How to Create a Social Learning Experience That Drives Employee Engagement and Business Growth

As human beings, we naturally love to learn.

And the best L&D leaders know this.

They know that by giving their people the autonomy to learn how they learn best (rather than trying to control and mandate learning), they will see a positive impact on the business.

But when you’re under pressure to demonstrate the business value of your learning strategy and programmes, it can be hard to let go of the control. What if people don’t take the initiative to learn? What if you can't prove the value of learning to the business?

To answer these questions, I reached out to James Hampton, the Head of Development and Engagement at SeaSalt.

Seasalt is a retail clothing brand that has doubled in size over the past few years. In the same period, James and his team have transitioned the organisation from face-to-face classroom training to a digital (and social) learning environment where more than 70% of employees are highly engaged and more than 90% say they are proud to work for Seasalt.

But they’re not just looking at engagement and pride.

Seasalt’s most engaged stores are also the high learning stores. These are often the ones that have the highest sales.

In this 👇 episode, I ask James how he and his team have achieved these amazing results.  

 

Here are some of my favourite parts from the conversation 👇🏼

  • [09:00] “Our ratings around people being proud to work for Seasalt are up to 90%. So we've got really , people who are really genuinely proud to work for the brand. We see some people willing to go above and beyond for Seasalt.”
  • [23:15] “Naturally as human beings, we want to learn. We want to shortcut things. We want to make things easy for ourselves. So we go out and look out for ways to make those shortcuts.”
  • [25:20] "It's just acknowledging the fact that people like learning. They like getting better at stuff and if we can help people to do that, then we’ve achieved our role. Because the business will only benefit from people getting better at their jobs.”
  • [34:00] “I am passionate about demonstrating how learning can improve performance on a sales side of things. And what I've always been challenged with is it's not just about learning. Say I do an area development workshop with a group of managers. How do I demonstrate that that learning that's happened in that that time creates a spike in sales on and customer satisfaction?"
  • [34:30] “Now, with the learning analytics that we've got, we can see those highly engaged stores. They're also high performing stores. And they're also high learning stores. So they interact. They're the early adopters of fuse, and they've picked it up, they run with it, they use it, they engage with their teams, they use not only their local store community, but they engage with the retail community and they engage wider business. And that's because their mindset is more focused on that growth. And all we're doing is then giving them a learning interaction." 

Links We Love ❤️

Say hello 👋🏽 to James on LinkedIn or Twitter

This book 📘The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation by Peter M. Senge.

Transcript

*There’s a chance this transcript has a few spelling errors. I use a wonderful transcription tool called Otter to transcribe the audio. He's usually super accurate but he does get the odd word wrong. But please don’t hold it against him 😊

[Nihal Salah] 0:05

So, thank you so much, James, for taking the time to have a chat. I'm really keen to learn more about Seasalt, first of all, and then I want to unpick your background a little bit because you've got some really interesting experience that I think our audience would love to hear more about. But tell us a little bit about Seasalt Cornwall first.

[James Hampton] 1:33

Yes, so, Seasalt is a lifestyle brand based in Cornwall, head offices in Falmouth and in Redruth. The actual business is family run, so the Chadwicks have had the business for probably over 40 years now. It started off as general clothing, where it was a military surplus store supplying artists and fishermen, locally. Then it grew to a little bit more of a lifestyle brand, and they were selling other brands through the outlets that they had in Cornwall. And then I think it was probably around 2009 maybe a bit before where it started to move towards being Seasalt. And what it is today is this is more of a lady's fashion retail brand, but also with some, men's line and a small line of kid’s stuff. So, we’re sort of famous for stripes, and I've realised that modelling one as well today, which was not intentional to be honest, and you know, floral designs, dresses and that sort of stuff. And we have six, seven stores around the UK, distribute internationally but also have wholesale internationally. We've just opened up some wholesale channels in the US so, yeah, sort of up until this year growing rapidly. So yeah, pretty good.

[Nihal Salah] 3:00

Wonderful. The clothing line is beautiful. And I get carried away with online shopping. So, I might pay a visit to it later in the day. So, don't get carried away. So, tell us about your role at Seasalt in the moment. And then let's talk a little bit about your background, particularly some interesting leadership development training you've done on a mountain somewhere.

