- Rethinking L&D
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“Talent wants to be used and expertise wants to be consulted” Matthew Jensen Hays, Ph.D.
When I heard this ☝️ my reaction was ‘YES!’
It’s what we talked about in this post as a key dimension when it comes to engagement - people’s desire to serve others and add value.
But how do you do it in practice? How do you encourage your talent to share their expertise? And how does that create more impactful product knowledge that ultimately drives sales?
That’s the question we posed to Suzanne Allen, Head of People at Lakeland - a British kitchenware retailer with 65 stores across the UK.
As a kitchenware🍴 retailer, Lakeland introduces new products all the time. It’s a competitive market, especially with the likes of Amazon making it incredibly easy to order the things we need from the convenience of our homes and receive them the same or following day.
So how do you compete with that? 🤔
Well, it's about understanding the underlying needs of customers.
Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt (nearly) hit the nail on the head when he said, "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!"
I'd argue they don't want the quarter-inch hole. They want that cherished memory of their family hanging on their wall. That's why people buy a drill.
The same principles applies to kitchenware or any other product for that matter. There's always a deeper underlying need. You just need to uncover it.
The team at Lakeland have been doing a pretty good job at that. They understand that when people buy a new spatula, it isn’t because they need a spatula. That isn't the intrinsic need or want that drives the purchase.
They buy it because they want to make something special with that spatula.
Maybe a cake 🎂 for their child’s birthday. Or scrambled eggs 🍳 on toast for a loved one.
So to capture people’s attention, they know they are going to need more than just a spatula. Because you can buy a spatula from dozens of places.
They need one hell of a story about what the spatula will give their customers.
But every great story also needs a storyteller. People who believe in and have experienced the power of the spatula.
Lakeland do an incredible job at this. They’ve harnessed the power of their people, communities and user-generated content to tell stories about their products that get their customers excited and wanting to share their own stories.
It’s brilliant. And their people love it. They feel like they’re part of something bigger - and it shows when you look at how engaged their people are.
Take this example of one of Lakeland’s buyers telling their audience about a new microwave grill they have in stock. (I didn’t even know this was a thing but I suddenly feel I need one!)
This is product knowledge at it’s finest. Your people use the product, they have the tools and support to craft their own story around why it’s such a great product and then they get to tell your target audience about it.
They buy into it.
I know it isn’t always possible to demo products in the way Lakeland does - especially if you sell things like cloud computing services. (It just can't compete with the grilled cheese sandwiches).
But I'd argue that you can certainly craft a compelling narrative around any product (provided it was built to solve a real problem).
I’m going to let you hear Lakeland's full story from Suzanne Allen, Head of People.
Suzanne joined our Head of Customer Success, Sam Lawton, on a webinar to share Lakeland's incredible story of how this chain of kitchenware stores based in rural England harnessed the power of their people to get more than 75% of their people actively engaged in product education.
This episode 👇 is the recording of that webinar.
Here's the microwave grill I'm going to be buying to make those cheese toasties 🥪
*There’s a chance this transcript has a few spelling errors. I use a wonderful transcription tool called Otter. He's usually super accurate but he does get the odd word wrong. But please don’t hold it against him 😊.
[James Marsh] 0:54
I'm James Marsh, thank you so much for joining us for the next hour, when we're going to be looking at driving engagement with Learning and Development in association with Fuse Universal. Forward looking businesses are increasingly recognising the vital importance of equally forward looking learning strategy. It's no longer a luxury, L&D is rapidly recognised as a major driver that can boost engagement, staff retention, and of course, business results. This is certainly the case that kitchen and homeware business, Lakeland, who want to bring their whole business together in one space and help drive communication between their teams. After adopting Fuse’s mobile first integrated learning platform, Lakeland saw their engagement rates soar to over 75%. This is a major shift from creating resources instead of courses has been a winning strategy for Lakeland. But how did they do it? That is what we're going to be sharing this morning over the next hour. In this webinar, we're going to be talking about how Lakeland brought their community and people together by opening up communications, sharing their best practices, the power and the value of user generated content from Lakeland’s own passionate experts in house, and how better product knowledge and content lets Lakeland sell products through stories rather than features. And I think as we pointed out in all of the marketing we did for this webinar, webinar is actually probably the wrong term for this, in reality it’s going to be an interactive case study about how Lakeland are working to deliver real behavioural changes and break down the barriers to digital adoption. Their employees always want to share their knowledge and now they can. To our panel this morning, first I'd like to introduce to you Suzanne Allen. She's the head of people at Lakeland. Suzanne has over 16 years of HR and L&D experience and has been managing people projects at Lakeland for 11 years, most recently, the successful implementation of their new e-learning system. Suzanne, good morning. How are you?
[Suzanne Allen] 2:37
Good morning. I'm very well thank you from a very rainy Lake District.
[James Marsh] 2:40
I'm sorry to hear that. Well, hopefully we'll be able to brighten people's day this morning by talking about how you've implemented this learning strategy we're going to be talking about. And we're also joined by Sam Lawton, who's the customer success manager of Fuse Universal. Sam has helped shape Lakeland’s journey with you over the last year, helping them implement the platform, and transform their digital learning strategy. Sam, how are you?
[Sam Lawton] 3:05
I'm great, thank you. It's exciting to join you here and I can't wait to share some of our experiences.
[James Marsh] 3:10
Great stuff. So, how's the weather where you are?
[Sam Lawton] 3:12
Grey, but not rainy. So I'll take that.
[James Marsh] 3:16
Haha, good stuff.
All right, let's move on to our agenda. First, we're going to turn to Suzanne and we're going to get her to introduce Lakeland to us and tell us a little bit about the company and their journey to where we are today in 2020, and then move on to talking about how they changed the way that they were thinking about learning and development, that change in focus. Then the digital solution that Fuse helped provide, and then how they measured the performance of that before we move to taking your questions. So as promised Suzanne, let's start by talking a little bit about Lakeland, just tell us about the business and the journey that you've been on.
