How One Company Increased Employee Engagement in Learning by 272 Percent

Cornerstone Editors

Challenges with employee engagement and employee turnover are familiar to most companies at different points in their growth. In 2016, Prometheus Real Estate Group found themselves in that very position.

The real estate and property management company faced a skills gap, both externally and internally. Existing employees lacked the soft skills necessary to advance in the organization—and often left the company as a result—and qualified candidates were few and far between. And while Prometheus offered their existing employees and new-hires learning content to help them develop the skills they needed to advance, only 16 employees in 2016 requested learning content—just 3 percent of the entire company.

With over 500 employees in their corporate office and in the field, the real estate and property management company knew it needed to make a change—and Anna Post, Prometheus' Learning and Development Manager, took on the challenge with the L&D team. Despite a limited and set budget, a small team and no designated learning management system (LMS) administrator, they took on the task of revitalizing their LMS to increase employee engagement and start closing the skills gap with learning content.

Treat Employees Like Customers

For Prometheus CEO Jackie Safier, supporting employees has always been a top priority—so much so that it's one of the core values of the company. For Post and her team, this value became a north star when developing their new approach to L&D—and in the process, they had an epiphany:

"We realized there was a stark difference between how we were treating our customers and how we treated employees," Post said. Prometheus provided its tenants with a holistic experience in their apartments—so why not offer something similar to employees in the workplace?

That's how "Grow" was born—an all-in-one LDM platform that pulled learning requirements, learning opportunities and wellness benefits into one central portal. The team spent most of their budget (about $5,000) on the design of the platform. The result was a holistic, inviting and user-friendly interface.

Post's team also made the learning offerings on the platform more accessible, too:

"If you're on the front line, you don't have two hours for coursework," Post says. By breaking down the into bite-sized chunks that were easily digestible—or microlearning—the number of course requests from employees increased dramatically. Between 2013 and 2016, only 88 course pull requests were submitted. In 2017 alone, employees requested over 450.

Learning and Development Needs Marketing

Post and her team didn't achieve this increased engagement in the learning and development platform overnight. They had to get the word out about the new platform, how it worked and how to use it.

"How do we reach our employees in the way that marketers reach us every day?" the team asked themselves. "They make us buy stuff that we don't even need!"

So they put on their marketing hats and set a goal (see an increase in non-compliance courses taken), figured out which channel to use (email) and applied their understanding of customers (the employees) to market effectively.

They began their marketing effort by introducing the Grow brand to employees through email (no budget required!), deep linking to different course offerings on the site and making the new platform's branding prominent. In the past, Post says, her department's activities centered around onboarding new employees. Now, they were telling employees, "You don't just come to us for compliance, you come to us to grow, develop and learn."

A Successful Grow(th)

By 2017, the Prometheus L&D team was already seeing signs that their approach was working. The team hit their goal to increase non-compliance course registration and then some: In 2016, they tracked 236 registered learning opportunities, while in 2017 that number jumped by 272 percent to 862. The team is also tracking engagement with the platform using Google Analytics. In April 2018 alone, they had over 8,000 unique page views, and the bounce rate had a low of 11 percent.

What's more, the team isn't slowing down in their commitment to improving the Grow platform. They're committed to executing four marketing campaigns in a year around the platform, configuring the platform into a mobile app and creating a learner homepage.

One big lesson for Post?

"Continue learning about what resonates—and be agile. Be prepared to throw assumption away about what works."

Photo: Creative Commons

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