[James Hampton] 3:24

Yeah. So, I joined Seasalt three years ago. So, when I joined, I joined as the learning development manager. Over the three years my role has evolved massively from just looking at learning and development and now picking up quite a lot of employee experience stuff, mainly around employee engagement and understanding what engages our teams. More recently, being more involved in communications internally, and well-being, as well. As well as the learning development side, so my role as head of development and engagement sort of brings those two together. Yeah, previous to that I’ve been with a college and previous to that I was in the military for nine years in the Royal Air Force.

[Nihal Salah] 4:06

So, what were you doing at the Royal Air Force?

[James Hampton] 4:10

I started off, you're going to start showing my age now, I started in the year 2000 as a physical training instructor, and then after that I progressed and specialised in adventure training. And part of the adventure training in the military is personal development and leadership. So, I was trained up as an adventure training instructor in North Wales on Snowdonia, and then I was based in Fairborn, where we delivered leadership training packages for new joiners to the air force, but also established leadership teams and other officers as well. The idea is that you use adventure to facilitate that team development but also leadership as well. Yeah, and then for the remainder of my career that was my role alongside still being a physical training instructor as well.

[Nihal Salah] 5:02

I can't tell you how jealous I am of that, because I'm crazy about fitness. And I thought, where can I get the most challenging fitness experience, I’m like it has to be the army. Can I join them part time? And apparently, I can. I didn't see it through, but as soon as I realised that that was your background was absolutely fascinating. I’m keen to understand, kind of, what have you taken from that in terms of maybe some of your beliefs and philosophies around learning and carried that into your current role? And what's that look like?

[James Hampton] 5:33

Yeah, and to be honest I've reflected on that quite a lot over the last, what is now 10 years since I left, or over, nearly 11. And there's a lot that the military does or did, certainly did when I was in, that was well ahead of its time. So, we were and I know that, you know, some of these things are sort of, maybe, out of favour these days. But we were pushed into doing a lot of psychology work, certainly from the adventure side, but as a PTI at the start, we were taught teaching techniques, we were taught how to, mostly around instructional because that was our role was to instruct but there's a lot of teaching and there was some classroom work. So, standing up in front of people is worth my bread and butter and still is to this day, you know. The face to face training is something I love doing and get a great deal from it. And I hope it still continues if I'm honest. And so, I've taken a lot of those skills, the ability to stand up in front of a group confidently, facilitate some conversation, and facilitate learning. It's been, you know, massively beneficial to me.

But also that the mindset, the growth mindset that that you have in the military is that you've got to look to continue to improve yourself. You've got to continue to sort of look for opportunities for development, in your own abilities but also in others. And then there's this team ethos as well. So those things are hugely sort of part of my DNA. And you know, using that with the current team, but also across the business is collaborating with people and using other people's strengths so that you can get stuff done because you just never get it done by yourself. And it's impossible to try and do it, just, you're busy, you're just one person. Which I was when I joined Seasalt, was just one person in L&D for about 500 people. So, you have to engage with other people and you have to pull these things together.

So yeah, I think those are some of the skills and you know, from day one, you are encouraged to lead. And so, I suppose one of my, several of my mantras, maybe in Seasalt, and maybe since I've left is sort of like everyone's a leader. And people don't realise that when they're talking to each other, they’re leading each other, either positively or negatively. So, what we try to do, or what I’ve tried to do at Seasalt, is demonstrate to people that if you've got a voice and if you're confident with it and you've got good, sound knowledge that you can influence others around you in any direction. And so yeah, those are some of the sort of the principles we've taken through our leadership programme at Seasalt is to encourage people to influence and continually develop.

[Nihal Salah] 8:27

That's absolutely fascinating. How do you find people are responding to that at Seasalt? Are they embracing that?