[Suzanne Allen] 3:50
Well, good morning everybody and thanks for coming along today to share our story in here, and the journey that we've been on. But, as a retailer and I know we've got retailers on the webinar this morning, James yourself and I'm sure other people as well. I'll take a shameless opportunity to tell you all a little bit about Lakeland and who we are, before we sort of go on to that L&D journey. So, I love Lakeland as a brand and I've got a house stuffed full of fantastic Lakeland products. So not only do I love Lakeland, but I think it's a really relevant part of our journey for L&D. We’re a home and kitchenware retailer and we sell products we think you can't do without and innovation is really important to us. And this year, we were super proud to be rated first for retail customer service on “Which” (which.co.uk), so that's a very important part of the customer service that we try and offer to our customers in store and online and on our call centre as well.
[James Marsh] 4:54
Fabulous and this is, Lakeland is very much a, it was founded by a family, it still has very much family values to it, doesn't it?
[Suzanne Allen] 5:02
Absolutely. So we were, we've been going over 50 years, we're family owned and until very recently, family run, we're all really proud of that heritage. Working in a family company is a great place to be because those family values are really important. And, you know, we try and treat each other as family as well. So you know, if you go out on a store visit, you're sort of welcomed in and treated like you're going into someone's home, which is absolutely lovely. We were originally set up by Ellen and Dorothy Rayner and the sons. Now they own the business, Julian, Sam and Martin. And we've got an interesting heritage for a retail company because we started off in farming supplies. And, you know, we started making wraps for hay bales and plastic jackets for lambs and all those sorts of things so...
[James Marsh] 6:02
That’s quite a long way. Sorry, I was just gonna say that’s quite a long way from where you have ended up now in terms of kitchen supplies and sort of you saying your home is now full of those products. There's quite a big gap between where you started and where you are now.
[Suzanne Allen] 6:16
Yeah, I think a really unusual beginning for a retailer. I've never sort of gone back and looked and tried to find anyone else with that sort of beginning. But uh, you know, it was very much from our Lake District heritage. You know, it began in Windermere, that the company began in Windermere and farming supplies were those base and we then sort of made a leap from supplying out of a building, farming supplies out of a building in Windermere near the train station, to actually moving to agricultural shows. So we kind of went from farming into agricultural shows. And it was at that point, I think that the product range really began to expand, James so that was that was part of our journey. Along the way, and yes, sort of 50 years later we’re an omnichannel retailer as you know, as all the retailers will be in this day and age, but very much still Lake District based.
[James Marsh] 7:12
Wow, and very much sort of how it is. What is it like being based in the Lake District? We hear a lot about how, so for instance, I work for a food retailer based in London, we hear a lot about how all sectors seem to gravitate towards London. Have you found? How is it different being based in what could be considered to be quite a remote part of England?
[Suzanne Allen] 7:34
It's absolutely fabulous. I have the best commute in the world with the most fantastic views. And it's actually really good to be based here. Obviously, the Lake District is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We get an enormous amount of visitors into the Lake District every year, millions of visitors, and we're one of the places that those visitors come. So it's really nice to be here, to be able to serve those customers and promote what we do as a business. But obviously, we're across the United Kingdom as well. So, we've got sort of 65 plus stores across the UK. So we're Lake District based, but we have that reach across the UK as well. And I think you can see on the slide there, that's our head office, and...
[James Marsh] 8:24
That looks beautiful!
[Suzanne Allen] 8:25
It is absolutely stunning. I cannot tell you what the view from the window is like and, you know, albeit that maybe not many bad days where the sky is blue, but it's a fantastic location to be in. And you know, that's great for colleagues as well. You know, what a beautiful place to live and work and have fantastic help over here and, you know, helping provide employment in, you know, in a very rural area, as you say.
[James Marsh] 8:47
Fabulous! Sam, when you started working with Lakeland, did you get the opportunity to go up and and travel up to the Lake District?
[Sam Lawton] 8:54
Just being virtual to this point, but I've got a date in the diary in the coming months. So I'm...
[James Marsh] 8:59
[James Marsh] 9:01
Great stuff, it looks like it is not to be missed, that photo looks stunning. And we're going to turn to our audience and launch our first poll. This is a really good way of getting you guys involved and also finding out where you are on your learning and development journey. That really will inform our conversation over the next, now 45-50 minutes, that we have here this morning. And it's a relatively simple question. Exactly as I said:
Where are you in your learning and development journey?
- Is it (a) “we don't really have an L&D strategy?”
- Is it (b) “we use a more classroom based approach?”
- Is it (c) “we outsource all of our L&D”
- Is it (d) “we have a mix of digital and classroom based learning”
- Or is it (e) “we now have a fully blended L&D offering for our teams, for our staff”.
So please do get involved with that. We will leave that open for about 5 to 10 minutes or so just to see where you are with that and we'll come back and get Suzanne and Sam's thoughts on your feedback there. So that's Lakeland and in sort of the last 50 years from sort of origin to now. Suzanne, where we're now, obviously this is where Sam comes in. As well you started working with Fuse and that was prompted by a change in your strategic thinking around the learning and development of your staff. Just tell us a little bit more about that first, Suzanne and then we'll bring in Sam as well.
[Suzanne Allen] 10:19
We knew from talking to colleagues that they wanted us to do more around personal growth and more around improved communications and kind of bringing this disparately spread family together. So sort of over the past 18 months, we've been having those types of conversations and participating in engagement surveys. That were really the driver for us, I think James, to enable us then to be able to get buy in from the organisation to say, brilliant, you know, let's take a step forward then and that step forward was really you know, I've got a little Stone Age cartoon here, haven’t I? that was really kind of where we were, you know, super traditional, paper based….
[James Marsh] 11:05
Sorry Suzanne. Yeah, give us give us a picture of what L&D looked like maybe, I don’t know, five years ago at Lakeland.
[Suzanne Allen] 11:13
So, always focused around the customer and doing the right thing around the customer and around our values. But pretty much ad hoc and pretty much classroom based and, you know, this sort of feeling that if I hadn't gone and attended a course, then really I hadn't learned anything and, you know, that very kind of traditional thought process around learning. So, you know, we're on a journey that's actually made a big jump for us.
[James Marsh] 11:47
So was there a sort of a lightbulb moment where you went, we need to change this, this strategy needs to change, we need to completely rethink the way that we're doing this, or was it sort of a more of a gradual realisation?
[Suzanne Allen] 12:00
I think it's probably something we've known for a long time and what sort of talking to our colleagues has enabled us to do is really surface that, you know, across the organisation and actually hear that conversation going on. The Internet gave us the emphasis. Okay well, you know, now's the moment, now it's right for us to move this forward, you know, times with looking at the priorities that we had as a business.
