Posted on September 20, 2017
Three years ago, when I first stepped into my Learning & Development role at TBC—a 60-year-old private brand tire marketer—”training” had a negative image and was primarily for our retail employees. Our Learning & Development (L&D) department essentially had to start from ground zero.
We completely rebranded ourselves into the “TBC Learning Group.” And we expanded Learning & Development beyond retail employees to include corporate associates as well.
At the time, our corporate teams were experiencing a high attrition rate due to a lack of professional development opportunities for TBC employees. We decided to introduce learning for our corporate audience to support employee growth as well as enhance productivity. Our newly expanded L&D team was tasked to address these business goals right out the gate.
First, we conducted a needs analysis of our corporate employees. From the assessment surveys, we realized our corporate associates needed better management training. Excellent technical people were being promoted to become managers without the benefit of any training. The result? Many of these previous high-performers ended up being terrible people managers. This in part was also contributing to the high attrition rate on our corporate teams.
So we created a leadership development program to teach managers the soft skills they needed for success. We also focused on identifying and developing emerging leaders to build a succession pipeline of candidates who would be ready to step into leadership and mid-level manager positions. This created a visible career path for high performers to help grow and retain them at the company.
We marketed our new instructor-led soft skills leadership development program with email blasts and plastered posters everywhere. But unfortunately, we didn’t get the attendance we wanted. We were running classes with 3-4 people and we had to cancel some of our courses.
From this experience, we realized times had changed. And our workforce had changed too. With Baby Boomers retiring, our TBC employee base was now mostly made up of Millennials (29%) and Gen X (45%). Millennials and Gen X prefer on-demand learning while Baby Boomers like classroom instruction, according to the 2017 Udemy Workplace Stress Report.
We were offering the wrong kind of learning for our evolving audience. So we decided to shift to a more accessible, engaging and consumer-like online learning experience offered by Udemy for Business.
Once we adopted a new way of learning, we also brainstormed creative ideas to market our learning program. L&D should rely on the same marketing tactics that companies and brands use to get people excited about their products. In order to spark interest, we emailed a series of teasers in advance announcing our new online learning resource. These teasers helped generate buzz around Udemy and people were curious to check it out.
We borrowed a page from Apple’s marketing playbook and also added an element of scarcity. We only offered a limited number of Udemy licenses on a first come, first serve basis. Within 60 days, we had a 70% adoption rate. These first adopters were also great ambassadors for us. We leveraged them to spread the word about the engaging learning experience on Udemy for Business with course ratings, reviews, and recommendations—similar to Netflix or Amazon. Their referrals went viral and everyone was clamoring for more licenses to open up.
Then we strategically announced the second batch of new Udemy licenses were available. Within 24 hours, we had a 46% adoption rate. There was a high fear of missing out. Employees wanted to make sure they got their licenses. One week later, we had a 57% adoption rate.
We also motivated our employees by partnering with HR and managers to create individual development plans. When courses are part of key steps along their career path, people are keen to learn. During performance reviews, employees discuss with their manager how they would like to upskill and grow that year.
Together we develop individual development plans with suggested courses on Udemy to complete by their next performance review. For example, if they want to become a manager in a few years, we recommend key manager training, public speaking, or giving feedback courses on Udemy. Or if they want to beef up their analytical skills to improve performance in their current role, we suggest a learning path that includes Excel and SQL Bootcamp courses.
This helps employees have visibility into how they can use Udemy to grow themselves and reach the next step along their career path—whether it’s horizontal or vertical growth. Learning isn’t just a free buffet, it has purpose and employees can see its immediate value in helping them achieve their career development goals.
With Udemy for Business’ just-in-time learning analytics, we were able to track our learning adoption and engagement metrics for each individual, every team, and the company as a whole. We had a 67% adoption rate, 71% enrolled in their first course, and 91% of employees joined Udemy in the first 60 days. Across the company, learning engagement for all users was 84% while our top 10% active users enjoyed a 98% learning engagement rate.
In just a few months, we went from a handful of people to 84% of our employees engaged in learning. Offering the right learning resource, understanding our employees’ needs, tying learning to career development, and thinking like a marketer were all part of our recipe for success.