[James Hampton] 8:35

Yeah, I think when we first started to talk about it, you know, there's this balance, isn't there, between people influencing wildly and people being rigidly controlled, and it's about finding that fine balance. And I think, you know, historically, any retailer is used to sort of, maybe a bit more on the control side, and I think there’s some, there's some benefits of that. But also, there's some benefits of allowing some flexibility around that and listening a little bit more. So, helping people to feel confident to challenge and to, you know, create the sort of environments for psychological safety is to enable people to sort of have that ability to challenge either upwards or sideward on certain things and have a bit more of a voice. And that's definitely, we've done a lot of work around emotion intelligence and we've done a lot of work around sort of being mindful in our practices. And so, implementing some of those things has helped create a structure or a framework for people to be okay with having conversations with sideways, upwards, downwards to sort of just, it's feedback, and an improvement. And that really helps, I think, and once you start to build on that people become more confident to challenge and to want to improve because we're lucky at Seasalt to have really quite high employee engagement. So, yeah, let's use that pride to work for the business to move us on. And I think that's really out to give people confidence to say, say things that maybe they wouldn't have done before.

Our ratings around people being proud to work for Seasalt are up to 90%. So we've got really, you know, people who are really genuinely proud to work for the brand and I think that has an incredible impact on helping me influence people to do stuff because if they want to see Seasalt succeed, then they're willing to give a bit more of their time to do that. And that's what we see all the time at Seasalt, people willing to go above and beyond for Seasalt.

[Nihal Salah] 10:53

That's fantastic. I mean, that's incredibly powerful. And it's interesting that the question they're asked is, are you proud to work for the brand? Because it's a little bit different than asking you, are you happy in your job? I'm just keen to understand a little bit more about pre-Fuse. So, before you brought Fuse in, and what were some of the challenges that you and your team were facing?

[James Hampton] 11:18

When I joined the business in 2017, and the business was about 450-500 people in the business, it is still quite small a head office. So, getting things done was quite easy, you could go and talk to someone, it was easy to find information pretty much, there wasn't too much siloing going on. And it was easy to get stuff done. But over the course of the last three years, we've doubled in size in terms of headcount. And I've always been sort of mindful of that, how do we support the business to grow with all the other things? And some of our file sharing infrastructure was quite strict, things were locked down, you have to have permission to see certain bits of information. It was all stuck in a file. And I know this sort of happens in many other businesses where you’ve got a filing system with files, within files, within files, within files, and you can spend probably an hour getting lost and not find what you're looking for. So that was something that I was conscious that I wanted to change in the business and I wanted to, because for me, in order for learning development to work, information needs to be freely available. Otherwise, people just don't know what's going on.

So, I resisted the temptation to put a learning management system in straight away and that was a conscious effort because there was no digital at all. It was all face to face, and it was all quite formal. And what I wanted to do was explore whether we needed a learning management system before I implemented it. We did need some online learning of some description, so we did engage with a brand to give us a very cheap, at the time, health and safety package because I could see that our store managers were spending the first four hours of someone's experience at Seasalt going through a PowerPoint slide, and taking them through the health and safety one-on-one. And for me, that just seems like quite a lot of wasted time. What I wanted people to do is come into the store and be ready to sell or ready to engage with customers and provide that experience for the customer. And they weren't doing that stuck in the back office for hours learning about health and safety. So, bringing in some eLearning in was a quick win. And it was a tester for me to see would people engage with that learning before they joined the business or would they, you know, say, well I need to be paid for this, so, you know, I'm not gonna do it before I arrive. And what we kind of saw was most people were willing to do that before they arrived. Because then it saves them time, we're gonna, we didn't make it compulsory, it wasn't mandatory. We said, look, to speed up your onboarding experience, here it is, you can do it whenever you're ready. And about 80% of people would do it before they arrived. So, there was a huge cost saving straightaway for that on one end, but also there was a speed competency on the other end, is that they were getting in the store really quick.