[James Marsh] 12:27
So we're then the start of the journey in terms of changing the model for learning and development. Talk us through that process. And then Sam, we’ll get you to come in as well and talk about where you became involved in the process and how that works.
[Suzanne Allen] 12:41
Yeah, so we sort of, maybe 12-18 months ago, we began thinking about what are we going to do about L&D? How are we going to invest in it and what return will it give us? And how will it benefit us both as an organisation, but for our colleagues as well? You know, how will that improve their working lives? Because that was an important part of our journey. And really it was those two halves of the circle I think that we were thinking about James, and looking at, okay, well, what are we doing as an organisation? And then what part does learning and development have to contribute to that? And how can we add value to that? And how can we help? A new L&D approach resolved some of the challenges that we face at Lakeland. And we looked, we knew that ,we needed to digitise because that was really critical to us. And we began looking around at the very many options available in the market and narrowed the field down to Fuse and that was part, you know, where we got to really, and Fuse were, I’m going to big you up now, Sam. But Fuse was super helpful in helping us evolve that thinking around what part L&D has got to play in contributing to organisational strategy and organisational performance. And linking those, beginning to link those two things together much more intrinsically than we ever have before.
[James Marsh] 14:26
Brilliant. Well, let's bring Sam in. Sam Lawton is the customer service success manager at Fuse. And Sam, firstly before we get into how you worked with Lakeland, just how typical is the journey and the story that Suzanne's just described there in terms of the clients that you work with?
[Sam Lawton] 14:43
Yeah, hey everyone. And so I'd say it's absolutely typical. And I think, as we talk about the journey, is probably the best way of wording it isn't it. Everyone's on it at a certain point in their path. I'm not sure you, we can say that any business in the world can truly prove true business value from every single thing that people do. But that ambition in order to link from actually how are we developing our people? And how does that have an impact on business performance? is the thing we want to start unlocking. And the thing that we want to start measuring and proving because to some point that's when you start to see those returns and that's when you start to get a seat at the table and start to be more strategic, which I think historically hasn't necessarily been their position within a business.
[James Marsh] 15:35
And I have some sort of experience working for a food food retailer myself, we've always often struggled sometimes to find the right supplier because, as it sounds like with Lakeland, we feel like we have a unique culture. And the culture and the journey that Lakeland have described, that is a unique one in many ways. How much emphasis do Fuse place on sort of making sure that there's a real understanding of the journey that the business has been on?
[Sam Lawton] 16:04
I think, absolutely, I think it's at the core of what we do, I think what I like to talk about is it's more of a partnership of actually, let's go on this journey together and work out the best way of addressing it. And I think to your point about every business has their own culture. We completely empathise with that. And we took a lot of cues about bottling greatness of actually taking the best people in a business and using them as those enablers and that change rather than it being the more off the shelf stuff. Other stuff that's more generic, actually, let's get your culture first and centre because that's what people will connect with and that ultimately will resonate and drive better performance as a result.
[James Marsh] 16:48
Absolutely. So Suzanne, you start talking to Fuse, you have an idea at that point as to what the end goal you wanted and what you're working towards.
[Suzanne Allen] 17:00
Absolutely. We knew that we wanted to sort of digitise our content and develop new content. And that's a journey we're very much still on, that was focused around not only learning knowledge, but around our values and our behaviours and our culture. That's a really important piece, James, that you both just flagged because we wanted to kind of do it our way and do it together in a shared community. So I sort of, as I look at the solution that we've bought, you know, does it enable kind of, you know, knowledge growth? Well, yes, it does. But does it bring people together in a community? Absolutely. And does it enable people to share together and surface our own knowledge experts. It absolutely does. So kind of, for me, it's more than just about L&D. I don't know if that makes sense, Sam, but I think it's a little bit more than L&D. It's about communication and all those other things as well, isn't it?
[Sam Lawton] 18:13
I actually, I think in cases like yours with over 50 stores throughout the UK, offices, telesales, online sales, and that model applies to everyone. Even if you're working as a chief and you have different departments. I like to talk about Fuse, obviously it can help enable transformational change in the fact that it can connect people. And when people work together, you get better results. So yes, exactly, to your point Suzanne, it’s just a tool to connect people and for people to share. And it's a great enabler for that.
[Suzanne Allen] 18:45
[James Marsh] 18:46
Brilliant, and we've got loads of votes coming in for our first poll. Thank you so much for everyone that’s done that. We're just gonna leave that open for just a couple more minutes. So if you haven't had a chance to vote in there, please do get involved. Remember, we're asking where are you on your L&D journey? And that really will help us understand where you are today within your organisation. And we're going to talk about digital transformation now Suzanne, I wouldn't dare presume to speak for you but I know as someone who is involved in learning development, has been involved with a digital transformation product, that process. Sorry, I'm not the most techie in the world. I'm not gonna lie, computers have always scared me slightly. So I'm wondering whether that is typical among a lot of HR and L&D practitioners. How easy is it to sort of approach a project where you're taking what is quite a traditional business and moving it into a digital era? When perhaps, and again not specific to you, but certainly for me, I certainly found that quite daunting because I wasn't sure necessarily what I was bringing in and what I was buying a lot of the time.
[Suzanne Allen] 19:48
I'm absolutely with you, James. I am the despair of our IT team and I'm always in there asking questions that I should really know the answers to. But actually, it sort of, one of the things that we were focusing on as we were looking at what we wanted to buy was ease of use, and how intuitive things were, and how you know, how much availability there was for it across a multiplicity of platforms. You know, so that actually, if I ever wanted to use it on an app, I could and if I wanted to sit at my desktop and do it, use it, I could do that. And that was part of the sort of journey that we went on James. When we were meeting with suppliers, you know, looking at what they had and looking at how easy it was to use and actually, Sam I don’t think I’ve told you this story, but when one of your team came up to talk to us about Fuse, they popped into our Flagship store, persuaded one of our colleagues, Ray charmingly to do a little demo for them, filmed it on their phone, drops it into their presentation and sort of, you know, five minutes later was showing us what they had done. And that was really like, wow, actually, this is super easy to use. And actually, I now know all about that product and I could help sell that product to another customer. How easy was that to do? That was really, you know, a bit of a lightbulb moment for us.
