Casper is a global sleep company with an expanding portfolio of obsessively engineered products—including mattresses, pillows, bedding, furniture, and connected devices. Our learning & development function has to be agile and innovative to keep pace with an expanding organization. As we scale our Casper Sleep Shops, we want every guest and customer to experience the physical manifestation of our brand. Here’s how we approach learning & development at Casper in an intentionally unconventional way to support our mission to awaken the potential of a well-rested world.
Learning programs built for Casper with Casper
We design learning programs that are 100% Casper. Our five core company values—Mission Driver, Collaborator, Pioneer, Builder, and Zing (while we take sleep very seriously, we don’t take ourselves too seriously)—are at the heart of everything we do. These programs are vetted and launched after welcoming business partners and cross-functional task forces to play an integral role in needs assessment, design, development, and testing. Working together leads to better results every time.
For example, our new store onboarding program was developed by employees from different departments including retail experience & operations, store leadership, L&D, People, technology, digital, and visual merchandising. Collectively, we represented the different verticals responsible for successfully rolling out the new stores. But we truly worked as one team to ensure our program effectively opened new stores where Casper teams can engage guests with products and services to help them get a better night’s sleep. The program also ensures scale by empowering store leaders to develop their people. Our training approach includes building the management team’s ability to own upskilling employees and onboarding future new hires.
Behavior-driven design, instead of delivery-driven design
We purposefully focused on behavior-driven design rather than traditional delivery-driven design. This means our goal is not to train, but to help people do their job well. Moreover, by emphasizing behavior-based design (what you need to know) as opposed to knowledge-based design (everything you could know), we’ve reduced classroom time by days, not hours. As we continue to grow, this should provide real cost savings. It ends up being a fairly simple equation: less content that is more practical and engaging equals higher knowledge retention.
To get down to the behavior level, our task force broke down all the actions our sleep specialists have to do in the store. For example, we segmented selling skills into the many behaviors or processes our sleep specialists will need to actually demonstrate in the shop. Then, we created online micro-learning content for each of these behaviors. This content was stitched together into learning paths that have clear, observable outcomes. We spaced out learning with knowledge checks, practice sessions, and performance support. We also included activities to discover more information on our digital knowledge base, website, and in-store materials. Relying on classroom training is difficult to scale across locations or ensure consistent delivery quality. This online approach will onboard sleep specialists at any location more effectively.
We measure the program using a variety of methods to evaluate Kirkpatrick Levels 1–3. For Level 3, we have incorporated the behavioral outcomes of the learning in regular “check-ins” at all new stores. This will help inform what aspects of the training are successful or require updates to design and delivery. We also are working toward Level 4 aspirations of measuring cost savings and sales.
Feedback loops are good but don’t strive for perfection
We recently launched this training content for our new store onboarding program. We intentionally called it “version 2” for a few reasons. First, we wanted to recognize the previous training efforts that helped us get to this point. Second, we realized we had to draw a line at “great enough” to stabilize the program for a period of time. And third, instead of a pilot, a “version” indicates a confident program that will evolve over time.
Our learning designers built program evaluations directly into the learning experience, so we can identify what’s working well or not. This will help us focus on what we can improve as we plan additional “releases.” Our approach is similar to a product roadmap. We plan ahead for short-term edits after launch, mid-term content updates based on v2 evaluation data, and a full-scale, future version 3 release later this year. It’s important to stay agile and iterative, but avoid getting caught in the vortex of striving for perfection that hinders progress. Releasing learning program updates in planned versions over the course of the year encourages ongoing improvement while proactively managing stakeholder expectations along the way.
Build in adoption advocates in your program
As we roll out new store onboarding training, our collaborative task force serves as advocates for co-creating the program as well as expediting adoption. They are key evangelists outside of L&D who understand the nuances of this approach and its tradeoffs. Informed and involved partners are essential when trying out new L&D approaches in any organization.
Technology is a double-edged sword
As next steps, we would like to further personalize and automate ways to check employee knowledge and information recall to enhance retention. We are curious about incorporating new technologies such as AI for content recommendations, interactive courses to track learner progress, and in-platform support at the moment of need. But we remain cautious of supporting technology just because it’s cool. We need to be careful of over-investing in entertainment at the expense of education and experience. Shiny new things can be a double-edged sword and should only be adopted if they serve a clear purpose of increasing performance.
Nathan Knight recently spoke on our Udemy for Business People Innovators Panel in New York City on blended learning best practices with LG Electronics and IPG Media brands. Find out how online learning with Udemy for Business can help you drive behavior change at work.
About the author:
Nathan Knight is Casper’s first Director of Learning & Development, based in New York. Over the past 15 years, he has built and led learning & organizational development teams at iconic brands including Sony Music Entertainment, Equinox, Weight Watchers, and Home Depot. In addition, he has served as a consultant with Booz & Company and Deloitte Human Capital. Casper is a global sleep company, and one of the fastest growing consumer brands of all time, quickly striking a chord with consumers in a category that was stagnant for decades. The company has a full portfolio of obsessively engineered sleep products—including mattresses, pillows, bedding, and furniture—all developed in-house by the company’s award-winning R&D team at Casper Labs in San Francisco. In addition to its global e-commerce business, Casper owns and operates more than 20 Sleep Shops across North America and its products are available at retailers including Target and Hudson’s Bay.
Nathan Knight is Casper’s first Director of Learning & Development, based in New York. Over the past 15 years, he has built and led learning & organizational development teams at iconic brands including Sony Music Entertainment, Equinox, Weight Watchers, and Home Depot. In addition, he has served as a consultant with Booz & Company and Deloitte Human Capital.
Casper is a global sleep company, and one of the fastest growing consumer brands of all time, quickly striking a chord with consumers in a category that was stagnant for decades. The company has a full portfolio of obsessively engineered sleep products—including mattresses, pillows, bedding, and furniture—all developed in-house by the company’s award-winning R&D team at Casper Labs in San Francisco. In addition to its global e-commerce business, Casper owns and operates more than 20 Sleep Shops across North America and its products are available at retailers including Target and Hudson’s Bay.
About Udemy for Business:
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