So, that led us to put in another package that was designed around our leadership work. So, at the time we were developing our leaders and always creating a learning programme for our leaders across the business. And we brought in a leadership toolkit that enabled our leaders to interact with lots of different leadership, commentary, and content. And it supported our programme so we had both eLearning and the toolbox, toolkit, that they could interact with. And again, that was another test to see, all my leaders going to be promoting online learning, are they going to be supporting this stuff? And you know what, they did, they interacted with it, they saw some benefit, we quite quickly started to use it for other things. So, we started to put launch videos on there. And we started to put other types of information and connections to other things. And we were almost demonstrating the thing that we needed to move to straight away. So, we could see that realistically, I could see quite quickly that the business was quite hungry for a place to get information, but also a place to interact, a place to share information, a place to have conversations. And that led us to then, to start to have conversations with yourselves and others to sort of see who is out there that can provide us with this thing. And the problem we had with the toolkit and the company, at the time, were very, very accommodating to what we needed because we were completely using the system for not what it was designed for.

And they accommodated us. But it was quite slow. We couldn't get information on there quickly enough to get it turned around. So, then we started to look for platforms that could support us to do it. At the time, I was asked not to implement. So about 12 months ago, I was asked by the business that we just had too much going on. And I suppose while I was a bit of a pain in the backside, to be honest, I kept pushing, because I could just hear we had employee forums with our store teams and our other teams across the business and they were asking for something like what we were trying to put in. And it just gave me enough evidence to say look, if we go here, you give me the chance to demonstrate to you that this is the right thing to put in. And I will prove to you that this is worth its value. And you're absolutely within, what four months, we've easily demonstrated its value in the business. So yes, that's the journey we've kind of gone on to get to the stage we’re at now.

[Nihal Salah] 17:05

I think that's fascinating that before you even had kind of really articulated the platform and the technology, you already embodying the key, some key ways of working that I will go out on a limb and assume that this is one of the reasons you're getting quite high engagement with Fuse is, because it wasn't, let's bring in technology and then try and change people's minds about how they think about learning and onboarding and internal comms and so forth. It was more of we're trying to change our minds, so, you are changing the mindset and the behaviours, and then you just brought in a tool that enables you to accelerate and facilitate that further.

[James Hampton] 17:46

Yeah, you've got to, for me, I think if you try to force things upon people really quickly, the change is too quick. And I certainly for my own mind, you know, in this whole scenario of being put into lockdown. I mean, we've accommodated it massively quickly. But the changes, like for the first few weeks is like, I’m not sure where I'm at with it. So, when we experience rapid change, just because someone's come in and they decide to enforce it upon you, it's really difficult for people to take it. And I suppose what I wanted to do was not force my thinking upon people. I wanted to drip something in, see whether it was working and whether I was kind of right. And if I was right, I could pursue it a bit further. And all the time being mindful that I might be challenged and I might be wrong. And I'm going to have to go, okay, maybe my mindset is not what is right for Seasalt. So, I need to come up with something else or I need to look elsewhere. So, you have to listen, you have to listen to what your business is telling you and what's really clear, and if you don't, then it's more chance you're going to get it wrong. And that's where you don't get the engagement and yeah, maybe you're right. I think the reason our engagement scores are so high is because we’ve taken our time with this and thought about it, probably way too much I have, to be quite honest.

[Nihal Salah] 19:12                                                                                            

I'm not sure that I'm not sure it would be too much. I think—

[James Hampton] 19:15

My wife might say different.

[Nihal Salah] 19:18

I won't argue, then. I'll just move on to my next question, gracefully. A lot of your users are area managers and the retail teams that sit with them. So, when did you start, or when did the team start generating their own content Is it something that has been happening for some time with different tools at Seasalt? Or is it something that you started doing when you launched Fuse?

[James Hampton] 19:48

I think in pockets, some teams were, and now are, creating a wiki, they could have different terminology and some stuff when they started, which was really nice. And there were some small pockets where things were being shared but not, because of some limitations of our filing system, it was really difficult. And at the time, Microsoft Teams was coming in, but that was mainly only for our project teams. And so, it wasn't exclusively across the business, although it is now. And so, I suppose they didn't do that sort of self-user generated content, but it was always kind of what we hoped would happen.