[James Marsh] 21:22
And Sam, from your perspective, sort of from the other end in, when you're coming in and working with a client like Lakeland. How, sort of, how much time do you have to spend sort of perhaps demystifying a little bit about what your product is, what it does, and the service you provide, and the solution that you're looking to give that business?
[Sam Lawton] 21:43
Yeah, I think the demystification is absolutely something that we sort of pride ourselves on in trying to explain what it is because there's probably now more acronyms than I've ever made in my life in L&D, and how do we translate into something meaningful and tangible for the users. And so I think, I suppose I tried to cut through that and actually go, what do you actually need? And then matching it up, and it's work that we continue to do. And I know we've written articles about it as well, just to try and demystify all of those acronyms and things. But no matter what the level of knowledge is, there's always a way to help somebody out and make sure they can use the platform in the easiest way possible.
[James Marsh] 22:33
Brilliant, and I just want, I'm going to tend to sit down and talk about what the priorities were for the projects and we’ll start to get into the specifics of the work he did with Fuse. But before that, I just want to bring you the results of that poll as promised, remember, where are you in your L&D journey?
- 13% saying we don't really have an L&D strategy.
Well, thank you so much for tuning into us today. Hopefully, there'll be a lot of really good takeaways for you!
- 12% saying that they're still using a classroom based approach
- 4% saying they're outsourcing everything, which is interesting actually, that means the least 96 of the audience have some in house control of L&D, which is really good.
- 49% nearly half of the audience say that they have a mix of blend of digital and classroom based learning.
- With 19% then now saying that they're fully blended in terms of their L&D offering.
Sam, half the audience saying they’re using a mix of digital and classroom, perhaps that suggests that sort of, they've started on a journey towards the sort of digitization of their learning and development strategy. Is that again, does that feel typical to you?
[Sam Lawton] 23:39
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's, I think those numbers actually perfectly match your normal bell curve, sort of adoption technology, don't they? And I think, to your point, we see a lot of, some start with “I've got this classroom stuff, how do I start being a bit more digital and potentially, back all..” you know what, everything that I do offline should become something online. so, to your point Suzanne, you had a slide earlier at that point of need, how do I find that information again? hopefully without having to dig up the workbook. It's a couple of hundred pages thick and hope that my notes are still legible, a couple of years on. So absolutely speaks of our experience.
[James Marsh] 24:17
And Suzanne, we're going to talk about the priorities. We've got those up on the screen in terms of what you wanted to achieve. But just quickly, are you still using some traditional classroom based learning and development as well?
[Suzanne Allen] 24:28
We absolutely are. Because sometimes that's what you need to do, isn't it? But we're looking at a programme at the moment in retail, but in looking at that programme, to play to what you just said, Sam. Great. Well, we know what elements of that classroom-based and face-to-face. But actually what we're trying to do is to make sure that we get the knowledge, the key knowledge, out of that and that we digitise it, so that if I've been on the classroom base, I can come back and remind myself, I can use it prompt to share with others. And that knowledge is available so that it's complementary and what we're not perfect at any of this, we're very much on the journey. But that's what we're trying to build into our mindset as we do stuff.
[James Marsh] 25:13
So let's talk about those priorities. And at the outset of the project, what were you looking to achieve when you were looking for, perhaps to provide a light for Fuse to come in and help you start on that journey?
[Suzanne Allen] 25:24
So I mean, our first product, we’re a retailer and we've got to sell stuff, because that's intrinsic to our business model. So, one of the key priorities that we had, and that we still do have, is around improving product knowledge. But in improving product knowledge, we really wanted it to be done in an engaging way. And we wanted it to help our colleagues bring those products to life for customers. So that was a really important part of our journey and continues to be so. We talked about values already, haven't we and you know, making sure that the way we operate is in line and in keeping with our values was important. And then that communication piece James, around bringing communities together, enabling people to communicate openly. You know, so that if I work in Inverness, actually, I can be talking to someone in Truro, someone in head office via this platform, so begin to shrink the miles and the distance between people.
[James Marsh] 26:28
And what's quite interesting as well is that inside the organisation we're talking about L&D, but actually, as a retailer, your customers are beginning to digitise their shopping in a way as well, aren't they? More and more retail businesses moving online? Did that have a factor in how you thought about this particular product and strategy process as well?
[Suzanne Allen] 26:50
Absolutely, because obviously, a big part of our businesses is digital. I think if you're not online as a retailer today, then you need to be a super specialist because otherwise I'm not sure that you'd survive in today's very tough environment. So yeah, that was an important part of our consideration because we're a digital business. But we weren't digitally engaged with our colleagues and that was part of our consideration as well.
[James Marsh] 27:19
And Sam, when in previous Inside HR webinars, we've talked a lot about how, particularly learning and development, it almost starts helping to see your employees in a similar way to the way you see your customers and delivering content in a way that they wanted, similar to the way that customers are looking to shop digitally as well. Is that a factor with Fuse?
[Sam Lawton] 27:42
Yeah, I mean, it's one of my big mantras of “how do I learn outside of work and why is that such a different experience within work?” I think, and we're all customers of each other. So even though, yes Suzanne, like you said, you work for Lakeland, but you shop at Lakeland. So we've got to make those experiences in the same way. We often start some workshops asking “how do you fix a washing machine?” And it's definitely not trying to remember what you did on the course two years ago.
[James Marsh] 28:10
Haha yeah, unless you're a character in The Matrix, there's no way that you're ever going to be able to remember how to do that two years apart at a time. No, that's a really good example, isn't it about how people now want that content, want that knowledge on demand in the same way that you would in that example?
[Suzanne Allen] 28:28
Absolutely. So that was really what helped drive us towards sort of Fuse’s product as well. And you know, using, getting that knowledge Sam, is really important, isn't it? In a consumable way, that's really quick for me to get the key information that I need to be confident to talk to customers about it.
[James Marsh] 28:53
And sorry, Sam, go on.
[Suzanne Allen] 28:57
Go on Sam. Sorry.
[Sam Lawton] 29:00
No, no, you go Suzanne. Sorry.
