hard work of many, not the least of whom are the new employees’ leaders.”


State Fund’s influx of new employees have different expectations of their employer, Hinkle notes. “They want flexibility, transparency, and access to professional development opportunities. One way we used training to meet these expectations was to crowdsource interest and democratize access to a training opportunity,” he says.

An organization-wide initiative, Grow Resilience, Inspire Triumphs (GRIT), was launched in August. The initiative comprises training on dealing with overload and burnout, microlearning on practical resilience-building tools, a Website that serves as the platform for the training, and a virtual speaker series where thought leaders and dynamic speakers present from their research and experience to help employees become “grittier.”

“This initiative is unique in that each employee directs their own learning by having the autonomy to interact with the subject of resilience in a variety of ways, going as deep as they wish. Their participation is voluntary, which generates a more engaged learner base for each training event,” says Hinkle.

The company has completed five sessions on burnout, a town hall-style training on how to navigate a world of overload, five microlearnings, and two virtual speaking engagements. The GRIT content has been accessed more than 3,000 times. “We are hearing great stories about the impact this initiative is having on employees in both their personal and professional lives,” says Hinkle, who notes that several more speakers and training sessions are planned for 2024.


State Fund has a dedicated training space known as its Learning Center, located in its Vacaville office. This was built several years before the pandemic. “In 2022, we reopened that space, and in 2023, we saw a three-fold increase in usage,” says Hinkle. “Given that the space was built for a different work environment, we are investigating innovative ways to use technology such as live-streaming and video teleconferencing to create a physical training space that meets the needs of a virtual workforce.”

State Fund plans to launch a learning Website that will act as a hub for all development-related content. Under consideration are Yelp-style reviews of training, authored by the company’s training staff, to help learners pick classes they feel would best fit their needs. The company also is looking at ways for this site to act as a resource for career development.

“We want to make it easier for employees to find information to help them grow in their current roles and future careers,” Hinkle says.


Hinkle says a key to State Fund’s learning excellence is that they begin every training request with the end in mind and ask the two most fundamental questions: “What are you trying to achieve?” and “What problem are you trying to solve?”

“These questions will first help you determine if training really is the appropriate approach. Then, assuming training is the solution, the answers to these questions will form the foundation of your needs analysis,” he says. “The trajectory of our maturity as a training department can be tracked to how closely we follow this foundational approach to gathering client needs and applying the appropriate training modalities to meet those needs. If you get this first step right, the rest of the training experience often falls into place, and you are more likely to have a successful initiative.”