One of the things I did in 2017, was say to the board boldly that I wanted a learning organisation, and the Peter Senge sort of five disciplines thing, and, a lot of that is sort of self-direction as well, and you sort of have that personal mastery. And so, I suppose some organic sort of work that we've been doing around all the other things is about letting you know you could improve yourself to that. Very quickly we started to then see teams starting to share information. I think I said it in the LinkedIn live session, that someone had created a PDF on how to use teams. And so, he was uploading that. But in our stores, they hadn't quite yet got to that stage because they had it for a few weeks. Not really got used to it yet and then they went into lockdown, and then we were all furloughed. So, you know, they didn't have a chance. But what we're now seeing is because they've been interacting socially using this system, they've come back in on furlough, and the amount of interactions I'm seeing with them, solving each other's problems, and uploading each other content to help each other or just answering questions in the comments boxes. Yes, accelerated massively. And so, we're now in this position to promote that. Keep doing that. Keep doing more of that. So that's exactly what we want you to do. So, yeah, we've switched our model to sort of thinking about how much content should we create to how can we help people create content for themselves.

[Nihal Salah] 22:08

So, this reminds me of a conversation I had with Topher Olsen and Ryan DeGroot from Alliance Residential, he moved on to Roscoe now. But one of the things they’ve said that was fantastic, so they get lots of their users generating their own content. So, they move from being a team of eight to a team of 4008, which I absolutely loved. And it sounds like you're kind of heading in a similar direction where you're really facilitating rather than just creating all of the content as the learning team.

[James Hampton] 22:44

Yeah, because, again, I certainly believe from a learning development point of view, the things that you hear tries to push you down that learning needs to do this, that learning needs to do that, you need to tap into learning, you need to encourage people to learn.

For me, it's completely the wrong way. And it's got to be more about, you've got to be okay with helping people do the things that they're great at. And as soon as you give them a space to learn with each other, they lap it up. And I think that's what's happened, is we've given people a space to share, given them the framework to do it within, and what we're seeing is them just taking advantage of it. And you're using the tool for what it's absolutely designed for.

And yeah, absolutely right, we’re one big team, one big Seasalt. We're all trying to do, you know, the thing and connect it to the purpose of the business. So, if you can align all those things, it's actually quite easy in a way. You know, I may be oversimplifying it, I don't know. But it is just creating that environment for learning to take place. And you're naturally, as human beings, we want to learn, we want to shortcut things, we want to make things easy for ourselves. So, we go out and look out for ways to make those shortcuts. And, if someone's got the answer at the end of a video or even, you know, I can search in search bar for that answer. I'm going to do that, aren’t I? I’m going to do it every day with Google, with every other bit of DIY that I attempt to do in my house. So, get a search for it, I tend to do it, fail probably the first time or I’m going to have to have a look at that video again, to see how to do it again. And that's all we're doing, is creating an environment to get better at what they do.

 

[Nihal Salah] 24:24

I'm smiling, like, my face is hurting because I'm smiling so much listening to what you're saying, because it is literally music to my ears because I'm someone who loves learning and you know, at Fuse we do believe that, you said spot on, like as human beings, naturally we love to learn. And it's that progress that makes us happy. And if you're in an organisation that, you know, where there is trust and support for you to be able to explore and grow and learn in the way that works best for you, you will end up being that proud employee, right?

[James Hampton] 25:00

Yeah, absolutely, yes. Because I think there's research being done on the things that sort of engage most employees right now. And that's personal development or some progression in their career. And, and so, we all know that there's lots of work for us still to do there. And you know, we're still, as the business has grown, there's gaps in career progression and things we would like to work on. But I suppose Fuse is one part of being able to sort of allow people to share knowledge. And as we've grown, you know, we weren't siloed before this, some siloing and a little bit of that when we get more focused on the thing that we do. So it's just acknowledging the fact that people like learning, like getting better at stuff and if we can help people to do that, then we've kind of achieving our role, to be honest, because the business will only benefit from people getting better at their jobs and just being okay with that as someone that's looking after learning that. And have moments where people will do stuff and go, hold on I'm really comfortable with that. And then you go, do you know what, it doesn't matter because loads of people are engaging with it and obviously that's the right thing. So, it's not for me to say you should do this or you should do that. It's for me to go, okay, what's working and how can I help you to make that work even better? And that's really the role then.