[Suzanne Allen] 29:02
I was just going to say that, you know, that's sort of key around bricks and mortar retailing, isn't it? You know, you've got to give customers a reason to visit the stores. And I know when I go into a store, you know, I'm very much wanting to get the expert knowledge about why I should buy product A over product B, or why product A is fantastic, or what product A will do for me in my life.
[James Marsh] 29:23
And just want to pick up on the word that we've used a lot so far in the first half hour on Inside HR this morning, which is storytelling. And Sam perhaps turn to you first, companies like Lakeland, their story is such a huge part of their fabric, their tradition, their history, their origins, where they're based. Again, we touched on this earlier but coming into work with a business like Lakeland, how do you adapt what you do to ensure that what you're, the solution you're providing helps that business tell that story?
[Sam Lawton] 30:01
Absolutely, I think working with brands like Lakeland is a privilege because we can be part of that journey. But for me, it's all about, I think it comes back to really empowering them to tell the story themselves, what we don't want to do is remove that ability to have any control. What we want to do is provide a tool that enables people to tell that story. Now, we can complement that, of course, by helping how you shape that story. But I think it comes back to that whole, you remember experiences, and you remember how things have made you feel, so how do you tell stories about how something makes you feel and experiences? So it's absolutely about empowering others to be able to do that rather than taking away that control.
[James Marsh] 30:45
Fabulous! And I think that might be a really good time to bring in our second poll, and we're going to ask our audience:
What is the biggest challenge you're now facing that's preventing you from improving, or transforming your learning and development offering?
- Is it (a) budget?
- Is it (b) that executive buy in that we seem to endlessly talk about on Inside HR, but it is so crucial.
- Is it (c), as we were talking about with perhaps myself and Suzanne the other day, the digital skills within your learning and development team?
- Is it (d) finding the right partner or solution, someone like Fuse maybe?
- Or is it (e) proving the return on investment for that project? And what you're going to do?
Suzanne, that’s quite an interesting thing to talk about quickly before we move on. How keen were your senior leadership to have you sort of demonstrate to the near time and pence, what this was going to add to the bottom line? When you did it, how much of that was that a part of the conversation?
[Suzanne Allen] 31:38
It was obviously a key part of the conversation. You know, we have to spend money wisely, don't we in business and we need to be able to demonstrate how what we're doing is either improving that knowledge across the business, or is improving engagement, or is breaking down silos, or whatever in a meaningful way. And you know, I know we'll chat about measurements sort of in a little while. But that was a really important part of the conversations we had.
[James Marsh] 32:13
Absolutely. So we're now just gonna prepare our audience, there are going to be now some incredible pictures of food. So please be aware. Please, audience advice. So if we move on to the next slide, we're going to start talking about the actual content that Fuse helped put together into a digitised learning strategy. And that obviously starts with your products. Thank goodness I’ve had breakfast, because otherwise wouldn't be able to cope looking at these pitches here. But talk a little bit about the nature of your products and how that influenced the learning that you need to provide, Suzanne.
[Suzanne Allen] 32:47
So I think we just had a little slide before the poll, didn't we? of a slightly odd looking metal implements and that really represents the challenge that we have at Lakeland, James. I think, you know, when you go and buy a car, it's very evident, you know, it's in front of you, you can see what it is but that metal implementing factors and anti-gravity, pour-in cake kit.
[James Marsh] 33:13
So that’s what's inside the tower that we can see with the Easter eggs.
[Suzanne Allen] 33:16
Absolutely. And what we want to enable our colleagues to be able to do is to bring that to life for our customer. Now, I'm not much of a cake decorator. But many, many of our colleagues I'm sure could be in Bake Off, we could probably fill multiple Bake Off tents, and they're able to bring these products to life for us and then sort of share that knowledge across. And, you know, it isn't just a piece of metal that's creating a cake. It's a cake that's marking, you know, a family celebration at Easter, or a child's birthday party, or a significant life moment. And actually, that's what our products do. You know, they're fairly bland pieces of metal in many instances, aren't they? But actually, they help create memories for people and they help bring people together and you know, create those meaningful moments. And that's kind of what we mean when we're talking about storytelling at Lakeland, and the challenge that our products bring us. Yeah, so that's a fantastic cake there. And I think here we've got some sort of fairly bland metal pans, haven't we? but actually
[James Marsh] 34:24
And that goes into your showstopping cake next to it.
[Suzanne Allen] 34:27
Absolutely. And that's really what the challenge that we faced and getting, you know, product knowledge across to our colleagues that they then can share with customers, you don't actually have to be able to do it do you? But you have to know what it does. And that was part of that digital journey that we're still on.
[James Marsh] 34:48
So if and Sam, even it seems like the products themselves at Lakeland are a start of a journey as well. So we've got a sort of disparate workforce, all over their different locations, often quite remote areas. It's important to have a sort of totally omnichannel multichannel platform that for a business like Lakeland, isn't it?
[Sam Lawton] 35:15
Absolutely, I think credit to Lakeland, they've actually lured a lot of people into their stores being able to bring these products to life everyday. But you're absolutely correct. In the same way we're talking about, how do we learn? How do we experience things day to day? And that's through all of these different options? So why wouldn't we look to replicate that in what we do at work, and especially within learning.
[James Marsh] 35:39
So tell us a little bit about how you then would structure your solution for different learners through a business like Suzanne did at Lakeland.
[Sam Lawton] 35:52
So you say, I think it's very much about empathising with what the learner wants and thinking about the journey that they want to go on and the experience they want to have. We talk a lot about what's the problem we're actually trying to solve, breaking that down into reasonable chunks and then building something that's going to work for them. Now, it's pretty straightforward sort of how we build learning. But in regards to that emphasising with the user, really understanding, I think that's the key thing. So, and we talked about actually, first identifying who those learners are, and what experience when they enter the platform. And then from there, how can they navigate around and keep exploring, and I'm guilty of this outside of work, falling into rabbit holes when I find something on the internet and I find interest in that. And actually, we almost want the same with learning. What you don't want learning to do is, people's curiosity to be stopped in its tracks, you always want encourage their curiosity. So, creating experiences that does that, and that complements what they're currently learning about is a key thing for us.
