2018 Sustainability Report

Team Member Social Responsibility

Incorporating best practices in employee care in our everyday operations is crucial to building stronger communities.

Empowering Team Members Through Upward Academy

Helping our team members succeed is not only the right thing to do, but also benefits our business by increasing retention. By educating and investing in our people, we encourage them to stay with us for the long term. Many of our front-line team members are new immigrants to the U.S. and come from dozens of different countries; up to 50 different countries may be represented within a single plant in some instances. A general lack of access to resources has also left many team members with low literacy, limited English proficiency and skills gaps.

Our Corporate Social Responsibility team aims to address these unique and shifting challenges through our innovative team member education program, Upward Academy. In partnership with local community organizations, Upward Academy helps team members develop important life skills, offering free and accessible classes in English as a Second Language (ESL), High School Equivalency (HSE), U.S. citizenship, financial literacy and digital literacy. To make it as easy as possible for team members to attend, we offer classes in our plants immediately before and after shifts.

After piloting the program in 2016, all surveyed team members who participated reported being more satisfied at work after attending Upward Academy classes. A return on investment interim report in 2018 revealed that Upward Academy realized a 123 percent return on team member retention in 16 poultry plants. Learn more about the results of this study in this video. Based on this success, Tyson has committed to making Upward Academy available to all U.S. team members within the next few years.

To that end, we significantly expanded the program over the last year. We launched Upward Academy in 18 new plants in four new states, including Arkansas, Nebraska, North Carolina and Texas. By the end of FY2018 we had deployed Upward Academy to 33 Tyson Foods processing plants in six states (AR, NE, NC, NJ, MO, TX). In April 2018, we reached a major milestone, surpassing 100,000 hours of instruction for the program. At the close of FY2018, we logged more than 160,000 hours of instruction.

upward academy

A return on investment interim report in 2018 revealed that Upward Academy realized a 123 percent return on team member retention in 16 poultry plants.


Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Career Education recognized Upward Academy as a Champion for Arkansas’ workforce.

Increasing Financial and Digital Literacy

In 2018, we built out financial and digital literacy components of the program as well as soft-skills development. In partnership with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, we created Investing in Tomorrow, an eight-week financial literacy program to help team members better understand how to navigate both their personal finances and the U.S. financial system as a whole. Partnering with our Information Technology team, we also began developing a digital learning infrastructure that will include a digital platform, digital capabilities, digital curriculum and digital literacy classes.

Building Strategic Partnerships

We established partnerships at the federal and state level to enable more efficient allocation and implementation of resources at the local level.

We also built intentional relationships nationwide with professional adult education organizations to better align our programmatic goals with national trends around integrating adult basic education with workplace skills and education. For instance, to advance our public-private partnerships, we formed a relationship with the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE), the largest professional membership of adult educators in the United States.


Workforce Development Certificate

Because Tyson plants are predominately in rural areas with limited labor pools, the company relies on developing and promoting talent internally. Many front-line employees’ literacy levels prevent them from qualifying for roles beyond the processing lines. Many may not even qualify to enter a state-sponsored career readiness certificate program.

Corporate Social Responsibility has partnered with our Human Resources team to develop a Workforce Development Certificate (WDC) that will allow front-line employees to learn the basic skills they need to apply for jobs beyond the front processing line. Initially, certificate components will include math, language, soft skills and digital literacy. From there, the WDC will be developed with subject matter expertise from adult education providers and tailored specifically to our company’s needs. Curriculum will be taught by state adult education instructors using funds earmarked for workforce development. We plan to continue to develop the certificate, with the goal of piloting it in FY2020.

We are honored that our Upward Academy program received the 2019 ATD Innovation in Talent Development award from the Association for Talent Development. This award is given in recognition of an innovation that has a measurable impact on an organization or audience, is moving the talent development industry forward, is sustainable, and is replicable within or outside the talent development field.


Measuring Social Capital

In 2018, we surveyed team members during Upward Academy launches to collect social capital data, providing a baseline of information for measuring program impacts and planning and implementing future changes. The survey measured trust, community involvement, civic society participation and social networks. It also measured confidence in interactions with new people, other team members, supervisors and job performance.

Upward Academy Team Member Spotlight

We asked some of our Upward Academy team members what they viewed as the personal benefits of participating as students in the program. A male Somali team member and Upward Academy ESL student at a Texas plant responded, “Now I go to the clinic on my own, I talk to my supervisor without assistance, and I express myself in school and in the community without any help. I go to school, and I speak English. I go to the doctor, I speak English. I can talk to my non-Somali friends in English. Now I am more confident and do not need an interpreter.”

Upward Academy

Upward Academy's Impact

Upward Academy's Impact
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