[Nihal Salah] 26:26

It's because, it sounds like what you're saying is there is no prescribed right way of being a learning leader.

[James Hampton] 26:37

No, no, there isn’t. 

[Nihal Salah] 26:39

There is no handbook.

[James Hampton] 26:41

No, and I don't think there ever has been really, to be honest. And I think, yeah, I think, sort of, the train of thought towards more performance. I'm favourable of that. I think that's right. I think it helps shift the mindset towards supporting the business get better at what it does and supporting high performance. And so, I suppose I’m encouraged by that.

But there's still this sort of push towards learning, learning, learning, learning, when actually we should just be okay that people will learn if we help them find a place that motivates them. And it's, if they don't want to do something, it's probably because we haven't motivated them enough. Or we haven't given them a good enough reason to need to go and learn that thing.

And, you know, mandatory learning or compliance learning is a huge problem there because there's a conflict between what the business needs someone to know, or to have done, compared to what someone else really feels they need to know and do. So that's really hard, because, but then really, it's about looking at it differently and going, okay, how can I motivate someone to think about GDPR in a slightly different way that impacts on them so they go, okay, I'm going to do this differently? How can I think about cybersecurity in a slightly different way, to remove that sort of dry subject matter out of it to go, actually, this is quite important to me? And it's even more important about cybersecurity now that we're working from home and the tech is a bit more exposed. So, it becomes more important, then, for me to know stuff. And so, I’m more likely to go learn it and get better at it.

I certainly, personally, if I'm motivated to learn something, I'll go and seek it out and I'll go and find out more information, become obsessive with it for a period of time, and get to a point where my learning curves got to the point where it's right at the top. Okay, I'm okay with that now, I'll move on to something else and try and challenge myself again. And I think most people are like that. And if then, not necessarily like that, we just need to help them to learn like that and give them the space to do it. And so, yeah, I think there's less about the actual learning and more about the facilitation of learning. I think it's what we should be good.

[Nihal Salah] 28:53

If you were to give learning professionals advice as to how you create that, how you actually gain that sense of— because there's the knowing that if you— it's a bit scary really when I think of it, you have to kind of let go of the control and trust that if you let people, you know, figure out how and what they want to learn or what they need to learn in order to perform better and they'll naturally end up engaging with that, then they will do it. But it requires a culture that's trust based but also requires you as a learning professional to let go of that control and that's hard for anyone in any role. So how do you do that? What advice would you give to someone in that position where they’re not quite ready to give that control away?

[James Hampton] 29:48

It is really hard and you know, I still struggle with it myself. You know, I certainly still struggle with allowing others to run with things and being okay with that. I think there's a bigger cultural thing with this, you know, I certainly won't spend too much time on this. But, you know, in our educational establishment, we're taught that the person in front of you is a person of authority. And therefore, we defer to that fact that that person is in control of me, and therefore they're going to control my learning and I have to sort of learn what they tell me to. And I think through experience, I've realised I wasn't great at school so, this is probably some of my bias playing out here. I didn't enjoy sitting and listening to someone talking, but if I wanted to go and learn how to play the guitar, because I was interested in it, I picked it up and I wanted to learn more. So, I spent time on it and I practised.

So, if I'm a learning leader and I'm trying to be okay with someone, or the business learning for itself, I suppose you've got to start small, I think is what I'd say, is look at how you can give a part of the business a bit of time, a bit of flexibility, a bit of ownership of something and see what they come up with. And it's a bit of like that test and adjust kind of role of go look, okay. And the test is you experiment with it, be curious with it, see what happens, and be okay with it if it doesn't quite go where you thought it was going to go. But then do loads of review to go, okay, if we're going to do this again, or we're going to go and do it a different way, I'm going to do this bigger, what could this look like? Who do I need to engage with? How am I going to engage with them? Get them on board? And then how much control do I give them to start off with? And, you know, how do I pull that back in? So how do I create the framework for people to be successful? And I really think that's just by experimentation. And a lot of what we've done in the last few years is just experiment. I really like looking at people's models pulling them apart and going, okay, let's try it. Let's see whether this works at Seasalt. So, let's give it a go. But let's do it with that team. That team looks like they’re probably going to be the most receptive to it. Let's talk to them. Let's see whether they're up for it, if they’re up for it, let's give it a go. And being okay with it not quite working with a lot of times it doesn't work at all.