[James Marsh] 37:01
And Suzanne, the main word that stands out to me from the slide that we've got up on the screen at the moment is “communities” and the idea that actually, learning isn't top down anymore, actually learning happens from within the group as well, doesn't it? with people exchanging content, exchanging knowledge and best practices as well. How much was that a factor in the strategy and approach that you took together with Fuse implementing this at Lakeland?
[Suzanne Allen] 37:30
Yeah, I think it was a really important part of it. And sort of that community principle is embedded in the platform, and community’s a really nice word, isn't it? It's a nice word for us. But a community infers that, you know, we're in this together and we're here to support each other. And that was super important to us as we went along on our journey. And I think that piece that you said Sam, around surfacing our own knowledge and experts. Because who better knows our business and the people who work in it every day. And that was, that's a super important part of what we're trying to do here and how we got lots more to do. Boy! Have we got lots more to do. But actually, that’s critical to us.
[James Marsh] 38:17
Just, what’s interesting as well is, again referring to the business that I work for, it is our 25th anniversary this year. And I am regularly stopped on our shop floors by customers who are to tell me about the day that we opened. Tell me about the history of the business I work for, tell me about, you know, things that I didn't know about our business. How much do your customers contribute to your learning and development strategy as well?
[Suzanne Allen] 38:43
Well, sort of that customer perspective is really important, isn't it? And that's why we've got to focus on our customers and knowing who our customers are and how can we best meet their needs is a really important part of it as well. You know, our customers are really knowledgeable as well. You know, when I'm out in stalls, I don't only learn things from our colleagues, I learn fantastic things from our customers as well about our products. You know, like you're saying it's sort of at planet organic, you know, our customers are telling us about our products and what they use them for and, you know, that's lovely, that really is a community, isn't it?
[James Marsh] 39:22
And it's just it's striking, because I imagine when the business started, and it's only sort of 50 years ago, when you're doing, going round the farm shows, around the lakes, and around the north of the country. How likely do you think the term global community would have been in terms of using that on a presentation we're doing today? As you know where you really are, it really is a genuine community, isn't it?
[Suzanne Allen] 39:47
It certainly feels it to me and feels like it was within Lakeland. And yeah, that would have been a million miles away, I'm sure 50 years ago. The world’s a very different place, isn’t it? but that community base provides that link back to that heritage.
[James Marsh] 40:00
Fabulous! And we're going to move on to talk about the digital solution that Fuse provided and talk about how that was implemented. But before we do, firstly, to remind you that we are going to shut that poll at, the second poll, in just a minute or so it's time. Remember, we're asking what are the biggest challenges you face that are preventing you from improving or transforming your L&D offering in your organisation? Also, just a quick prompt for some questions. We've already got a lot coming in. But please do send your questions in for Suzanne, for Sam, and we're going to set aside 10 minutes or so in about 10 minutes time, in fact, for them to answer some of those for you. So Sam, let's talk about then the digital solution that you helped put in place at Lakeland give us a little bit of information about it and its key features.
[Sam Lawton] 40:47
Absolutely. So I think you probably saw on this slide with the different communities, it’s really about connecting people and I know we keep talking about the same thing, but that is the key thing. And for me, it's about unlocking that opportunity of when you hear a customer say, “Oh, I love this product! I use it for X”, to be able to instantly share that across your whole business with everyone, people could start telling that same story. And it's magical to be completely honest at times. And actually, we keep talking about store stuff, that story can be shared with the marketing team, and that can become a campaign in the future. And so yeah, absolutely what we wanted to do with Lakeland, give them that opportunity to really share those experiences, as you can see on the screen, to get involved, but also to encourage that social interaction and that collaboration. And again, communities can let you do that across a range of different groups of people. People might come together around subjects and topics they like, or you can do it more formally around, actually, let's have leaders share their best practice and what they see happen. And what I'm not going to do is go for a feature list of views because there’s unseen features. But it's very much about picking those best ones that match that and then working out that journey because actually, that journey could be a continually evolving one of actually, let's start now using, I don't know, some of the one to one and observation functionality in the future. Or let's just use a knowledge repository where people can communicate and share things. So again, everything that you see on the screen is customizable, so actually look and feel can be owned by the end user. It's not static. It's completely dynamic. So we can keep evolving that and make sure it's fresh and relevant every time somebody logs in.
[James Marsh] 42:38
Brilliant. And I just want to talk about what we talked about in the introduction right at the very beginning of the hour, where we said here Suzanne, after adopting Fuse’s mobile first integrated learning platform, Lakeland saw their engagement rate, I think I said over 75%, it was 75.8%. What do we think is the main reason for that?
[Suzanne Allen] 43:02
So that's a fluid thing, isn't it? So that, you know, it can go up and down. But I think, for us, I think it's around the community elements and enabling people to share their knowledge and thought together coupled with sort of key content and important messages and important organisation comms that we want to give people. We're trying to make it a platform where people are gathering together. You know, I have to say Christmas, because, you know, we're a retailer and it was all hands to the deck. You know, we're now in a phase of coming back and rebuilding it. And that's really linked Fuse, we'll talk, Sam you'll talk about making sure you have a steady drumbeat of content. And that's really critical to getting good engagement because that gives me a reason to keep coming back.
[James Marsh] 43:58
Sam, do you want to pick up on that quick? That's sort of making sure that the content is always fresh, always engaging, always something there that's relevant and current for people to go and look at.
[Sam Lawton] 44:08
Absolutely, I think the one I use a lot of time is about Fuse, that is to humanise your communications. There’s people at the end of them, it's not an email address. And we do that because essentially, it's really easy for anyone to post anything, you press one button, you can record it straight from your mobile phone and upload it straight to Fuse. There's no friction in the way of people sharing those experiences. And that's what makes sure that it is relevant, then it is interesting every time. And I know there's some examples coming of how Lakeland do that and actually achieve great results.
[James Marsh] 44:43
Absolutely. Yeah, Suzanne, we’re going to let you get into some of those stories. We're going to spend the last five minutes before we take questions getting into that, but before we do, I just want to bring the results of that poll that we talked about earlier.
What are the biggest challenges you face that are preventing you from improving or transforming your L&D offering?
- 27% saying budgets, so just over a quarter
- 27% saying executive buy in
- 11% saying that it was the skills within the L&D team
- 8% saying finding the right partner or solution. Hopefully that number will go down after this hour, Sam.
- And 24% saying being able to sort of prove the return on investment at the end of that journey.