And so, yeah, I'd say I would say just be okay with trying stuff out. That's sort of, I mean, it gives you so much to fail fast thing, but there's some real evidence in that for me, you know, you got to try it out, but be quick to pull the rug from out of it and go, that's not working, we need to move on to something else. And you know, the agile approach to sort of the work you do is going, again, looks like something we need to do. Let's give it some energy. If it takes off great, if it doesn't, then we'll pull back out of it rather than having this structured approach and thinking so big that the whole business has to do this. And in reality, it probably isn't going to work like that. So, start small and try things out I think is the is the simplification of what I would have just said.

[Nihal Salah] 33:00

Well, I mean, it seems to have worked beautifully at Seasalt. So, I think that's fantastic advice, James, really good. But you talked about how proud employees are and that’s a survey that you run. So that's, you know, employee proudness score, I'll call it, what other kind of key metrics are you looking at as a measure of success?

[James Hampton] 33:26

The engagement survey, we run three engagement surveys per year. And we also survey our new starters and our exits. So, up until COVID, that was the plan and that's how we ran things. We've been a bit more agile with that ourselves. And we've been, I think, I've done a survey almost every month to different groups of people to understand what's happening with them. So, we ask questions around well-being, we ask questions around managers, and we ask questions around sort of general prior to work for Seasalt, am I looking for the jobs and things like that. It gives us some indicators of where people are at and gives us a measure around employee engagement.

What we're starting to do and what we have been doing for the last couple of years is trying to—I am passionate about demonstrating how learning can improve performance on a sales side of things. And what I've always been challenged with at Seasalt is that I'll get told, it's not just about learning, there’s other bits that go into it. So, if I was to look at a store, how do I demonstrate that a learning event with a group of managers in stores, say I do an area development workshop with a group of managers, how do I demonstrate that that learning, that's happened in that time, creates a spike in sales and customer satisfaction, say, for example. And so, what we've started to do is use engagement metrics to look at that. So, if I've got an engagement, engaged store, are they then driving sales in that store? So, do those two things level out? And do I get customer satisfaction? So, is my mystery shop at a similar level? And we were starting to tie those things together. There's some outliers, there always is, that it doesn't quite work. Now, with the learning analytics that we've got, we can also see and are starting to see those highly engaged stores. They're also high performing stores. And they're also high learning stores. So, they interact. They're the early adopters of Fuse and they've picked it up, they’ve run with it, they use it, they engage with their teams, they use not only their local store community, but they engage with the retail community and they engage wider across the business. So, they're proactive with promoting learning as managers in their teams. And that's because their mindset is more focused on that growth. And all we're doing is then giving them a learning interaction. And we can sort of start to see whether the sales have improved.

Now, that was my plan for this year. It’s been completely thrown out the window with everything because we've kind of back to square one with it, really. Because where stores were performing before were we absolutely different to what it looks like now? And so, we've got to look at how do we maintain engagement with those teams? And then how do we use learning to maintain that engagement and then see whether that's driving sales. Head office is a little more difficult because KPIs, you’re a level playing field, they look different for each team. So, we're starting to look at knowledge, skills and behaviours in each of those teams to see, you know, whether we see an improvement in performance as a result of working on this thing. So, the metrics really helped us to bring those things together. And yeah, it will drive then the decisions we make strategically around learning and what we do and which areas we work with. Obviously, we’ll align massively with the business on what it needs and how do we support that but it's about driving people's performance at the end of the day, and if there's gaps or blockers, we can then start to look at how we remove them.

[Nihal Salah] 36:55

I’m sure the future is going to be very, very, very bright for you and the entire team at Seasalt, James. You are an incredibly inspiring learning leader and I've learnt heaps just from this conversation. So, thank you so much for taking the time, really.

[James Hampton] 37:12

Absolute pleasure.

Nihal Salah
Jul 14 2020

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