Sam, I mean, that's pretty much a mix across the board there. You've got 27% budget, 27% executive buy in, 24% sort of proving the return on investment. What, in your experience with Fuse, what can you do going into an organisation to help them prove that ROI and get that executive buy in so they'll get that budget, with a client?
[Sam Lawton] 45:45
Yeah, it's really interesting. And actually, I think you started to touch on it right at the end there of actually, they're all quite intrinsically linked.
[James Marsh] 45:54
Yeah, they are. Aren’t they.
[Sam Lawton] 45:55
One can lead nicely to the other. And so what can we do? And what we can do is actually work with companies to help define what that problem is, somewhat with the solution of how we're going to address it. And then, thanks to some quite an in depth analytics engine that we have on the platform, we can actually prove that ROI. But the one thing I would say is what we often see is if somebody's purchasing just to replace what they've always done, don't expect different results. What we would like to do is challenge and actually go: “what's the real problem is going to shift the needle in your business? How is your L&D or HR strategy aligned to the business strategy? And how are we actually going to shift that needle?” and when there’s that focus, when there's that keen eye on that, that's when we start to see that shift. And that's when very quickly the executives say, oh, something's changing, maybe this is moving forward, and the belief starts to shift. So it's a journey every business goes on, and the journey that we look going on with businesses because we can make that difference and we can help guide people through that.
[James Marsh] 46:57
Fabulous and we just got a few minutes before we take questions, Suzanne. I want to give you some time to talk about some of the success stories and the improvements that you've seen. And we've got some fabulous photos of some of Lakelands products here. So we're just going to put the first ones up. Now, those cakes are amazing. Tell us a little bit more about those.
[Suzanne Allen] 47:17
Oh, yes. I mean, I think there's quite a few pictures here, James, isn't there? So if we...
[James Marsh] 47:21
Yeah, I will sort of gently run through those…
[Suzanne Allen] 47:23
Absolutely. You know, these are all examples of user generated, colleague generated content onto the platform, sharing great examples of what they do, and I particularly love the Mexican cactus wearing a sombrero which some colleagues in one of our London schools you know, baked and I used to display products to our customers and what they can do. And the cake cactuses in ice cream cones on the bottom left there, lots of great examples of sort of good sharing and you can see why I think we should have all our teams on Bake Off.
[James Marsh] 48:00
But you've got some amazing skills in your team.
[Suzanne Allen] 48:03
Oh, it's astonishing, absolutely astonishing. But you know on some of the other slides that we've got coming through, we've got great display net techniques been shown, great ways to promote our products to our customers. Great things to pop up the till points as quick buys for customers that will help drive more sales through our tills, which is ultimately what we're here about, isn't it. And I think coming up shortly, James, we've got a lovely example. It's a poppy collection box, a box of poppies, which is astonishingly a cake. And we ran a competition around remembrance Sunday to generate some great examples of what our products can do. And we've been, you know, doing some fundraising for British Legion along the way, but actually some great examples of how we can showcase our products to our customers and we have video content as well, that colleagues load which is super as well. So this is alongside content that we're providing to our colleagues as well around products. And I think a great example where Fuse has really been good for us as we launched a customer club last year called My Lakelands. And we used Fuse to build excitement about the launch, communicate critical information, communicate and give learning to people about what they needed to do to promote it to our customers, celebrate success, and say thank you. So sort of, for me, My Lakeland launch was a really nice end to end example of all the ways that Fuse has helped contribute to a successful launch around that reward scheme for our customers. So some really great examples of how our knowledge experts are doing stuff but also how we can use staff to engage our colleagues and gather ourselves in a community around a business priority.
[James Marsh] 50:00
And is, talking about your poppy cake, which I just think is remarkable but also, you can engage your staff around really good community support, really good causes, and that can be a part of what this platform and strategy can allow you to do as well.
[Suzanne Allen] 50:18
Yes, and I mean, sort of business-lead things like My Lakeland clubs for customers, as well as you know, giving something back in the community. We're great cake bakers and once we bake the cakes, we like to sell them to colleagues to eat and you know, raise a bit of money for charity along the way. So that's an important part and this sort of last slide is a really nice point to end on some of the content that we have. We had a colleague in one of our Scottish stores who, we sell a pop up clothes airer, which by the way, is a really useful brilliant piece of kit. But one of our stores, downloaded some customer reviews from our websites, so brought together our websites and our store environment. Pegged those reviews with our lovely pegs to the pop-up error and shared that on Fuse. Well, within five minutes, lots of engagement from people saying, well, that's a really great idea. And actually, I'm going to do that. So something that was helping sales in that store was suddenly been disseminated across our whole store network. So that's a really neat example of how you know, you can maximise it to help contribute to sales and return on investment.
[James Marsh] 51:26
And, bring Sam in here as well, just quickly before we move into questions, in terms of performance measures, how you looked at the success of the platform, what are sort of the KPIs or key indicators that you look at Sam, when you're judging the success of a solution?
[Sam Lawton] 51:42
But it's really difficult to say, isn't it. Because it so depends, it goes back to that, I did find the, I guess the joy that Fuse captures something like 310 points of data about every user. So we very much try to go down to that nitty gritty to make sure or what they're doing is actually going to make a difference. And I think sometimes we can have data blindness, where the future tends a lot, actually, it's about identifying what are those things that we should be doing? Because from that 310, we can look at how often are people logging in? And what type of content as a viewing suggests that there's a gap in knowledge, therefore, even from campaigns about that learning, and it can. I mean, there's all sorts, I think that's the joy. What's really interesting is as well as that, when we talk about attrition, you can start to actually start to predict staff turnover, attrition based on their engagement on the platform. So really, the data and analytics part is a huge part that really starts to unlock some real meaningful insights that then can be applied throughout the business beyond your selling data to every part.
[James Marsh] 52:52
Guys, thank you so much, both Suzanne and Sam. Thank you so much for taking us through that journey with Lakeland and Fuse’s involvement there as well. We now have some time for questions. We've got loads coming in. And one of the things that does strike me Suzanne, is that we have spent a lot of time talking about the positives of the journey. But as with all journeys, there must have been some significant challenges as well. And we've got quite a few questions coming in here. So I’ll read one of them, but this is typical of quite a few that we’ve had in: “What are some of the challenges you've experienced when changing the learning culture in Lakeland?” “How?” and there's another one that says: “How did you go about in sort of embedding that cultural change? And did you have any resistance to it?”
[Suzanne Allen] 53:34
So lots, lots of challenges along the way, and, you know, sort of challenges continue, don't they. I think, you know, the first challenge was getting buy in from the senior team. So yes, you know, we'll do this then. I think the second challenge then is getting engagement across different business areas, to commit time and energy to championing this new way of working. But also, you know, the other big challenge is around content, isn't it? and having sufficient relevant content regularly appearing on the platform, needs a lot of thinking around. Okay, well, how are we resourcing that and where's that content coming from and who's doing that sense check against those business priorities? And that's an ongoing challenge, you know, you've got to have, you've got to champion it as a way of working and keep that engagement going and keep those conversations going. But I think those two areas would be the biggest challenges that we faced.
[James Marsh] 54:41
That's really interesting and I just wanted to ask off the back of that as well, we spent a lot of time in 2019 on Inside HR talking about the multi-generational workforce that we now have in the UK and we often quite patronisingly talk about either millennials and Gen Z and the younger end of that spectrum. But also in terms of digitization, there's a lot of, sort of patronising things said about the older part of that workforce and how they can sometimes be resistant to a digital transformation. And perhaps worth asking Suzanne, about this as well, with respect to Lakeland, but in your experience with Fuse and embedding a solution into a business like Lakeland. How do you go about approaching a multi-generational workforce, which I'm sure Lakeland has?
[Sam Lawton] 55:24
Yeah, absolutely. It's very much a reality today for every business, isn't it? But I think it fits as one of the core philosophies, I guess, of how we design our products to make sure it's accessible for everyone and easy to use. And it does come back to a lot of the time then, what's in it for me? that we always have to talk about with change. And so clearly telling those stories about that change, why it's happening, and the opportunity it presents. And as we've alluded to, many people use phones, the internet, in their personal life. So it's just taking people on that journey into actually, imagine unlocking this whole world out there of colleagues that you've never been able to interact with, but you probably want to share with. And so it's just finding those use cases that match what they want.
[James Marsh] 56:14
Fabulous. And then there's one’s come in here that I really want to ask as well. So we talked a lot about your customer and their involvement. And the question here: “does Lakeland collect customer feedback digitally to find out more about the customer's experience and highlight any gaps in the colleague’s learning and development?” So for example, is there an either in store survey that the customer completes, or something after they purchase, a web survey, a text message, a QR code? Is there something that partners what you're trying to achieve within the organisation with how the customer receives it and feeds back?
[Suzanne Allen] 56:46
That's a really great question. I'm going to take some of that away and go and do something with it. And the easy answer, I suppose is yes, we do. And we, sort of, within the platform, try and have a focus on customer needs. So, at the outset, we've done some of that, you know, what the customers who like baking need to know? How do, you know, our Mrs Hinches of this world, you know, sort of from a cleaning perspective, how do they want to receive information? So, at the very broad level, we've done it, but I think that's a really great question. And I'll be going away and funnelling with our marketing team to dig out any more information around that. Yeah, I really like that.
[James Marsh] 57:30
Fabulous. There’s another question here. Do Lakeland create all the content themselves, or is there third party content they pay for, or are you... I know I do in my organisation, for example, there's actually a lot of free content out there that you can use, what's the balance in terms of the content that you have?
[Suzanne Allen] 57:48
So probably most of what we've got is generated by ourselves. We're just about to go away and sort some sort of third party content around, you know, interpersonal skills and that you know, some of those areas. And then it's really easy to embed free content. So it's really easy to find content elsewhere that you can embed within the platform. So you're not going out of the platform to look at it, but use that embedded content. But it's, maybe a 60:40 kind of ratio. I've not added it up, but it's more us than a third party.
[James Marsh] 58:29
That's really interesting. That covers up quite a few of the questions that we've had. And this is probably the last one we've got time for and I'm gonna put this to you first Suzanne, and I'm going to broaden out Sam for you as well. “Is the majority of your learning digital or otherwise available purely for colleague’s curiosity”, it says here, haha I love that word, “or access, or do you demand completion?” Are there deadlines to completing a lot of this because we've talked about a lot of, the sort of fun content that we've got here, but are there sort of like, you know, compliance related things that have deadlines and sort of demand on the workforce to complete or is it sort of more of an access as and when you want solution?
[Suzanne Allen] 59:07
So, we started the journey with, you know, come and join us if you'd like to, and we didn't, we haven't mandated anything. This year, we'll be moving to some mandated content around some of those compliance areas, and some other pieces that we want people to do. But very much, we wanted people to be together because they wanted to be together. And you know, that’s where we started the journey. So an element of mandating but not the major part.
[James Marsh] 59:36
That's really interesting! Sam, this is the second part of that question. Actually, this is a fabulous question. It says “all of our learning is on a completed or get hammered approach. Not great for curiosity. How do you manage that”, Sam? What in terms of, perhaps broaden it away from Lakeland and talk about some of the other businesses you work with as well? What's the sort of the balance between compliance, control, making sure everyone has the right knowledge within a specifically dedicated time period. And how much of the content is about enjoyment and curiosity and going to find out more about how you can engage with the brand you work for.
[Sam Lawton] 60:11
Yeah, there's unavoidable truth isn't there, in that the compliance trading always has to be there, and we can absolutely handle that. But I think it's, I guess the curiosity is huge for me. And it's a testament to Suzanne and the work they do to get 75% plus engagement based on actually stuff that people want to understand. And it goes back to what do your people want? So let's address that. What do they want, but they don't know about yet? Let's also look to add that to the platform, but I think one thing that I say that works really well in Lakeland, but I see across businesses is campaign based learning. So actually, let's do a campaign. So, let's not just throw something formal at you and say let's complete it. But, let's do a campaign that builds knowledge that you can apply and that's continually supported, rather than it just being a huge hit.
[James Marsh] 61:02
We have to wrap up. I'm so sorry. That was such a fascinating conversation. And actually, Suzanne and Sam, we would love it if you came back in maybe a year or so time, and telling us a little bit about, sort of the next part of your journey because it sounds like you're going in a really exciting direction. Thank you so much to both of you for joining us this morning!
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